Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by symptoms of
depression that develop in the dark winter months and that lift with the
onset of spring and summer. Although many of us feel a little less
energetic in the winter, people with SAD suffer from more than just a
prolonged bad mood. They have a medical condition typified by fatigue, poor
concentration, and an intense craving for carbohydrates. They may also feel
an overwhelming need for sleep, although the sleep itself is rarely
refreshing. This general slowdown of the body, combined with an excessive
intake of carbohydrates, may lead to weight gain and a suppressed immune
system. Seasonal affective disorder should not be confused with the
depression that afflicts some people during the holidays, when unresolved
conflicts or problems tend to rise to the surface.
The most compelling theory regarding the cause of SAD has to do with the
decreased amount of light that is available in the winter. A U.S. winter's
day can have fewer than eight hours of sunlight, compared to sixteen hours
of sun in the summer. In the last few years, we've learned that there's a
reason that people feel more exuberant in the summer. Natural sunlight
affects a substance in our bodies called melatonin, by acting as a control
mechanism for it. As the sun sets, our pineal glands (located in our
brains) sense the decrease in light and begin to secrete the sleep-inducing
hormone melatonin. Melatonin secretion can be magnified by increasing our
exposure to sunlight during the day. But when we're deprived of sunlight,
there's nothing to keep melatonin levels in check, and it takes all our
effort just to get out of our warm beds in the morning. Also, our stress
hormone cortisol may rise, which contributes to fatigue, insomnia,
depression, and decreased immunity. In addition, low levels of the
neurotransmitter serotonin may occur, which contributes to depression.
Researchers have found that serotonin production is directly affected by
the duration of bright sunlight.
It is unclear why some people are affected by a lack of sunlight more than
others. What has been demonstrated time and time again, however, is that
light therapy is the most effective way to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.
If you suffer from winter depression, there's a very good chance that
you'll benefit greatly from just a few simple changes: utilizing specific
light therapy, installing full-spectrum lights that imitate the effects of
the sun, spending time outdoors every day, and arranging your life so that
you're near a window as often as possible. Other natural treatments,
including dietary changes and some herbal supplements, will round out an
effective course of action for lifting the "winter blues".
Season Affective Disorder (SAD)
Prescription for Natural Cures
James F. Balch
Super Prescription #1
St. John’s Wort
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Take 300 mg of a product standardized to 0.3 percent
hypericin three times daily (a total of 900 mg). St.
John's Wort has been shown to be helpful for SAD, when
combined with light therapy.
Super Prescription #2
SAM-e (s-adenosyl methionine)
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For 2 weeks, take 200 mg twice daily of an
enteric-coated form on an empty stomach. If you notice
improvement, stay on this dosage. If there is little
improvement, increase to 400 mg two to three times
daily. . SAMe increases the concentration of brain
neurotransmitters that are responsible for your mood.
Take a 50 mg B-complex, because B6, folic acid, and B12
are involved with proper SAMe metabolism. Note
: People with bipolar disorder should use this
supplement only with medical supervision.
Super Prescription #3
- LifeSource Product
Start with 50 mg taken three times daily on an empty
stomach. The dosage can be increased to 100 mg three
times daily, if necessary. The supplement 5-HTP is a
precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Take a 50
mg B-complex, as B6 is required for the proper
metabolism of 5-HTP. Note: Do not take in
conjunction with pharmaceutical antidepressants or
Super Prescription #4
Vitamin B Complex
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Vitamin B Products.
Take a 50 mg B-complex one to two times daily. B
vitamins such as B12, folic acid, and B6 are
intricately involved with neurotransmitter metabolism
Sublingual B12 and folic acid supplements are useful
for seniors or people with absorption difficulties.
Super Prescription #5
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See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products.
Take a product containing a daily dosage of 500 to
1,000 mg of EPA/DHA. Essential fatty acids such as DHA
improve neurotransmitter function.
Super Prescription # 6
- LifeSource Products
Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a standardized product
containing 24 percent flavones glycosides and 6 percent
terpene lactones. Ginkgo improves blood flow to the
brain and enhances neurotransmitter activity.
Super Prescription #7
Multivitamin – High Potency
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This provides a base of nutrients are involved with
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studies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Increased desire to sleep
- Fitful, unrestful sleep
- Inability to concentrate
- Cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Reduced sex drive
- Lack of natural sunlight
One way to maintain a good mood is to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Vegetables and lean protein will stabilize blood sugar. Make a small meal
or snack of them every few hours to ward off the urge for bread or sweets.
When you do eat carbohydrates, make sure they're complex carbohydrates,
like oats, brown rice, or whole wheat.
Put turkey, chicken, tuna, or salmon on your daily menu. These foods are
high in protein, which you need for energy, and tryptophan, which
stimulates the "feel-good" hormone in your brain. B vitamins act as a tonic
on the nervous system. Include brewer's yeast, green leafy vegetables, and
live unsweetened yogurt in your meals or snacks. Brussels sprouts are a
portion of perfect food for SAD sufferers. Brussels sprouts are a
concentrated source of vitamin C, which fights fatigue and has a
stimulating effect on your mood. Unlike citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts are
low in sugar. Cooking destroys vitamin C, so eat Brussels sprouts raw,
perhaps in a salad or served with a dip.
Foods to Avoid
Try to resist your cravings for sugar, bread, and other simple
carbohydrates. Although these foods may temporarily lift your mood, your
blood sugar will soon crash, leaving you feeling even worse than before.
And the weight gain that often results from overindulging in carbohydrates
will aggravate your fatigue and leave you susceptible to colds, flu, and
other winter ailments. If you must treat yourself to simple carbohydrates,
make sure to have them as part of a complete meal - have an occasional
sweet dessert, say, after eating a meal that consists of protein,
vegetables, and some whole grains. That way, the sugar won't deliver as
potent a punch to your bloodstream.
People with SAD also tend to rely on caffeine to rouse them in the morning
and keep them alert during the day. But caffeine works much like sugar
does, in that once the rush peaks and declines, you're left feeling
exhausted and crabby. Caffeine also depletes your body of several nutrients
that are essential for ahealthy nervous system. Limit yourself to one cup
of coffee or tea a day.
Junk food probably isn't a direct cause of SAD, but it can certainly
exacerbate the symptoms: Weight gain, a suppressed immune system, and
fatigue have all been linked to the consumption of additives and artificial
ingredients. Avoid food that's had all the life processed out of it.
Alcohol is a depressant, so avoid wine, beer, and liquor. If you are so
unhappy that you feel as if you need alcohol, talk to a doctor or a
therapist. You may have a drinking problem - or you might be heading for
The very best way to reduce the effects of SAD is work with a doctor who
can help with the proper use of light therapy. This can be done by getting
outdoors between 5 and 7 a.m. and being exposed to light or using a bright
light box (especially in northern climates, where the sun doesn't rise
until later in the morning during short winter days, and frequent overcast
skies dim the sunlight). Several different companies make bright light
boxes. The most important thing to look for is a brightness rating of at
least 10,000 lux. (In comparison, at a distance of two feet a standard
60-watt light bulb gives off only 300 lux.) Make sure the light box is
equipped with a UV filter to protect the skin and the eyes. Also, use
full-spectrum fluorescent lights in your home and workplace.
- Exercise is proven mood-booster, and exercise in the sunlight does double
duty for SAD sufferers. Take frequent walks outside, or participate in
outdoor winter sports like ice-skating or cross-country skiing.
- Human beings weren't meant to spend their days in windowless offices. If
changing jobs is not an option - and for most of us, it isn't, take your
breaks outdoors. When the weather is good, pack a salad or other healthful
lunch and dine al fresco. If it's too cold where you live to eat outdoors,
then at least use your breaks to bundle up and take a quick stroll around
the block. Even on cloudy, snowy, or rainy days, enough sunlight comes
through to make a difference in your melatonin production.
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