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 by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 St. John’s Wort - LifeSource Products
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) - LifeSource Product
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 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) - 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 anti-anxiety medications.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin B Complex - LifeSource Products – See All of our Vitamin B
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 Omega 3 - LifeSource Products - 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 Ginkgo Biloba - 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 – LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin
This provides a base of nutrients are involved with brain function.
here to see all products, articles and studies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Increased desire
- Fitful, unrestful
- Inability to
- Cravings for
sweets and other carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Reduced sex drive
- Lack of natural
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 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.
Food 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 one.
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
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