Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may have one of the most appropriate acronyms ever created. It’s a mental health condition that’s actually a form of depression that occurs seasonally—typically during the fall and winter, when the days are darker and colder. It’s a surprisingly common problem, with about 5% of the US population suffering from SAD each year. Understandably, people living in the northern areas of the country are more likely to suffer from SAD than those living closer to the equator. More women are affected by SAD than men, at a ratio of about 3:1. Though most people with SAD experience symptoms in the fall and winter, a rare few begin to be affected during the spring, with symptoms lasting through summer.
So what are the symptoms of SAD? Because the condition is a form of depression, the symptoms are similar, and can include:
Fatigue and lack of energy
Changes in appetite
Though SAD is seasonal and partially influenced by changes in hormones like serotonin and melatonin that are influenced by sunlight, that doesn’t mean that people who suffer from the problem have to just wait for it to pass. Visiting a primary care doctor or mental health professional for diagnosis is the first step. Then, treatment options like light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy can be used to help ease the symptoms of SAD. Patients should also consider natural therapies like exercise, supplements, and even aromatherapy. If you think you might have SAD, you don’t have to suffer in silence!
Winter is coming: shorter, colder, darker days are coming. If you are like me, getting depressed because the sun is not shining as it used to, is not warming as it used to… then you’ll find these articles super interesting and useful. There is a solution, and is in the food:
Find out what you can eat to help diminish Seasonal Affective Disorder’s effects
Common symptoms of SAD include extreme tiredness—the kind that makes you just want to curl up under the covers and sleep until spring—an intense craving for carbs (especially sweets), irritability, weight gain and the desire to avoid social situations.
Proponents of VITAMIN D supplementation as a therapy for SAD note that many of the contradictory studies used doses that were too low or used D2, a form of vitamin D that is weaker than the recommended D3. A 2010 comprehensive review of existing studies that looked at the effects of vitamin D on different kinds of depression and anxiety concluded that treating vitamin D deficiencies in people with depression might be an easy and cost-effective way to improve mental health.
Some results suggest that SAD is less common in those who consume more OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS, such as Icelandic people, who eat plenty of cold water fish. One of the largest studies ever conducted assessing omega-3s’ effectiveness in treating major depression (published in 2010 in the Journal ofClinical Psychiatry) looked at 432 people with major depression. Half the participants took a high-concentration fish oil supplement (1,050 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA); the other half took a similar-looking placebo. The researchers found the omega-3 supplements effective, comparable to results with conventional antidepressants.
Food Sources of SAD-Friendly Carbohydrates: GOOD SNACKING CHOICES include popcorn, pretzels, shredded wheat squares or low-fat biscotti. When it comes to meals, Wurtman recommends making dinner your main carbohydrate-containing meal. That’s because evening is usually the time when the symptoms of SAD are at their strongest—and so is the urge gorge on cookies. Eating healthier carbs, like lentils, brown rice and potatoes, may help fight that urge.
Indoors, try natural full-spectrum lighting and use light-colored fabrics, walls and rugs.
One of the most effective treatments for SAD is regular (usually daily) exposure to a specially designed light box, one that provides enough intensity of light to positively affect SAD symptoms (the light needs to be at least 10 times the intensity of regular household or office lighting)
Watch What You Eat
BASMATI RICE. The sugar in this rice is slow to release into the bloodstream, which helps blood sugar levels stay constant instead of going through highs and lows. Drastic changes in blood sugar can lead to weight gain, which is a side effect of SAD. Other foods with a similar effect on blood sugar are rye bread and pasta.
BOUILLON. When the carbohydrate craving is just about to defeat you, drink some hot bouillon or broth. Hot liquids in the belly are filling, and consuming them before a meal is an old diet trick that reduces food consumption. Better the bouillon than the banana cream pie.
CEREALS. Cooked cereal, unsweetened muesli, and bran flakes are slow to release sugar into the bloodstream, which helps raise serotonin levels.
FRUIT. Apricots gradually raises serotonin levels and helps keep them there, as do apples, pears, grapes, plums, grapefruits and oranges.
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Any herbal tea is a better choice than teas with caffeine. Your reduced energy level may cause you to turn to caffeine for a boost, but it can also cause anxiety, muscle tension, and stomach problems, so opt for herbal. Chamomile, peppermint, and cinnamon are pleasant-tasting choices. Drink a cup instead of giving in to your carbohydrate cravings.
You can also keep your body’s clock in sync by rising and retiring at the same time each day, even on weekends or days off from work. When you can’t get going no matter what you do, try sucking on some ice. Its chill can give you a wake-up call. Or, splash your face and wrists with ice water.
Another option is to steep peppermint or lemon oil in water and inhale. These are stimulating oils and may give you a little extra zip.
Take a Vacation
If possible, move to a sunnier climate. Most people can’t just get up and relocate. But for those who can, moving to a sunnier area helps SAD symptoms disappear. Indeed, SAD rarely affects people living within about 30 degrees of the equator. Otherwise, plan to take a trip during the winter months, whenever possible, to warm and sunny climates.
For most people with SAD, it takes two or three days of bright sunshine to elicit a reversal of symptoms.