Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Are you SAD? On dark and wintry days, some people are happy to curl up with a good book and some hot cocoa—while others, with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), feel low until the sun breaks through the clouds. Winter in the Midwest is as gray as it is long. On average, we receive less than seven days of sunshine per month from November through March. The cloudy sky, strong winds and frigid air is enough to damper anyone's spirits. For those suffering from SAD though, winter brings with it more than the occasional bout of the winter blues.
The season can be a debilitating time for individuals with the disorder. An Overview. SAD is a form of depression that occurs during the same season each year, most commonly during the winter months. First diagnosed centuries ago in Scandinavia, the disorder primarily plagues those living in cold weather climates that experience prolonged periods with little to no sunlight. Physiologically, the body is responding to a lack of exposure to light, resulting in altered levels of serotonin and melatonin. Symptoms. Individuals affected by SAD may experience: Lack of motivation or decreased interest in everyday activities Increase or decrease in appetite Difficulty concentrating Change in sleep patterns Altered energy level Social withdrawal Appearance of some or all of the above symptoms at the same time each year SAD sufferers often isolate themselves to their homes and avoid social interaction. This isolation only deepens the depression. What can you do? Below are tips to reduce or prevent SAD symptoms naturally. See your Chiropractor.Though not a treatment for SAD, the Chiropractic approach has been a blessing to countless individuals who suffer from seasonal depression. "The symptoms that SAD encompasses fall under the category of stress, which is a major trigger for vertebral subluxations. It's no coincidence that SAD typically falls around the holidays when we’re stressed with family, financially, and may be over-extending ourselves. Maintaining a consistent chiropractic adjustment schedule is essential for dealing with the stressors of SAD." Chiropractors take a natural, drug-free approach by correcting vertebral subluxations (nerve interferences) in the spine. Chiropractic care allows the body to operate at its full potential. Get Outdoors and Exercise Getting outdoors and getting fresh air even when the sky is gray can help to alleviate SAD symptoms. Direct Sunlight is the best way for our bodies to absorb Vitamin D. 20-30 minutes in the sun will get us approximately 10-50,000 units of Vitamin D. Supplements typically come in 500-1000 units, so we can see why most research lists nearly 70% of Americans as being Vitamin D deficient. Exercise should be fun, so it becomes something to look forward to each day. Running, walking briskly, ice skating or sledding with children are great ways to enjoy the winter weather. Leave Home This is especially tough for SAD sufferers because the natural inclination is to stay in and avoid social outings. SAD sufferers are encouraged to do the exact opposite of what they feel like doing. If the last thing you want to do is leave home, do just that. Pick up the phone and make a plan to meet up with a friend or family member. Enjoy dinner out on the town, catch a play or head to a museum. Try Light Therapy Light therapy has been found to be quite effective for SAD patients. A light therapy box emits light that mimics natural outdoor light. The box is thought to alter one’s circadian rhythms and suppress the body's natural release of melatonin, causing chemical changes in the brain which reduce SAD symptoms. Individuals sit in front of the light equipment for 20-30 minutes daily. The initial investment generally ranges from $200-400 for a light box. On a budget? Try florescent compact bulbs. These bright lights can actually change the levels of melatonin in your brain, inhibiting depression. They’re also very inexpensive! Change Your Diet Eating a low fat diet that includes an adequate amount of protein can help. You should also eliminate sugar and carbs as much as possible and avoid caffeine. Remember caffeine is in most sodas, coffee, tea, and chocolate. Limiting wheat and dairy consumption during the holidays can be a challenge, however over indulging in these items promote inflammation and tend to make us feel sluggish. Peppermint oil also helps with sadness and depression. Inhale a whiff to get a burst of energy! Add chili peppers to your diet—chili peppers contain capsaicin, which boost energy and can enhance circulation. Try ginger tea to help boost your metabolism and increase weight loss. Take Vitamins Some find that taking vitamins that contain magnesium, B complex, and minerals are helpful. Vitamin D is especially important to SAD sufferers and is one of the most important nutrients for our entire body. It has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis, cancer, depression, heart disease, and SAD. The best form of Vitamin D comes from natural sunlight which can be acquired by getting outside for at least 20 minutes a day (without sunscreen) during the strongest time of day—generally between 10 am – 2 pm. When supplementing, always choose Vitamin D3 cholecaciferol, not vitamin D2 ergocalciferol which the body has to convert to vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be acquired from cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, liver and eggs. You may want to pass on Vitamin D Fortified Milk –in most cases it’s counterproductive to healing the immune system. Other nutritional supplements that can be used are: Probiotics. There is scientific evidence that links low levels of Vitamin D and low levels of Probiotics to an increased risk of many medical conditions. Vitamin D, Probiotics and Chicken soup have also been effective in the past in combating viral infections like Flu. St. Johns Wort. This herb has traditionally been used to treat mild depression and anxiety. Be sure you are taking a pharmaceutical grade and that it does not conflict with medications you may be taking. SAMe. This is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. Melatonin. This natural hormone helps regulate mood. A change in the season may change the level of melatonin in the body. Some people try taking melatonin supplements, but discuss this with your health care provider first before doing so as it may be contraindicated with certain medications. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been show to relieve mild depression or anxiety symptoms in some studies. Sources of omega-3’s include fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackeral and herring. Flaxsee, flax oil and walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and small amounts are found in soybean and canola oils. Gingko Biloba. Gingko biloba makes you more alert and boosts your brain power. AcupuntureAccording to traditional Chinese medicine, winter is a time of quietness and a time to rebuild your energy stores for the coming seasons. One relaxing way to do this is with acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is well known for its positive effect on pain, mood, and hormone disorders. A few rebalancing treatments can get you out of that slump and get you back on track to enjoy the winter season. A commonly used acupuncture point is Governing Vessel 20 (GV 20), located at the highest point of the body—the center of the top of the head. It is one of the main points used to increase energy, clear the head, and treat insomnia. Try it out by gently pressing the point with your finger for 20 seconds, several times per day.
(American Chiropractic Association)