Seasonal Affective Disorder – it is real and we need to FACE IT!

If you live in Canada, you’ve probably heard the term “SAD” thrown around a lot during this time of the year. It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder – it’s a kind of winter depression where people generally feel depressed, oversleep and crave lots of carbs and sugar.

SAD is caused by the lack of exposure to full-spectrum natural light this time of the year. This is why SAD typically starts the day after Day Light Savings begins!

Some symptoms of SAD:

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feeling stressed or anxious 

  • Reduced sex drive

  • Becoming less sociable

  • Persistent low mood 

  • Feeling irritable 

  • Loss of pleasure in normal everyday activities 

  • Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness

Supplements for SAD (other than more sunlight exposure!):

Melatonin:

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted with exposure to light.  Due to the reduction in light during winter- you may want to supplement.  You would only use this – if the seasonal change has caused changes in sleep, a reduction in sleep, insomnia, or waking up feeling unrested.   

Vitamin D:

This one is obvious because we are naturally lacking vitamin D in the winter! Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin because it helps with the production of serotonin, the “happiness” hormone. Often times when we are deficient in this vitamin, our moods are not as elevated as they could be. It is recommended to supplement at least 1000 IU per day in the months of October to April. 

St. John’s Wort:

This supplement is very powerful and has been used since ancient times! It has been shown to relieve SAD in many studies, at a dosage of 300mg, up to 3 times a day2. It is a great option if you do not want to supplement with a hormone (i.e. melatonin). 

B Complex: 

Many of the B vitamins are needed for mental health, particularly B6, B12 and folate. They are needed to help convert amino acids from protein into serotonin and dopamine.  Serotonin and dopamine are feel good hormones in the brain that increase mood and energy. B complexes are often used in cases of mild depression. 

Fish Oils:

Fish oils are primarily made up of EPA and DHA. DHA, in particular, helps increase the function of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin.  It is important for the proper functioning of the nerve and brain tissues.

If you have tried supplementing for SAD and haven’t seen an improvement in conditions, you may need to consult your Naturopathic Doctor.

References:

  1. NHS. (n.d.). Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/symptoms/.

  1. Martinez et al., 1994. “Hypericum in the Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorders,” J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol 7, 1:29-33.

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