What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD may be the result of the reduced light levels that occur during the winter months. The days are shorter and many of us spend less time outside, and in the UK we have many cloudy and rainy days.
SAD may also be the result of low levels of serotonin in the brain as levels of this important neurotransmitter may also drop in response to low light exposure.
For many people the autumn and winter months can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms such
- Negative thoughts
- Food cravings for carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, and sweets
- Weight Gain
- The need for excessive sleep
- Inability to work long hours due to excessive fatigue
- Low Mood
How can Nutrition help me with SAD?
Eating foods such as turkey, chicken, avocado, cottage cheese and banana may help your mood.
These foods are great sources of tryptophan and should encourage the production of serotin and make you feel happier and more alert.
What supplements should I take?
Clinical research suggests a possible link between low status of vitamin D and the occurrence of SAD. When you remember that vitamin D is made in the body, following exposure of skin to sunlight, and that low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to depression.
- St. John’s 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 your body..
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been shown to relieve mild depression or anxiety symptoms in some studies. Sources of omega-3s include fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Flaxseed, flax oil and walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and small amounts are found in soybean and canola oils.
Also important are the B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc, so focus your diet around fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrains and include plenty of nuts and seeds. Taking an additional supplement containing these nutrients would also be beneficial.
Another key in the treatment of SAD is light therapy. You can sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.
Before you purchase a light therapy box make sure you’re getting a high-quality light therapy box.