Winter has been renowned for centuries for bringing the doldrums, also known as the winter blues, and science has proven it to be a legitimate condition which we call seasonal affective disorder.
This disorder has what may be the most appropriate acronym of all time – SAD.
One of the many things a naturopathic doctor can provide is treatment for SAD by addressing potential vitamin deficiencies, which can be very helpful in lessening the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
Let’s talk more about this health concern today.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is generally experienced during the winter months, and is often tied to the shortened days and the change to daylight savings time.
People experience SAD in different ways, for different lengths of time, and at different intensities.
However, there are specific symptoms that you can detect within yourself and your loved ones in order to know when it’s time to ask for help.
Symptoms of SAD
The symptoms typically experienced in those with SAD include:
• Sleeping more than usual
• Reduced energy levels and/or fatigue
• Avoidance of social situations up to and including isolation
• Social anxiety and increased fear of social rejection
• Changes in appetite, including increased cravings for carbs and/or sugar
• Weight gain
• Difficulty concentrating
What Causes SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder occurs when the body is exposed to less sunlight than it needs to maintain optimal hormone, mineral and vitamin levels – particularly serotonin and vitamin D.
Seasonal affective disorder has also been linked to a genetic mutation of the methylation pathways, which can be assessed by a naturopath and treated using methyl donors, supplying you with what you need to steer clear of SAD.
Natural Ways To Combat SAD
Here are our top 5 ways to help get your SAD moods regulated naturally:
1. Light Therapy
Science has shown how SAD is related to the reduced exposure to sunlight, and has also given us a solution to that problem: a way of harnessing that light to deliver it on-demand.
Using a ‘sunlight lamp’ to ease your transition into the dark winter months can be a very helpful and easy way to treat SAD.
All you need to do for this is turn it on and sit in front of it for as little as half an hour daily – it doesn’t matter if you’re reading, watching TV or preparing for tomorrow’s presentation – the specific light frequency that helps your mood most is happily being absorbed into your body.
It’s a good idea, though, to use this light during the hours when you’d normally experience sunlight. Because of the energizing nature of these lights, using them before bed can end up disrupting your sleep. Shutting off your sunlight lamp at least 2 hours before you go to bed (along with any electronics) is ideal.
Nutrition is a crucial factor in providing your body and brain what it needs to survive the season.
Make sure to favour whole foods, a plethora of fruits and vegetables, as well as food rich in omega fatty acids such as fish, and eggs.
Foods to avoid include sugar, caffeine, alcohol and carbohydrates, as they can cause intense mood fluctuations throughout the day.
3. Supplement With Vitamin D
Vitamin D has long been known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, and while the sun is low in the sky, you’re typically notproducing enough vitamin D to maintain healthy levels.
Vitamin D can be taken easily as a supplement.
As a bonus, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and can help protect you against colds and infections – another common wintertime health problem.
It’s important to note that your body won’t produce sufficient vitamin D only through using a light therapy lamp, making supplementation of vitamin D essential in the winter for anyone living far from the equator – including everyone in Canada
4. Get Your Vitamin Levels Tested
Vitamin D testing is essential for transitioning in to winter. Obtaining accurate serum levels of vitamin D will guide your doctor on the appropriate dosing you will need to ensure that your levels reach and maintain optimal levels throughout the winter.
Exercise is powerful, because it simultaneously combats many of the symptoms of SAD.
• Getting you moving helps manage food cravings and winter weight gain
• Getting out to an exercise class helps you to stay social and connected with others
• Exercise stimulates production of the happy biochemicals such as cortisol, serotonin anddopamine, and these elevated levels boost your mood for days to come
• Fitting in a workout can improve your self-esteem, especially if it involves mastering complicated dance steps, learning tough new yoga poses, or besting an opponent in sparring.
• While you might be tired from your workout, people who exercise regularly report better sleeping patterns, and quality of sleep. These people experience less fatigue throughout the day.
• Exercising often involves getting outside – such as skating, skiing or a winter run – and this gives you the best chance at absorbing fresh air, sunlight and vitamin D naturally.
Contact Annex Naturopathic
At Annex Naturopathic, we help you to identify the specific symptoms that you are experiencing in order to help you find the best treatments for you.
Luckily, we have an arsenal of natural approaches to SAD, so call now to book your free consultation, and we’ll get you started on the road back to more even moods.
If the winter is particularly harsh, there’s always a tropical vacation that we’d be happy to recommend 🙂
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND