Seasonal depression is more correctly called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). We are now into the fall season. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter that is when SAD starts to kick in. SAD tapers off in the spring. There is also a direct correlation between the incidence of SAD and the further north you live.
SAD is very closely related to the “winter blues” and can manifest as:
- A change in your general mood
- Being on edge or irritable
- Getting upset and even crying over things that usually would not trigger such a reaction
- Having decreased levels of mental and physical energy
- Finding it more difficult to get out bed in the morning
- Having more difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Sleeping more hours a night
- Desiring less social interaction and preferring more to be alone
- Cravings certain “comfort foods”, especially carbohydrates
SAD can be mild or can be so severe that it can interfere with your activities of daily living.
A published analysis stated the SAD only impacts about 1% of Floridians, but 9% of Alaskans. Women are also at increased risk over men, with quadruple the diagnosis rate as compared to men.
SAD most commonly begins between the ages of 18 to 30.
What causes SAD?
- SAD is directly related to shorter days and less exposure to sunlight.
- Your body’s biorhythms, which are called circadian rhythms, time the release of various hormones. These releases are partially dependent on sun exposure. When there is less sun exposure, your hormonal balances and release times are compromised.
- Less sun exposure drops vitamin D levels. Lower vitamin D levels are directly linked to depression.
- Sunlight helps to keep levels of a protein called SERT low. SERT is related to the inhibition of the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin has been nicknamed the “feel good” hormone and is known to play a role in mood. High levels of SERT are linked to increased depression. This is according to the Depression Research and Treatment Review.
How to Minimize SAD:
- Since SAD is directly related to less sun exposure, try to get out in the sunshine more frequently during the winter months, even if it is for just a few minutes at a time. Besides stimulating the production of vitamin D, sunshine triggers many other health enhancing biochemical reactions in the human body, some of which we probably haven’t yet identified.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. You might not be able to do this with sun exposure alone during the colder weather, a vitamin D supplement is highly beneficial. It is generally recommended to keep your vitamin D3 levels between 30 – 50 ng/ml. I prefer to see my patients’ vitamin D levels between 80 – 100 ng/ml.
5,000 IU of D is a good daily dose to start with for most people. The vitamin D should be in the form of D3. Make sure to take vitamin K2 along with the vitamin D3. I prefer the MK7 variety of K2. You should take 10 micrograms of MK7 of K2 for every 1,000 IU of D3. If you are taking 5,000 IU of D3, you should therefore be taking 50 micrograms of MK7 K2. If you are on blood thinners, consult your physician prior to taking vitamin K2.
K2 along with D3, transports calcium into the bones and teeth, where the calcium should be and not into the soft tissues and the arteries, where the calcium shouldn’t be.
- Exercise reduces stress and increases endorphins, which are natural mood elevating chemicals that are also the body’s natural pain killers.
- Optimize your gut bacteria. Gut bacteria naturally generates vast amount of fresh serotonin. This is done without the potential side effects, of antidepressants, such as suicide and homicide that come with drugs like Prozac and Paxil. Those drugs are classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). They don’t stimulate the production of new serotonin, but rather reduce the breakdown of old serotonin. The body breaks down that old serotonin because old serotonin starts to degrade on its own. That old serotonin is chemically damaged and doesn’t do the same thing as new serotonin does. That may be the root cause of those potentially violent side effects.
- Increase omega 3 fats – Omega 3 fats are vital for good brain function and have been found to help to reduce depression, both seasonal as well as general depression. My favorite source is wild caught salmon, but krill oil and fish oil from fish caught in clean waters are also great sources of omega fats.
- Try tourmaline! Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone that has been used for its therapeutic value for millennia. Tourmaline has been shown to increase serotonin production as well as alpha brain waves. Both of those together act synergistically and can have a significant impact on seasonal depression, as well as to help you to get better quality sleep. The body heals and detoxifies during deep sleep and good quality sleep is vital to good health. FIR Industries produces a Tourma®Blanket that has quadrillions of nano-sized tourmaline particles permanently bonded to the fabric so it can’t wash out. For more information go to TourmaHealth.com
Seasonal affective disorder is one disorder and serious clinical depression is another.
Depression can be a very serious condition that can be deadly. If you or someone you know is depressed to the point of contemplating doing harm to themselves, to others or contemplating suicide, immediate intervention is crucial. Natural treatments are great, but in a crises situation, immediate medical intervention may be a matter of life or death.
Help is Always Just a Phone Call or a Mouse Click Away:
Here is the phone number and website for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
For More Information About Mental Health: