Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Holistic Healthy Living Blog by Rachelle Tetreault L,Ac


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was deemed a true disorder dating back to 1984 when The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded a study. The findings noted SAD as a syndrome consisting of recurrent depressions which occur annually at the same time every year. This seasonal depression is often accompanied by a low mood and lack of interest in life usually occurring around fall or winter each year. Your energy level may feel depleted and there may be even an increase in moodiness. Other symptoms may include sleeping too much, overeating and craving high carbohydrate foods, tiredness, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless, losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and feeling sluggish. Typically, symptoms may start improving in spring or summer. However, some SAD cases are more specific to spring and summer months though not as common.

SAD occurs in up to three percent of the general population but it is more prevalent in people with existing depressive disorders . SAD is found to coexist with up to 25 percent of patients with previously diagnosed bipolar depression. So, there is a heightened risk in individuals with any pre-existing depressive disorders.

Natural hormones of the body are affected by a lack of sunlight.  As the sun sets, our pineal gland which is located at the base of the brain, senses the reduction in light. This creates a release of a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. Also, our stress hormone, cortisol, may rise which then contributes to fatigue, depression, insomnia, and more. Serotonin, our natural neurotransmitter, may reduce levels which may then contribute to depression. Research has shown that the production of serotonin is directly affected by the actual duration of bright sunlight. Some people tend to be more sensitive to this than others. Light therapy can be beneficial as well as food therapy to help alleviate SAD.

Keeping our blood-sugars at a steady level are very beneficial. This can be done with consuming lean protein and lots of vegetables. Eat every few hours with small meals. If you do crave carbohydrates, choose the more complex ones such as oats, whole wheat, sweet potato, and brown rice. These foods are high in fiber which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Proteins like tuna, salmon, quinoa, nuts, turkey, and chicken are not only high in protein but also stimulates the feel good hormone in your body and improve energy overall. B vitamins are known for acting as a tonic for our nervous system. These include grains such as millet, barley, brown rice, also eggs, legumes, citrus, meat, fortified breakfast cereals, bananas, and liver.

Try to avoid sugar, caffeine, and simple carbohydrates, and processed foods. Replace these with the food therapy listed above. Remember, a diet too low in complex carbohydrates may actually contribute to serotonin depletion and depression. Depression is often due partly to nutritional deficiency. Any white bread, flour, excessive saturated animal fats, hydrogenated vegetable oil, sweets, and soft drinks can deprive the body of B vitamins. This greatly increases the likelihood of depression. A staple in diet is incorporating more high-fiber whole grains and nuts into the diet along with good fats full of omega 3s. Drink warm broths and teas. Cold beverages, especially with meals, will slow the natural peristaltic movements of the digestive system. Try to eat at least 3 hours before bedtime to ensure the body has adequate time to digest fully before sleep.

Treatment is to improve mood and energy of both the body and mind, also promoting digestion and total utilization of energy throughout. In Eastern Medicine, this is done by relieving food, energy, blood, and phlegm stagnation built up in the body over time. This also helps promote the overall movement of our energy and releases any constraints that may act as barriers. There are many contributing factors to SAD and depression in general such as heredity, endocrine disorders, mental disorders, certain medications, and other neurological issues as well.

Exercises outdoor especially whenever the sun pokes its head out is ideal. This alone will help with better stress management and improve the body’s energy. Creating a good balance of work, exercise, and rest is very important to achieve both optimal physical and mental health. Massages are very therapeutic for helping reduce stress. Acupuncture points both on back and ear are considered “happy points”. Back-shu acu-points are known for their treatment for both emotional and chronic issues. Shenmen auricular ear point is used to lift the mood and calm the nervous system naturally.

Choosing a holistic practitioner will help treat the body as a whole and also help the body to self-regulate without long-term medications. Call today for your assessment and let’s start the journey to your health! 772-353-1397