Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is the intense feeling of depression and sadness that typically occurs in the dark months of the winter- it usually begins in the fall and subsides as spring approaches. The lack of natural sunlight appears to be the main cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Natural sunlight is a control mechanism for the secretion of the hormone melatonin.
Melatonin is a primary sleep inducing hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland as daylight decreases and darkness falls. Since there is less sunlight in the winter, there are more hours in which melatonin is secreted. Additionally, the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin also appears to be affected by decreased sunlight; decreased production with decreased sunlight. There is a direct correlation between low levels of serotonin and depression.
Symptoms of this disorder include fatigue, lethargy, an increase in appetite, and thus weight gain, an increase in the desire to sleep and a decrease in sex drive.
Treatment: Light therapy to compensate for the lack of natural sunlight can be extremely beneficial to some. Light boxes, for example, will allow exposure to light that is much brighter than that given off by regular light bulbs. Less melatonin will be produced because of this additional exposure to light. In addition to this, spending as much time outdoors during the daytime to get as much natural sunlight as possible will also help alleviate the mood.
The diet should also be altered to include products high in protein such as chicken, lean beef, turkey, eggs and other dairy products, and beans. Turkey also has the additional benefit of containing high amounts of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is needed for the production of serotonin. Tryptophan containing foods should be consumed daily. Non-complex carbohydrates should also be avoided since they are extremely low in nutritional benefit and are likely to contribute to weight gain.
Regular exercise will increase the production of endorphins which will improve the mood.
Psychotherapy will educate the affected individual on the main methods of coping with the disorder. Discussions often bring to the light the main effects of the disorder on the individual. Each symptom can then be dealt with for a more successful outcome.
Supplements: St. John's Wort and L-tyrosine have been shown to be beneficial in supporting the mood.
Vitamin D has been shown to greatly improve the mood of those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) will help increase levels of serotonin.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) increases neurotransmitter levels.
The B vitamins. These have effects on the levels of neurotransmitters produced.
The statements made here are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be used in place of information provided by your healthcare professional.
The products mentioned here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.