Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that some people experience that is triggered by the change in seasons. It is mainly linked to the reduction of sunlight as the days shorten and nights become longer in the fall, winter and early spring. When we are exposed to less sunlight we can experience a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep and libido. People who have SAD have a hard time during the colder, darker months and often don’t realize there are many natural approaches they can take to help alleviate the symptoms. Here are a few natural remedies for alleviating Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Increase your light exposure:
Your brain needs natural light to make serotonin. Getting outside during the day is very important. However, if you can’t do that due to your work schedule there are other ways to get more light. There are full spectrum light bulbs and light boxes you can purchase that can stimulate your brain the same way sunlight does. The lights should only be used during the daylight hours (mornings preferably) because they can keep you awake when used at night. So don’t put the bulbs in your regular lamps. Also, they light needs to get to your eyes without a filter so don’t wear your glasses or contacts or put a shade on the lamp. The light should be fairly close to you but positioned so that the light reaches your eyes indirectly. Many people use the lights in the morning while eating breakfast. Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Take Vitamin D3:
Many people, especially those in the northern parts of the country, are deficient in Vitamin D3. Not only does it play a big role in supporting your immune system it has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. Most natural health practitioners recommend people take a daily dose of Vitamin D3 of 2000iu to 5000iu.
Increase your aerobic exercise:
Getting exercise is good for every part of your body including your brain. Natural health practitioners as well as Western medicine practitioners recommend aerobic exercise to help with mild to moderate depression of any kind.
Take a B vitamin complex:
B vitamins, especially folic acid and B6, have been shown to be effective in treating depression. They can even increase the efficacy of anti-depressants.
St. John’s Wort:
This herb has been widely used in Europe for treating depression. Studies have shown it to be as effective as prescription medications in some cases. It can react with certain medications so be sure to check with your doctor before taking this if you are on prescription meds.
This is another supplement that is used to treat depression and it’s been shown to work faster than St. John’s Wort which can take a few weeks to kick in. Using the enteric coated tablet form called butanedisulfonate for the best results.
Omega 3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular health but also play a big role in your brain and emotional health. Especially DHA as it is found in health nerve and brain tissue. Take a supplement that has both EPA and DHA with a focus on the DHA to help your brain balance, mood and focus.
Eat a healthy diet and avoid sugar:
When your blood sugar isn’t balanced it can cause fluctuations in your mood and energy. This is especially difficult when you are experiencing SAD. Eat lean, healthy protein and lots of fruits and vegetables while keeping your processed grains and carbs to a minimum. It’s easy to find guidelines for healthy, low glycemic diets such as the Mediterranean or Paleo diets. Decreasing your sugars is healthy for your whole body, not just your brain.
Consult your natural health practitioner for more information about which of these suggestions is right for you.
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Dr. Ron Ledoux is a licensed Chiropractor from the midwest who has been practicing since 2001. He’s also certified in clinical nutrition and has extensive training in nutritional therapies and is enthusiastic about educating and offering natural health care to his patients and the community.