As the days get shorter you are probably already missing the sunshine. The long, dark winter months really pull some people down, and this goes way beyond the “winter blues” and develops into something more. This condition is known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. If you know anyone that has this problem, read on, or better still, forward this to them. A little understanding of what’s going can be a real help.
What are the symptoms? The most common symptoms of SAD are recurring cycles of depression, increased appetite, and an increased need for sleep. This is unlike other depressive disorders, which are mainly shown up in disturbed sleep and decreased appetite. Other typical symptoms of SAD are anxiety, decreased activity, social withdrawal, weight gain, and carbohydrate craving. So it’s no surprise lots of us want to curl up in front of the fire at home and eat stodge!
What Causes SAD? Our 24 hour cycle of waking and sleeping is called the ‘circadian rhythm’ and governed by our changing hormone levels in response to light.
When darkness falls, the lower light levels cause the body to produce melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep. Melatonin is produced through the night, but towards daybreak, it gradually falls to allow us to wake in the morning. This system can go wrong if we simply don’t have enough daylight.
Recent research has identified a number of possible explanations for SAD. The main theories centre on melatonin production, and another important neurotransmitter – serotonin – which is important for keeping us happy.
The nutritional therapy approach
Nutritional therapy approach to SAD aims to increase serotonin levels, and also to help serotonin to convert to melatonin.
Here are a few foods you might add to the diet as they may help to promote serotonin production in the body:
Bananas, brown rice, cottage cheese,
almonds, walnuts, chicken, and figs.
There are also some supplements that may help. St. John’s Wort is one. This has been used in Europe to increase serotonin with success for many years. You can find good quality St. John’s Wort at most health food shops.
AND getting out in the daylight for as long as you can each day will help too.