Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects around half a million people in Britain. It can cause symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping, overeating, lethargy, anxiety, loss of libido and reduced resistance to infections such as coughs and colds.

Lack of bright daylight during the dark winter months is thought to trigger SAD. Light enters the brain at the pineal gland and has a direct effect on hormones.

Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland at night and helps induce sleep. Bright light inhibits the production of melatonin, which is why light therapy can help this disorder. Full spectrum lighting can help, as can “Light Boxes”. Sun tanning lamps should not be used to combat SAD, as the UV rays they emit can damage the eyes and skin.

Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)

Supplement/Herb What it does Dosage
5-HTP 5-HTP is a substance related to L-tryptophan that increases serotonin production and has shown antidepressant activity. It may also be useful in the treatment of SAD and where St Johns Wort is contra-indicated. as directed
Vitamin D A study conducted over a winter with Australian college students found that just over half of participants experienced an improvement in their symptoms when taking a cod liver oil capsule with vitamin D. 400 – 1200 iu daily
StJohns Wort St. John’s Wort, is well known for its antidepressant activity. Studies have shown that patients report significant overall improvement in their symptoms resulting from the use of St. John’s wort at 300 mg three times daily. 300mg 3 times daily
Vitamin B Complex To support the nervous system. as directed
Siberian Ginseng This herb helps normalise the way in which the body responds to stress triggers and acts to regulate the manufacture and secretion of adrenal hormones. It also strengthens the adrenal glands themselves, which is especially important to those suffering from chronic stress. as directed


Diet and Lifestyle Factors

Sufferers of SAD often find that they crave simple carbohydrates such as sweets and starches, possibly because they bring about a temporary lift in mood and they do seem to process sugar differently in winter compared with summer.

Because consumption of carbohydrates can influence neurotransmitter levels, it has been speculated that eating simple carbohydrates may be a form of self-medication in people with SAD. However, long-term control of negative moods is probably best achieved by eliminating simple carbohydrates from the diet.

Avoid refined carbohydrates, tea and coffee as they will make mood swings worse.

Eat plenty of oily fish, chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, dairy products, bananas, beans.

“Lumie” alarm clocks which simulate dusk at night and daybreak in the morning can help to fool the pineal gland and “switch off” melatonin production.

Early morning exercise can help improve mood, ease depression and improve well being, in some cases as effectively as antidepressant medications. One study found that both one hour of aerobic exercise three times per week and the same amount of anaerobic exercise were significantly and equally effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

Use a full spectrum lightbulb in your work area to fool the pituitary gland into thinking that you are in broad daylight.

Spend as much time as possible outside during the day.

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