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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs at a certain time of year, generally beginning in the fall and lasting through the winter. People who suffer with this disorder typically experience feelings of depression and fatigue along with several other symptoms. Changes in the amount of daylight is the speculated cause of the disorder. However, there is a less common form of Seasonal Affective Disorder that can occur in the springtime and last through the summer.

Two to three percent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime. Another 15% of people will suffer from a more mild form of depression that causes less severe depressive symptoms and still allows individuals to live and function normally. SAD can run in families and it is estimated that 13-17% of people who have the disorder have an immediate family member who also suffers with it. About 10% of all depression cases are related to SAD and certain groups of people are at higher risk than other groups. Adults under the age of 50 are more likely to suffer with SAD which has been shown to decline after the mid-life years. Women are 8 times higher than men to suffer with the disorder, with the reasons for this being unknown. People living in Northern climates are also more like to suffer with SAD due to the increased shortening of daylight hours received in geographic locations further from the equator.

What are the Causes and Signs of SAD?

A lack of sunlight is proposed to upset the normal functioning of the body’s biological clock which regulates sleep wake patterns and other circadian rhythms. This disturbance can cause problems with neurotransmitter regulation in the body, primarily with levels of serotonin and dopamine. Mood is significantly affected by changes in levels of these important chemicals secreted from specific cells in the brain.
Some of the feelings associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder include: sadness, being moody or grumpy, anxious, having cravings for carbohydrates, gaining weight, sleeping excessively yet still being tired and having problems concentrating.

How to Cope with SAD?

Aside from taking a vacation away to a sunnier climate or using a light therapy box, there are certain nutrients that may help the body to cope with seasonal changes that cause the symptoms of SAD. Consider the following supplements to help manage Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • L-5-hydroxytryptophan is a precursor of serotonin that may help to increase the body’s production of serotonin to help improve mood as well as reduce cravings for carbohydrates.
  • SAMe, S-Adenosylmethionine, has been demonstrated to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine and may work better than antidepressant drugs for helping to improve mood and energy levels. AOR offers SAMe 400 which contains a stable form and effective dosage of this naturally produced chemical. SAMe may also improve the absorption of B-vitamins. B-vitamins are critical in order for the body to make biochemicals that support a healthy mood.
  • Prior to going to bed, taking a sleep aid that helps to improve quality of sleep and regulate the sleep cycle may be useful for those who have a disturbed sleep wake cycle due to seasonal changes. Ortho Sleep is a natural sleep aid that helps the body reset its sleep cycle and improves the quality and duration of sleep.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a unique adaptogen that helps the body cope with chemical, biological and physical stressors. Rhodiola has been demonstrated to help those who suffer with asthenic conditions, fatigue and depression. This herb may help support normal energy levels, improved physical and mental performance and healthy mood balance.
  • Take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains vitamin B6, thiamin, and folic acid. Studies have shown that it can benefit mood and overall well-being. AOR offers a variety of multivitamin products including Ortho CoreMulti Basics CompleteEssential Mix and Multi Basics 3 as well as the vitamin B supplement, Advanced B Complex.
  • Some research studies have also noted that Vitamin D can be beneficial for those who are suffering with SAD depression symptoms.

Other therapies that may be useful for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder include light therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, getting adequate exercise and massage therapy. A healthy diet is always recommended to keep blood sugar and energy levels stable and to prevent deficiencies of important vitamins and minerals.

If you struggle with serious and continuous SAD symptoms, be sure to reach out to a healthcare provider to discuss your condition. For more information on seasonal depression, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health.


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