Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
We often hear people saying they are craving the sun, or feeling depressed due to the short days and long winters. What you may not realize is that there may be an actual reason for these feelings. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD” this common ailment is often seen in people who live in regions where there are long winters and in shift workers who have less frequent exposure to natural sunlight. The lack of sunlight can lead to feelings of depression, fatigue, anxiety, apathy, sexual problems, overeating and sleep problems.
While a quick vacation to a sunny location may provide some quick relief, this is not always financially feasible for most people and may not last for the long run. According to Mental Health America, about five percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder caused by reduced sunlight in the late autumn and winter. Four out of five people suffering from SAD are women.
One cause of SAD is thought to be Melatonin, a sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. When the days are darker and shorter in the winter, the pineal gland produces more Melatonin, which affects sleep patterns and our moods. Another theory states that SAD may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which act as mood regulators.
Phototherapy, also known as bright light therapy, is often used to help treat SAD by suppressing the body’s production of Melatonin.
Another popular therapy is the use of Vitamin D. Vitamin D, also known as the Sunshine vitamin, is reported to help individuals sleep better as it helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
According to an article in Medical News Today, “Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of asthma, cancer and chronic pain, among other conditions. Now, a new study led by researchers from the University of Georgia associates low vitamin D levels with greater risk of seasonal affective disorder.” Researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia state that studies found that depressed people often have lower levels of Vitamin D.
The Vitamin D Society, a Canadian non-profit group, suggests everyone have their Vitamin D levels checked, and suggests an optimal blood level of between 100-150 nmol/L. For some this may mean daily supplementation of 4,000 IU for adults.
While it’s true that Vitamin D may not be the cure-all for Seasonal Affective Disorder, the evidence is clear that it Vitamin D does play an important role in our everyday health.
Maintaining a health Vitamin D level is important for several other reasons, including the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, supporting lung and cardiovascular health, supporting a healthy nervous system and immune system, and even helping to regulate insulin levels for better diabetes management.
Looking to boost your Vitamin D intake? Fish oil and fatty fish are some of the best sources of Vitamin D. One tablespoon of cod liver oil has 1,360 IU, for example. For those who do not eat fish, 1 cup of raw maitake mushrooms packs an impressive 786 IU of Vitamin D.
A Friendly Health Advisory: As always, consult with your physician before taking natural supplements, vitamins and herbal supplements as they may have interactions with prescription medications you are currently taking.
If you have questions about your prescription or non-prescription medication, please contact the team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784) or visit their website at https://www.canadaonlinehealth.ca. One of the friendly and discreet pharmacy representatives will be happy to answer your questions.
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).