Winter Blues or Something More?
Are you likely to burrow in during the cold, dark winter months, not to be heard from again until the spring? Do you sit on the couch all winter and binge watch whatever is on your DVR?
Or is it worse for you? Do you feel sad and exhausted and maybe even a little depressed? Do you overeat and oversleep during the cold winter months? Have you considered that maybe it’s more than just the blues?
Many people suffer with more than a little “blues” in the winter months. They may be afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In case you don’t know what SAD is, it’s a type of depression that is present during particular seasons, most often in winter months.
There are many reasons why someone might develop SAD in the winter, although the cause is not really known. According to the NIMH, people who are most susceptible to SAD may have the following dysfunctions:
They may not be able to effectively regulate serotonin
Serotonin is one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.
They may overproduce melatonin
Melatonin is the sleep hormone and people with SAD may produce more of it in dark winter months.
They may underproduce Vitamin D
Vitamin D is believed to be involved in serotonin regulation. Deficiencies in Vitamin D have also been associated with clinical depression.
What are the risk factors?
Women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men
Living far from the equator
SAD is more likely found in people who live the farthest from the equator. The further north or south of the equator, the higher the likelihood of a SAD diagnosis.
People with family history of depression are at higher risk of developing SAD
Younger people are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD
Bipolar or depression
A diagnosis of another type of depression puts you at higher risk for SAD
There are several treatment options for SAD that may work alone or together.
SSRIs are used to treat SAD but come with their own risks.
Using a light box for 20-60 minutes first thing every morning during the winter months has been shown the be effectivefor SAD sufferers.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is used to reframe negative thoughts and help the afflicted find pleasurable indoor and outdoor activities to participate in during the winter.
Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be an issue for most people with SAD due to shorter days and lack of exposure to sunlight. There are mixed reviews on the efficacy of Vitamin D therapy but if the patient is deficient, supplementation is likely needed anyway.
If you feel that you might be suffering from SAD, seek medical help if it interferes with day to day living. You might be able to get relief from one or more of the therapies listed here. And hopefully, you can look forward to the arrival of spring.
Since June 2019, I decided to hold myself accountable for walking my talk. Several years ago, I was able to take off 135 pounds and essentially save my own life. I regained some of that weight in the last couple of years and I’m working my way back down. I’ve lost over 40 pounds since I began in June and have exercised nearly every day since August.
If you choose to join me on this journey, I hope I am able to impart some nutritional and lifestyle wisdom. Even though I may have gone off the rails temporarily I can still share some of my first hand experience as well as my acquired knowledge and training to help you make the right changes to live your best life.
Do You Want Help?
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Aren’t you tired of feeling bloated and lethargic?
If you continue to follow the path you’re on, where will it lead you in six months? a year? Isn’t it time to take a different approach?
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The vitamin D and sunlight have an interesting relationship.
Is the lower vitamin D level because of less time in the sun?
Is the light therapy enough to raise the vitamin D levels?
If the patient has the discipline to spend time each day with the lamp,
could that same discipline be used to take a walk in the daylight?
Is there enough vitamin D produce on a cloudy day when the patient is outside for a period of time?
How much time is required outside to get “enough ” vitamin D?
These are all good questions Doug. Vitamin D absorption is hampered by the use of sunblocks and heavy clothing. You need to be in the sunlight with as much exposed skin as possible for only a few minutes a day if the sun is bright. Today it’s 24 degrees where I live so I wouldn’t be going outside without a jacket no matter how much Vitamin D is available to me. We do have a serious Vitamin D deficiency problem in our population that can be resolved by some time in the sun and supplementation with Vitamin D-3.
I don’t believe the light box emits the right rays to convert to Vitamin D but I don’t really know. I think the combination of being in bright sunlight (or using the light box) and Vitamin D supplementation (if there is a deficiency) will help a lot of people who aren’t seriously depressed. It may also help them but I think stronger measures are needed to ensure their sound mental health.
I am now taking vitamin D and am much less depressed so that’s a good thing. Looking forward to the detox! Thank you for all that you do, Karen!
Vitamin D is the unsung hero of supplementation. It helps a multitude of issues. Looking forward to working with you.
When talking about the pros and cons of Serotonin, Melatonin and Vitamin D, is there ways in which the levels, high, low or normal can be measured in each individual? Or is it just a guessing game as to what is the root cause of a persons levels?
Ty…I know for sure that Vitamin D can be measured with a simple blood test, melatonin can be found in a saliva sample, but I think a serotonin test is a little more involved, using a brain scan.
As for the connection between depression, etc. and diet there is a very distinct correlation between mental health and dietary habits. That is not to say that if you are on a mood managing medication that you should stop taking it when you adopt a healthy lifestyle. But I do think that if you eat cleanly and manage stress, combined with exercise, I believe you willl see a significant change in your mental health. Processed sugar has a negative impact on your brain and body so eliminating it can be a giant step forward in your physical and mental health.
Is there a connection between any form of Depression, Bi-Polar, SAD, etc to Sugar or any other foods OR food additives? Or weight gain and or obesity?