Can Nutrition Help Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)?
Have you been feeling more irritable or depressed lately? Sleeping more and craving carbs? If so, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), a condition that is likely caused by a lack of sunlight - leading to decreased production of the brain chemical serotonin
What is S.A.D.?
Known as ‘seasonal depression’ or the ‘winter blues’, those who experience S.A.D. may experience signs often associated with depression.
What causes S.A.D.?
There is no single known cause of S.A.D. but it's likely that a lack of sunshine is a significantly contributing factor.
Sunlight inhibits the production of night time sleep hormone melatonin, so during sunless winter days, levels can remain high. Other factors may include biological predisposition, stress, disrupted body clock and low levels of the feel good neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Symptoms can include:
- an ongoing, persistent low mood
- feelings of stress, anxiety, tearfulness or sadness
- a loss of enjoyment in everyday activities
- low self-esteem
- infrequent desire to be sociable
- changes in how much you eat (more or less than is typical for you)
Natural remedies that help S.A.D.
Vitamin D is not easily sourced from the diet, it is generally produced in the skin in response to sunlight. Production is therefore lower during the winter months for obvious reasons and also lessens the further away from the equator that you live. Low vitamin D is also linked to low mood, hence why it may be a potential contributory factor to S.A.D.
It is now recommended that most people should supplement with vitamin D during the winter months and this may be especially important for anyone struggling with S.A.D.
Choose a supplement that contains vitamin D in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol) as this is the form that is naturally produced in the skin in response to sunlight.
Exercise is a well-known natural antidepressant; and you can enhance these effects by exercising outdoors to maximise your exposure to daylight at the same time.
Tip: Getting out for a walk first thing in the morning is a great way to reset your body clock, whilst also getting some exercise.
Eat Protein & Healthy Fats
People tend to crave sugary carbohydrates when they feel depressed and sluggish, however it’s best to avoid these foods if you can.
Instead focus on a diet rich in whole grains, beneficial fats found in nuts, seeds and oily fish, and plenty of high quality protein such as lean meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Your body makes feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin from protein foods so ensuring a steady supply is vital if you’re feeling low.
Among the most extensively studied nutrients for depression; EPA & DHA are important omega-3 fats found in rich supply in oily fish and often missing from Western diets.
Research has shown that it is EPA in particular that may help to prevent or even treat depression when combined with antidepressant medication. For therapeutic effects, opt for an omega-3 supplement with a high ratio of EPA: DHA.
Yet another vital nutrient that’s worryingly low in Western diets is magnesium. This powerful mineral is absolutely essential for a balanced mood and energy production, so if you’re feeling down and sluggish then this is one nutrient that you definitely need to get more of in your diet!
Role of Genetics in S.A.D.
Did you know that individual genetic variation alters how much we need of these nutrients, including vitamin D, omega-3, magnesium and many other nutrients? BodyFuel is the all-in-one solution to consuming all 30 essential vitamins and minerals in the amounts you need to thrive all-year round.