Come fall and winter (which are in fact here), some of us might be prone to experience seasonal depression, otherwise deemed seasonal affective disorder. Following is a summarized look at this seasonal disorder followed a list of suggested supplements that can help those who experience depression in the colder months.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a pattern wherein an individual experiences depression in late fall and winter. SAD is not mere “winter blues” where you might get slightly down in winter months, but is rather a form of seasonal depression that can affect someone’s quality of life.
SAD is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a seasonal form of major depressive disorder. The foremost symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, as well as irritation, anxiety, and loss of pleasurable and prosocial feelings. Those experiencing SAD are also prone to carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, fatigue, and excessive tiredness and sleeping.
The primary reason for SAD is most likely the decrease in sunlight during normal waking hours. This can cause changes in circadian rhythm which affect hormone levels and mood. A lack of sunlight can decrease the production of serotonin, a hormone which contributes to good feelings. Less sunlight can also mean less bodily production of vitamin D, as well as an overproduction of melatonin, the hormone responsible for initiating sleepiness.
Recommended means to treat SAD include spending time outdoors during the day, light therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Supplements for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some supplements can benefit the body and the brain in ways that can mitigate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Here are some of the most helpful supplements available for overcoming SAD:
Vitamin D supplementation can be very helpful for reducing the symptoms of SAD on account of vitamin D’s necessary contribution to serotonin production. Research has shown that taking vitamin D reduced negative emotions in those experiencing major depression. Taking vitamin D, along with spending time in the sunlight, is a great way to make sure you get plenty of vitamin D, which has the potential to significantly reduce SAD symptoms.
St. John’s Wort: Research suggests that supplementing with St. John’s Wort could improve the symptoms of depression as well as help manage corresponding sleep issues. This could include the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a nutrient extracted from an African bean plant which can increase serotonin levels. In turn, this could reduce seasonal depression. The body converts 5-HTP into serotonin when it is combined with foods containing tryptophan. (Tryptophan occurs naturally in fish, meat, poultry, and grains.) Studies show that 5-HTP could work just as well, or better, as common antidepressants such as Prozac.
Magnesium: Some research suggests that bodily magnesium levels could be lower in winter months. Furthermore, other research suggests that taking magnesium could help relieve depression, as well as reduce sleep issues associated with depression. For these reasons, magnesium could possibly help reduce the symptoms of SAD.
Vitamin B6 could help with SAD because it is a prominent supporter of the production of serotonin and other positive hormones. A deficiency in B6 is strongly correlated with issues involving mood, anxiety, and depression. By bolstering these hormones, taking B6 could help relieve seasonal depression and fatigue.
If you or a family member experience seasonal affective disorder, then consider how one or more of these supplements could be of help, in the context of other healthy living decisions. It’s recommended that you talk to your healthcare provider before adding one or more of these supplements to your regimen of vitamins and other nutrients.