My top 6 supplement recommendations to heal SAD
While you may feel like the only one who feels depressive symptoms when winter rolls around, you’re not alone. Experts say over 40 million North Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depression in the winter months when the days are shorter, darker and rainier.
While the specific cause of SAD varies, the lack of sunlight can produce symptoms such as fatigue, oversleeping, overeating, carbohydrate cravings, mild depression, irritation and loss of pleasure and interest in life. Reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt the body’s internal “biological clock,” or circadian rhythm, causing hormones, sleep and mood to be unbalanced. Reduced sunlight can also cause low serotonin levels, leading to feelings of depression.
Since it can be difficult to get all of our nutrition from our diets, I recommend incorporating a few supplements to ensure that your body is getting the necessary vitamins and minerals to function optimally and combat the winter blues. Here are my suggestions:
Research supports a connection between low vitamin D levels and SAD. Vitamin D, actually a hormone, needs UV B sun exposure in order to be processed in the body. I recommend a daily dose of 2000 IU of vitamin D3.
This supplement is the precursor to serotonin, and when taken orally helps increase serotonin levels in the brain to alleviate many SAD symptoms.
Effective in helping maintain adequate serotonin levels, I recommend finding a B-complex supplement that contains all the essential B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, folic acid and pantothenic acid (B5).
St. John’s Wort
This supplement has been shown to have a positive effect on serotonin, dopamine and melatonin which helps to improve symptoms of SAD and depression. Although St. John’s wort extract is effective on its own, when combined with light therapy there seems to be an even more significant improvement in symptoms of SAD and depression.
Note: St. John’s Wort interacts with many medications so please seek the guidance of a licensed health care provider before taking this herb.
The body produces more melatonin when it is dark and decreases the production when it is light. Melatonin supplementation may relieve the symptoms of SAD because it increases brain melatonin levels as well as suppresses cortisol secretion. Take melatonin 30-45 minutes before bedtime.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Fish oils have been shown to be deficient in people who suffer from SAD. Omega-3s are important for all around brain function, inflammation, skin/hair/nails and heart health. Be sure to find a pharmaceutical grade omega-3 fatty acid free of all impurities and dose at least 800 mg of EPA/400 mg DHA per day.