Beating Winter Blues – Why Is Depression So Common In the Winter?
It is a known fact that depression is more common in the winter than it is in any other season. You might think that it has something to do with the colder weather. Studies have shown that winter depression is primarily caused by decreased exposure to natural light. Cold actually stimulates the system and serves as an antidepressant, but the lack of light still makes the bigger impact on people.
Winter blues, known by the medical community as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is quite common. Statistics show that as many as 6% of people in the United States have SAD. Another 10 to 20% suffer from a milder form of SAD. More women than men get SAD, and young adults are more prone to it than children or older adults.
What Are the Symptoms of SAD?
The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of regular depression. Sufferers may experience weight gain, decreased energy and fatigue. They may have difficulty concentrating, irritability and an aversion to social situations.
The main difference between SAD and depression is that SAD only affects its sufferers in the winter. The shorter days and longer nights give people less exposure to light and it triggers depression in those with SAD. In the spring, when there are more daylight hours and the sun starts coming up earlier, symptoms subside.
Those affected by SAD often have higher sensitivity to light than others. They could experience symptoms all year if they work in buildings with no windows. Depression could even be triggered in them by long periods of cloudy or rainy weather. Winter is the main reason for decreased daylight and therefore the main trigger for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
How Is SAD Treated?
Mood stabilizers and antidepressants are sometimes used to treat SAD. The treatment that appears to be the most promising does not involve drugs. It is called light therapy.
In light therapy, a light box or other device that emits a bright light is used. Patients sit in front of the light source for a specified period of time, which varies according to the intensity of the light. This is ideally done in the morning. Studies have shown that it may be beneficial if used at any time of day, but use in the evenings could cause insomnia.
The key to success with light therapy is sticking with it. It takes time and it may be a few weeks before a patient sees results. When used consistently it can be very beneficial.
Anytime depression is present, there may be deeper issues going on. For some women, depression is anger turned inside. Seeking therapy might help. Certainly, nurting yourself with good self care is always a good idea. Omega 3 fatty acids are also looking promising as a natural remedy for winter blues, as well as other types of depression.
For some people depression is a problem all year. For others it comes in the winter and leaves in the spring. SAD is a serious problem. The good news is that treatment without drugs is available and in many cases it is effective. If you have the symptoms of SAD talk to your doctor about your options. You don’t have to suffer until spring.
Potatoes, not Prozac for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs in the winter. It is triggered by the decrease in natural light that starts in fall and ends in spring. Those with SAD have many treatment options that do not involve traditional drug therapy.
One thing that many SAD sufferers find helpful is eating steamed potatoes. Steaming the potatoes instead of cooking them by other methods optimizes their health benefits. Especially important is the amino acid tryptophan.
What Is Tryptophan and Why Is It Important?
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain. It is a neurotransmitter that has a major impact on the mood. Those who suffer from depression have lower levels of serotonin than those who do not.
Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Eating foods high in tryptophan allows the body to produce more serotonin. This in turn improves mood and helps diminish the effects of SAD.
What Other Foods are Good for SAD Sufferers?
Broccoli, pasta and brown rice are other foods that have lots of tryptophan. To make the most of the tryptophan contained in these foods they should be eaten about 3 hours after a meal rich in protein.
Folic acid is another nutrient that is beneficial to those with depression. It is found in many vegetables, including cabbage, avocados and asparagus. Beans and oranges also have high levels of folic acid.
B vitamins, especially B12, can boost energy levels and have a positive effect on mood. These vitamins are found in many foods, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains and a variety of meats.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another nutritional element that can be beneficial to those with SAD. These are found in many types of fish. Those who do not like fish can find it in cod liver oil. Cod liver oil also has lots of vitamins A and D, both of which are important for physical and mental well-being.
Why Use Diet to Treat SAD?
Doctors often prescribe light therapy for those with SAD. It is often beneficial. In the most severe cases, it may not be enough.
The next step for most doctors is prescription drugs. The drugs prescribed for depression often have undesirable side effects. By using diet to boost seratonin levels, energy and mood, you may be able to avoid drugs altogether while still effectively treating your disorder.
Less severe cases of SAD may respond to diet without formal light therapy. Simply eating foods that promote mental health and getting plenty of natural light may be enough to keep your winter depression at bay. Not only would this be much less expensive than drug therapy, it would also be far less risky, especially for pregnant and nursing women.
Recommended Reading: Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel