allDiseases & Conditions

Feeling SAD?

Winter  often  bring  much  natural beauty,  such as brilliantly coloured leaves on trees and  picturesque snowfalls,  but  the colder  weather  and  long dark nights  may also leave you feeling well below par.

We all feel good when the sky is blue and the sun is shining  down  on us, but often feel a little ‘grey’ to match  the typical weather we experience in the autumn and winter. For some people,  this grey feeling is a more serious problem. They may experience the classic symptoms of depression, including fatigue, lethargy, increased  need for sleep, food cravings and weight gain. For some individuals, this means that every day chores, at home  or work, become  almost impossible.

Formerly known  as ‘the winter blues’, Seasonal Affective Disorder  or ‘SAD’ is now recognised  as a genuine  condition affecting many people  in Northern Europe to some degree.

Although  your GP may suggest a course of anti-depressant drugs, many people  are adverse to going down  that route.

Natural  mood enhancers may help provide  relief.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter formed  in the brain.  It is often classed as the ‘happy hormone’ because of its role in improving mood and is often found  to be low in people  who suffer with depression.

Tryptophan, an amino acid found  in many foods, is needed for the manufacture of serotonin. Include  tryptophan – rich foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, bananas, pineapples, eggs, milk, beans and cheese in your diet to help boost serotonin production. Also, include  bread,  potatoes, rice and cereals in your diet.

They contain smaller amounts of serotonin, but are a rich source of the B vitamins.

B vitamins are important for healthy  brain  function and vitamin  B6 (Pyridoxine) helps to convert tryptophan into serotonin. Foods rich in vitamin  B6 include  chicken, pork, liver and kidney, fish, nuts and legumes. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) helps build  and maintain healthy  brain  cells. Good  food sources include  bread,  rice, pasta and pork.

Folic acid found  in bananas, orange  juice, green leafy vegetables, dried pulses and cereals, is another B vitamin  essential for proper brain  function.

To help safeguard dietary intake,  a  B complex can be taken to supplement the diet with these B vitamins.

Recent research is suggesting that there may be a connection between  a vitamin  D deficiency and SAD. Vitamin D is a vitamin with a hormone-like action  that is manufactured when our skin is exposed to sunlight. During  the winter, when we have less sun exposure,  we are more vulnerable to becoming low in vitamin  D. One study demonstrated that subjects experienced  an enhance- ment  in their mood when given supplements of vitamin  D. A daily multivitamin and mineral formula  will supply B vitamins,  vitamin  C and vitamin  D along with other  essential nutrients.

The herb Rhodiola, has been shown  to help boost  mood by increasing  serotonin production by as much  as 30%. In addition, rhodiola may inhibit the enzymes that destroy serotonin.

One of the most annoying symptoms of SAD is the craving for food, especially carbohydrates and the accompanying weight- gain associated  with comfort  eating. Eating complex carbohydrates (found in whole  grains, fruits, pulses, cereals and fruit) provides sustained energy, which helps to stabilise blood  sugar and reduce cravings.  It has been found  that people  who struggle to maintain healthy  blood  sugar levels, are often deficient in the mineral chromium. Wholegrains, liver, fruit and vegetables are all great sources of this important mineral.  Some SAD sufferers benefit from Light Therapy, where they are exposed to an artificial source of light which mimics  sunlight  for short  regular intervals daily.