Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder - A Holistic Approach
Updated: Jul 11, 2021
A person’s mood is often affected by the weather. Sunlight breaking through the clouds can lift our spirits while a dull, rainy day can make us feel gloomy. While these shifts in mood are noticeable, they generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. However, some people are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, a type of clinical depression called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD, begins with the shortening days of late autumn and can last until spring.
SAD is a form of depression that occurs (and recurs) at the same time each year. It is thought that SAD is related to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by lack of light due to winter’s shorter days. For many, SAD is a disabling illness, characterized by loss of energy, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness, social withdrawal, oversleeping, appetite changes, and difficulty concentrating. A milder form of SAD, often referred to as the “winter blues,” causes discomfort but is not incapacitating. It is important to learn about the symptoms, and to know that there are natural therapies to help people with SAD live a productive life year round.
Who Is Most Commonly Affected?
SAD affects a variety of people. Seasonal difficulties and an individual’s ability to cope with them will be different from person to person. Location plays a key role as to whom this condition affects. Typically people living in the northern United States, Europe and Scandinavia are more prone to SAD, due to less sunlight in the fall and winter months. In the United States it is estimated that about 6%, or 14 million people, are said to suffer from this disorder. Beyond this another 14% suffer from the lesser form of SAD, a.k.a. “winter blues.” Seasonal changes in mood have not been linked to any particular ethnic group but it has been shown that SAD is four times more common among women than men. Generally it has been observed to affect all age groups, but people between their twenties and forties appear to be more susceptible.
Causal Factors – thinking outside the box
Genetic imbalances, low light environments, and stress are three keys known in the development of SAD. The autonomic nervous system regulates the body’s cycles through hormones and neurotransmitters. The pineal, the site of melatonin synthesis, allows the body to relax and sleep. Proper amounts of light are needed for a healthy, pineal gland. Light therapy has been the most widely recommended therapy for SAD. The body’s ability to absorb light requires healthy levels of fats. Vitamin D for example has been shown to be effective at relieving symptoms of SAD. Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) is formed from 7-dehydrocholesterol (a precursor in cholesterol biosynthesis) when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D plays a vital role in hormone and neurotransmitter function. Most of the allopathic therapies suggested in cases of SAD regulate serotonin and dopamine, the two neurotransmitters closely associated with the autonomic nervous system. Repairing the causal factors behind the imbalances through opening the primary pathways of elimination, healing and sealing the gut (90% of serotonin is made here) and simple lifestyle changes; such as cutting down on carbohydrates, eating foods that promote GI health (e.g. high fiber fruits and vegetables and fermented foods along with a probiotic such as Ba-Co-Flor) along with a daily exercise plan, are keys to a full and complete recovery.
Natural Support for SAD Light Therapy: Light therapy can be a very effective and noninvasive way to reduce the symptoms of SAD. For many people, sitting in front of a light box every day is all that is required for full recovery. However, according to various studies, depending upon time spent in light therapy, the time of year, the climate and the severity of SAD, light therapy is effective between 40% – 67% of the time. Part of this is believed to be a compliance issue (time in front of the light box can be between twenty minutes to two hours daily) while some people just do not respond favorably. It also is important to consider that, in some cases, light therapy may not address the less visible causative factors behind SAD. For those 33% – 60% who do not achieve results from light therapy alone or for those who continue to get SAD year after year, additional Nutritional/Homeopathic support along with lifestyle changes could be the missing link.
Nutritional/Homeopathic Support: Contact our office for individualized supportive therapies. If you feel that you may suffering from SAD, please call the office to schedule a BioEnergetic Evaluation. By this means, it can be determined what therapies and/or supplementation may be needed to help.
This information is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace traditional treatment, and has not been approved by the FDA or HPB.