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Don't Get SAD
SAD- What is it?
With an already diminished exposure to the necessary radiation of the sun, combined with less opportunity and our vitamin D levels go down. Some people begin to feel melancholy and even depressed without any prior history of depression. These winter blues often experienced in what I'm now calling, "the dog days of winter", is technically called, seasonal affective disorder or SAD for short.
SAD appears to affect those in northern states more than in any other region due to the angle this area is positioned relative to the sun. For instance, there is a 9.7% prevelance of seasonal depression in New Hampshire compared to just 1.4% in Florida (Psychiatry, January 2005).
With every problem I say there's opportunity for a solution. One solution is to spend winter months in Fiji, where you will assuradely receive plenty of sunglight to stave of SAD. Of course this may not prove to be the most practical of ideas (but it would be fun).
-James Goetz (New Jersey)
Watch Out For...
Symptoms of SAD include: carbohydrate cravings, depression, fatigue, irritability, lethargy, and over sleeping. these symptoms often appear in late fall while they typically disappear in the spring.
Does Your Mood Change in Winter?
Bring on the Sun
Psychiatrists have been researching the benefits of light therapy, even prescribing light boxes to patients. Findings in the American Journal of Psychiatry (April 2005) stated, "bright light therapy could help reduce symptoms of depression about as well as anti-depressant medications". A double blind study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (May 2006) compared the anti-depressant fluoxetine (Prozac) with light therapy. The authors concluded the light treatment worked faster, was as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) and produced fewer side effects.
During winter months in cold climates, you might consider a light box for your home to provide 10,000 lux of light. Typically a 30 minute treatment is adequate for half of those suffering from SAD.
Does this Sound Familiar?
Worth a Try
Though upper echelon research is still lacking, a meta-analysis concluded vitamin D supplementation of a minimum of 800 iu's/ day is comparable to a variety of anti-depressant medications (Nutrients, April 2014).
An old grandmother's strategy has been to supplement with cod liver oil during winter months. While pretty nasty in flavor, from experience, Nordic Naturals makes a high quality lemon flavored cod liver oil that is not too bad in taste. It's not great but the alternative to SAD makes it worth it. Cold liver oil contains vitamin D and may be the reason this supplement appears to diminish the effects of SAD. Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs (December 2013) would appear to agree with my theory.
SAD may affect a large portion of the population. By taking a proactive stance in your health, you may be able to avoid it all together.