Wintertime Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winters can be brutal no matter where we live. In Iowa, we get the opportunity to witness unseasonably warm temps one day, and then  -30 degrees the next. We just never know! Literally, this week the temperature went from 40 to 14 degrees in 1 day, with freezing rain to add! These varying temps can change our clothing layers and our mood. Up to 20% of Americans are diagnosed with “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD for short.

What is seasonal affective disorder? 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a seasonal change in mood, which is often seen as increased depression. SAD is 4x more common in women and usually doesn’t appear until after 20 years of age. The seasonal changes where nights get longer and days get shorter, can trigger this. Having less light exposure can change the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycles) in the body, which can also trigger SAD.  Some common signs can look like:

  • A change in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue/ lack of energy
  • Increased tiredness (but can experience insomnia)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations

Are you SAD or is it something else? 

Symptoms of SAD can closely correlate with other common health issues such as recurrent depression & subclinical hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). 1 in 8 women have low thyroid function and typically are not diagnosed or get misdiagnosed with depression. This can lead to the start of long term medications such as antidepressants, without considering thyroid function. Most thyroid symptoms typically occur year round, unlike SAD, which can help determine the cause. Hair loss, fatigue, low mood, weight gain, anxiety, fertility problems, high cholesterol, bowel changes, and the other symptoms listed above, can be common with thyroid issues. If symptoms don’t go away after the winter months, then you should be looked at further for other underlying health conditions. If you are really struggling with these symptoms, I recommend getting checked out and not waiting until Spring to see if you’re body and mind will turn the corner. Always better to be safe when it comes to your health!

Treatment of SAD

  1. Getting Outside: Doing this every morning or at least exposing yourself to the sun for just 20 minutes can decrease levels of SAD. Even just having your office desk facing a window can be effective in a short amount of time.
  2. Light Therapy: I use a “HappyLight” box that I purchased locally at Body & Soul Wellness Center. Sitting in front of a light box that has 10,000 lumens for 30-60 min. daily can help decrease SAD in less than 2 weeks. If you don’t have time to use it while getting ready in the a.m., plug it in at work for a great alternative.
  3. Circadian Rhythm Sleep Cycles: See my older post in the Telegraph Harold from July, 2017 where I chatted about the circadian rhythm & how to enhance this cycle. Install the “FLUX” application on your computer/phone to help with blue light, avoid caffiene in evenings, have regular bedtime routine, and more.   Circadian Rhythm – Warning, this is Not a Dance Move
  4. Eating Healthy Fat and High Quality Proteins: This can help balance blood sugar which therefore helps decrease inflammation and controls mood. Looking at a Keto-type diet will give you good ideas of healthy fat/protein. Here’s our Pinterest page if you’re looking for ideas: Select Balance Pinterest
  5. Getting your Vitamin D3! I typically recommend 5,000 IU daily throughout the winter. Most people have decreased serum Vitamin D3 labs which can be a cause of depression. Always get your lab checked if you’re not sure where your levels stand. Select Balance Vitamin D3 or get IM injections for a powerful boost. We recommend doing 50,000 IU injection weekly x6 weeks Vive IV Therapy
  6. Adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids: 2,000mg of DHA/EPA daily can help boost mood and lower inflammation. Select Balance Fish Oil
  7. The Power Of Curcumin! Curcumin acts as an antidepressant, anti anxiety and anti inflammatory herbal supplement. I recommend 600mg-1000mg daily. Make sure when you are purchasing curcumin it has bromelain and/or black pepper to help with absorption, otherwise take with high fats. Select Balance Curcumin

Hopefully this Winter you can enjoy the sunshine and stay cozy! I’m going to go get my light therapy by jumping on my powder skis! See you all next month!