The winter and early spring season initiate a time of shorter day length and change in the quality of the sun’s radiation. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more common in women, in those with a family history of depression, being a young adult, and in changes with the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Even if you do not meet the criteria for SAD, seasonal depressed mood can still affect the quality of life.
Below are some natural interventions that may help.
Deficiency in this sunlight-catalyzed essential nutrient has been shown to be associated with seasonal depression. Vitamin D plays a role in the production of our neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, the “happy” chemicals in the brain. Other means of boosting mood and/or Vitamin D are spending time outdoors when it is sunny and open up windows so light can shine into the house.
If it is just persistently ‘dark’ where you live, then consider Light Therapy (Phototherapy). Studies have shown that light therapy can be equally effective as medications for SAD or depression. Speak with your doctor to see if light therapy is a good option for you.
In short, inflammation affects mood. Dietary adjustments can help manage inflammation. Here are some basic guidelines:
- Reduce simple sugars and eliminate high fructose corn syrup
- Reduce food additives such as MSG, aspartame, or other artificial additives (read labels or avoid processed food altogether)
- Increase fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, and kimchi. These produce beneficial bacteria for the intestines, which have a positive effect on brain health.
- Increase healthy fats such as avocados, walnuts, seeds, and omega-3 eggs.
- Increase organic fruits and vegetables; eat a “rainbow” daily.
- KEEP MOVING! Do what you enjoy: bike, jog, hike, stretch, take walks, do yoga.
- Spend time in nature, whether it be at the beach, in the forest, or in the mountains.
- Teas – lemon balm, tulsi, passionflower, ginseng, peppermint are uplifting and calming (check with your doctor if you are on medications as there are some known drug/herb interactions)
- Essential oils – inhalation of lavender, bergamot, and frankincense are examples of some oils that can help improve mood.
Seeing a trained psychotherapist is an additional approach. Should you find yourself feeling depressed most of the day, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating, sleeping more, feeling helpless, worthless or guilty, losing interest in usual activities or social engagements, turning to alcohol or other drugs, you likely need this treatment.
Don’t put off treating depression! Your quality of life depends on you taking action.
Dr. Mimosa Tonnu, ND practices at Cypress Natural Medicine in Palo Alto, CA. She specializes in gastrointestinal conditions, women’s health, and endocrine disorders. She supports her patients using dietary and lifestyle modifications, nutritional and herbal supplementation, and IV nutritional therapy.
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