With the onset of Autumn and the rapidly approaching Winter, SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers might already be starting to feel the effects of a dull wet end to the Summer and increasingly shorter days and poor light.
This all sounds a bit negative but even if you have not prepared for the effects of SAD in the late Summer, which is always advisable, there are a lot of effective things you can do to try and alleviate those blues feelings.
If you have not already got them get some Full Spectrum Lighting in your home even if it's only where you spend most of your indoor time...so if you read a lot get a FSL reading light bulb...if you're in the kitchen a lot get one here and a good place is in the bed room on a timer to come on at an appropriate morning time to kick start you into the day. Some people swear by them in the bathroom that helps them when showering and making up for work etc
In addition to indoor light exposure make sure you plan to spend quality time outdoors everyday even if it's overcast....even overcast light is better light than indoor light...as Christmas time is sometimes a peak time for SAD plan outdoor activity over the festive period too.
Your diet may also be a major player in SAD....try to keep "junk" food to a minimum...simple carbs like biscuits, cakes, pastries, breads and sweets don't help much except if you want to gain unwanted weight....and its a good time to consider your wheat intake as this Winter wheat products are expected to sore in price due to poor global wheat harvests resulting from climate change effects.
You probably already know that serotonin levels in the brain are important for regulating mood, sleep and appetite and to maintain levels be sure to have plenty of complex carbs such as fresh fruits and veg and wholegrains and other foods associated with serotonin levels such are chicken, turkey, cottage cheese and peanuts (so long as you are not intolerant to any of these)...a good time to eat these foods strategically are mid day to late afternoon... then to push the resulting tryptophan increase through the blood brain barrier try a little mash or small jacket potato for supper. If you are taking Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors check with your GP about increasing these types of foods.
If you are often dull and sluggish it might help to maintain good protein levels as these boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels that help to keep you alert and active....be sensitive to protein at breakfast as we notoriously neglect protein at this meal favouring packet cereals and toast like breakfasts...try omelettes, poached or boiled egg...cottage cheese...bean pate or nut butters on wholegrain toast....or bacon or turkey rashers. Top up at lunch with sensible protein intake. As the day recedes you protein intake is less useful....this is interesting when you consider that many people have a thumping big protein driven meal in the evening when their bodies are preparing for approaching sleep.
Remember, you don't want to add to your stress levels by making drastic dietary changes all at once and if you really fancy something naughty but nice it might be important that you have it occasionally so long as you are eating well for 90% of the time. So if you are always thinking about chocolate cake or hob nob biscuits then to resist this desire can often make things worse...just keep things in proportion.
If you are not on medication and want to use supplements remember that supplements are what they say they are... they only supplement a good or appropriate diet and ask your GP if they are safe with any medication you might be taking....
So what supplements might help with SAD? There are many claims for many supplements and you may have to try several to find one that works well for you but the following have been shown to be helpful in nutritional circles.
1.Essential Fatty Acids help with normal brain function and many other things these days so they are worth considering
2. Vitamin B Complex helps maintain normal brain and nervous system functioning and can help with stress.
3. The mineral zinc has been found to be deficient in people with depression...use the lozenge type and do not exceed stated dose.
The thing about natural products and supplements is that it's often horses for courses and some people discover one that really helps them while it might not help a friend they know who also has SAD so it may help to work with a Nutritionist who can steer you throught the jungle with both foods and supplements.
If you are on any medication consult with your GP or a health professional if you are thinking of taking supplements or making considerable changes to your diet.
May I wish you good Winter health and well-being
Barry Todd |(Nutritionist)