This article originally appeared in Paleo magazine.
If you repeatedly experience symptoms of depression, as well as drowsiness and fatigue during the winter months, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Read on to find out what causes seasonal depression and some tips for preventing and defeating this naturally.
Seasonal depression is common in winter, but there are ways to alleviate your symptoms and improve your mood – without waiting for the sun to appear. Check out this article for tips on dealing with seasonal depression. #healthylifestyle # wellness #chriskresser
Winter blues and seasonal depression
Does winter infuriate you? If you experience symptoms of depression in the winter after winter, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of a GARDEN usually include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sleep (hypersomnia)
- Carbohydrate cravings
The prevalence of SAD increases with increasing latitude in the United States. (1) For example, only 1.5 percent of adults in Florida develop it, but almost 10 percent of New Hampshire residents do. (2)
Important Note: Depression can be a serious, life-threatening illness. If you or someone you love is depressed, seek help from a licensed specialist. Do not stop taking antidepressants without the knowledge and support of your doctor and never stop taking cold medicine in Turkey.
What causes GARDEN?
Less sunlight in winter is the main source of SAD. Sunlight is the most powerful regulator of our internal circadian rhythms, which controls melatonin, cortisol, body temperature, blood pressure and much more on 24-hour cycles. (3) For example, cortisol should reach its maximum when you wake up and taper before going to bed in order to prepare you for bedtime.
When the days are shorter, in the morning we have less sunlight, and in the evening we turn on more artificial lighting. Disturbance of natural light interferes with our circadian rhythms, increasing drowsiness and depression.
Less exposure to sunlight and / or circadian rhythm disturbance may mediate other factors related to the progression of depression or related to it, such as:
- Decreased Vitamin D3less exposure to sunlight (4)
- Impaired HPA axis, from cortisol rhythm disturbance and / or stress due to holidays or financial problems at the end of the year (5)
- Increased inflammationtoo many sugary, refined, processed foods, not enough exercise, not enough sleep (6)
Seasonal Depression Tips
Antidepressants are some of the most prescribed drugs in the United States, but up to half of people with severe depression do not respond well to them. (7) When they are located effective, antidepressants take weeks to give noticeable benefits, they often have side effects, and you need to gradually unlearn them. (8) This period of time is not very consistent with a disorder that occurs only during the season.
Antidepressants can be lifesaving and effective, but not for everyone. Whenever possible, I refer patients to the natural methods for dealing with seasonal depression, described below.
Bright light therapy
Bright Light Therapy (BLT) includes daily exposure to special light from the lightbox for 10-20 minutes. Usually morning exposure is most effective, but ideal times can vary from person to person. (3) An ideal light box provides a full range of light at 10,000 lux, and some models sell for about $ 100.
BLT improves: (9)
- Circadian rhythms
- HPA axis activity
BLT has proven effective in treating both SAD and non-seasonal depression, with an approximately 70 percent response to treatment. (10) Some evidence suggests that the combination of light therapy with antidepressants does not offer any benefit compared with light treatment with SBP alone. (eleven)
Although it usually takes one to two weeks to achieve BLT results, some users experience improvement after one session. (12) Side effects are rare, but may include headache, eye fatigue, and sleep problems. Upon termination of treatment, gradual weaning is recommended.
Our ancestors did not have alarms; people evolved by rising with the sun. The dawn simulator, as its name implies, simulates a sunrise, gradually increasing the light that it emits for 30 minutes, up to the set alarm time. (13) Compared to those using a traditional alarm clock, people who used the dawn simulator in one study had higher cortisol levels 15, 30, and 45 minutes after waking up. (14) If it matches the natural rhythm, the cortisol level should be maximum in the morning.
Dawn simulators have been shown to be effective in the treatment of SBP and may even offer a lower chance of SBP relapse compared to BLT. (11, 15)
Negative ion generator
Negative ions are naturally produced in nature by plants, sunlight, and moving water. Some evidence suggests that less exposure to negative ions and more exposure to positive ions from electronics, pollution, and allergens can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other cognitive and behavioral disorders. (16)
If you are deep in the trenches of the GARDEN, it may be impossible to spend time meditating near the waterfall, but a high-density negative-ion generator can replace, Like a light box, the negative ion generator should be located next to your body for a short time every day, preferably in the morning. It has been shown that negative ion generators are effective for both seasonal and non-seasonal depression and can even affect mood in people who do not suffer from depression (17, 18, 19, 20).
Negative ion generators have very few known side effects, but with a sudden cessation of treatment, relapse of symptoms is possible.
The intestines and brain communicate with each other in several ways. (21) For example, intestinal microbes are synthesized by neurotransmitters that can transmit signals to the brain directly through the vagus nerve. In fact, about 90 percent of the serotonin in the body is produced in the intestines, and not in the brain. (22)
A growing number of facts linking bowel problems with depression:
- Impaired intestinal microbiomes have been associated with depression in humans (23, 24, 25)
- The transfer of fecal microbiota from people with depression to mice enhances their depressive behavior (26, 27)
- Probiotics have reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms in mice (28)
- In some cases, antibiotics relieved symptoms of depression (29)
In short, a healthy gut will support a healthy brain. How to cure your intuition is beyond the scope of this article, but the general structure includes the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The mind is a powerful thing. CBT helps people recognize and correct negative or inaccurate beliefs through positive conversations with themselves and compassion. If you tend to be half empty, this therapy can be especially helpful for you.
In the scientific literature, CBT has repeatedly been shown to be effective in treating depression and other psychological disorders. (30) Compared to light therapy, CBT resulted in a decrease in SAD recurrence in a large clinical study. (31) Combination of CBT and bright light in combination can be more beneficial than any of them. (32)
People are social beings. Our ancestors lived in tribal families throughout the year. But in our modern world, cold and gray winters can isolate us. Excessive isolation is a common trigger for depression and may be one of the factors contributing to the development of SAD.
Choose to embrace the beauty of winter. Even in winter, you can get fresh air, a little sunshine and quality time with your loved ones:
- Briskly morning walk
- Go in for winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating
- Sledding with your children (or adult friends!)
- Take a walk in nature by a river or other body of water for additional exposure to negative ions
Exercise in general can help prevent depression and reduce inflammation. (33) If you can do outdoor sports, you will get an extra boost in sunlight. (34)
Consider eating more carbohydrates.
If you are on a very low carbohydrate diet and are struggling with SBP every winter, you can experiment with adding more high-quality carbohydrates to your diet. An increase in carbohydrates can improve the synthesis and transmission of serotonin by increasing the absorption of tryptophan in the brain. (35, 36). Tryptophan depletion is often found in SAD, and this may be one of the reasons many people with SAD crave carbohydrates.
You can also try increasing tryptophan levels with these products:
- Pasture eggs
- Wild fish
- Grazing bird
If lifestyle and dietary changes are not enough, certain supplements can help relieve symptoms of SBP depending on your specific needs. Ask a functional medicine practitioner to determine if any of the following are appropriate:
- CBD oil: CBD oil has not been specifically studied for the treatment of SBP, but facts show that it can be useful in reducing inflammation, treating anxiety and resolving sleep problems. (37, 38, 39)
- St. John's wort: This herb activates serotonin and GABA receptors. St. John's wort reduces symptoms of depression, as well as antidepressants, but with fewer side effects. (40) Do not take St. John's wort at the same time as SSRIs or during light therapy.
- Vitamin D3: If you live in the northern United States, the sun in the winter months does not provide enough ultraviolet light to produce enough vitamin D3. (41) Consider supplementing with D3 if your level drops below 35 ng / ml.
- B vitamins: Vitamins B6 and B12 are necessary for the synthesis of serotonin. (42) Because they are soluble in water, an overdose is unlikely.
- Herbs: Motherwort, Rhodiola, Eleutherococcus, Saffron and Chamomile can help relieve symptoms of depression. (43, 44, 45)