Healthy Routes Column: Put the “Merry” Back into Your Christmas and the “Happy” into Your New Year

by Gladys Kublik

A lot of us complain about the commercialization of Christmas, the stress of shopping, decorating and preparing for the feast, but we can usually manage to do what needs to be done and enjoy the holiday season. For some people, however, the hustle and bustle, the stress and the social functions are overwhelming. They quite often speak of exhaustion, apathy and an unshakeable case of the blues which can start in November and last until mid-February.

It is easy to say, “Plan ahead and do your shopping early” or “Get organized and everything will fall into place” or “Be happy it only comes once a year.” The problem is that it isn’t easy to “Be happy” on command, even less so when you are suffering from SAD.

SAD is the acronym for Seasonal Affected Disorder which is also called Seasonal depression. It is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter, and ending in spring. People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression, including:

• Sadness
• Anxiety
• Irritability
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Withdrawal from social activities
• Inability to concentrate
• Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
• A “leaden” sensation in the limbs
• Increased need for sleep
• Craving for carbohydrates, and accompanying weight gain.

Research links lack of Vitamin D, caused by our northern latitudes lack of winter sunshine to SAD. According to Dr. Mercola, “Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as well as more chronic depression. For example, one double-blind, randomized trial published in 2008 concluded that:

“It appears to be a relation between serum levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship.”

Light can be shed on this connection when you consider that vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. It’s important for all-around brain function and mental health.

Most of the biochemical changes that occur in SAD are the same as those seen in other forms of depression. This means that natural antidepressants that work for major depression, for example, will also help many people suffering from SAD. The herbs and nutrients with the most research backing for the treatment of depression include:

St. John’s Wort: This herb has a long history of use for depression, particularly in Germany. It is often prescribed there as a first line treatment rather than pharmaceutical alternatives.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids have received a lot of attention over the past few years, not only for their role in treating depression but also heart disease and other serious illnesses. Studies have found that supplementing omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) can have a profound antidepressant effect. This is likely due to it improving communication between brain cells and increasing levels of neurotransmitters.

5-HTP: The direct precursor to serotonin, it is produced from the amino acid tryptophan. Supplements of 5-HTP have been available for some years now. It is known that taking these supplements can boost levels of serotonin and effectively treat depression. Tryptophan has also been shown to increase serotonin levels but taking 5-HTP directly may be even more effective. 5-HTP may be particularly effective for SAD, which is considered by most to have a major low serotonin component.

SAMe: SAMe is the active form of the amino acid methionine. It plays many important roles in the body, mainly through it’s action as a “methyl donor”. With regards to depressive illness, methyl groups are used extensively in the brain to recycle neurotransmitters. In this way SAMe can raise brain levels of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine, and have a powerful antidepressant effect.

In addition to the above-mentioned supplements, it is important to spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Go for a walk at lunch time; exercise in a well-lit environment; and of course, eat lots of fruits and vegetables. If you can’t do that, try supplementing with greens in powder or capsule form.

Let us help you replace SAD with feelings of Good Cheer. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Neighbors Vitamin Shop / Morinville Health Foods.

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