In this episode – Dietary Solutions for Treating Seasonal Depression. We’re speaking with Amber Gourley, the disobedient dietitian. The topic is, seasonal depression. We set the clocks forward in most of the country during the winter months, because daylight is such a precious thing to us all. Many people look forward to the change of seasons. The falling leaves, chilly sweater weather, snowfall, and cozy nights hugged up with a loved one are some of the things we enjoy. For other people the lack of light during the day leads to reduced melatonin level. This reduction leads to a type of seasonal depression that can leave you feeling flat, listless, and depressed. At times the low mood can be overwhelming. Even a sad song on the radio can make you want to go back to bed and put the covers over your head for the rest of the day. Sound familiar?
Amber believes in uncovering the root cause of health issues and healing them, not just putting a band-aid on them and hoping for the best. Today she’s going to be giving us some tips on how to deal with this phenomena through diet. Amber Gourley is known as the Disobedient Dietitian for good reason. She uses hard science and tests to ensure that her clients are eating properly and getting the best nutrition, not government charts and graphs.
What is SAD?
The name of this phenomenon is called Seasonal Affective Disorder also known as SAD. The acronym SAD also stands for the Standard American Diet. This is ironic, because as a dietitian Amber is not an advocate of how most Americans eat, and the manipulation by food lobbyists in Washington on our health.
You’re not alone – It’s a worldwide problem
SAD affects millions of people worldwide every year. Statistics show that seasonal depression is an issue for up to 8 percent of the population. In Scandinavian countries this depressive disorder is the perceived cause of significant increases in suicide rates, due to the low sun during winter months.The disorder isn’t as significant in countries close to the equator. They’re less affected because the get more sunlight.
People living closer to the equator are probably getting more fresh air and outdoor activity. It’s easier to socialize and engage in fun activities when the weather is warmer. The winter months can especially be a drag for those that struggle with social anxiety. It’s hard enough for these folks to be around others. The winter months gives them an excuse to isolate at home in a dark apartment.
What is it about the sun?
Scientists don’t have a complete understanding of a reduction in the amount of sunlight can initiate depression. The best explanation is that reduced sunshine triggers changes in amounts of the hormone melatonin produced by the body. When melatonin levels go down, so does the activity of certain brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. The lowering of serotonin activity in the hypothalamus has long been believed to be connected to heightened anxiety and severe depression.
Between 80 to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin, is in the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin used in the brain is produced within the gut. This is why it’s essential to eat loads of leafy greens, and bright orange vegetables. These delicious foods are super abundant during the winter months. Nature knows what it’s doing!
It is thought that serotonin can affect moods like depression, and anxiety. It also affects social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. Amber and I feel that a good diet and getting out in the daylight hours for some exercise can be a great remedy for the sadness and anxiety of this type of depression.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Low Energy
- Lack of concentration
- Changes in sleeping patterns – more or less sleep than normal
- Changes in appetite – also eat more or less than normal
- Unexplained crying
- Negative self-image
- Weakened immune system vulnerability to illness
- Loss of interest in activities which are usually of value or pleasurable
- Possible instances of suicidal ideation
Keywords: Seasonal Depression, seasonal affective disorder, SAD, Sadness, Anxiety, depressed, sad songs, winter blues, melatonin, serotonin, hormones