Don’t be SAD
Shake off the winter blues and embrace a brighter you with expert tips from Healthspan’s Director of Nutrition and Science, Rachell Hipkiss and leading author, Dr Sarah Brewer.
Surrounded by the start of February it’s easy to forget that some people may not be enjoying this time of year. Low mood can strike for many reasons, but at this time of year, lack of sunlight and low vitamin D levels may trigger seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. If you are one of the 33% of the population that is thought to suffer from some degree of SAD, follow these tips to help you beat the winter blues.
What causes SAD?
“The exact cause is unknown, but it is linked with changes in the level of various brain chemicals as the days draw in and exposure to natural sunlight is reduced. These changes may be related to a natural hibernation response. Symptoms can include tiredness, difficulty concentrating, irritability or muscle aches and pains, though it can vary from person to person” Dr Brewer explains.
Shine a light
Set your alarm to wake up at the time you usually do in the summer and put a light on as soon as you wake. “Alternatively, try a light box (around 10,000 Lux); it’s easy to buy ‘wake- up’ lamps and light therapy has been shown to help 85% of people with SAD”, says Rachell.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to eat a healthy diet. SAD can cause cravings for carbohydrate loaded foods but to avoid piling on the pounds, choose healthy whole grain carbs like wholemeal pasta, cereals and rice. Cut down on alcohol and include foods in your diet that are naturally rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin, the ‘happiness’ chemical. Turkey, soya beans and tuna are great sources, showing you that turkey isn’t just for Christmas!
SAD is an illness and in some cases, a mild anti-depressant may be required. To help you cope with the emotional aspects, Dr Brewer recommends developing interests you can pursue in winter and cultivate a positive attitude. Plan enjoyable activities and take responsibility for your own wellbeing; CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help with this. Also consider psychotherapy to help understand the nature of your illness. More information can be found at www.sada.org.uk
Make the most of natural light and remember there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing! St John’s Wort is often called ‘Nature’s Sunshine’ although consult your GP before taking it, as it does interfere with certain medications. Vitamin B12 can help with a feeling of low energy and going out wrapped up combined with shorter daylight hours means that you may run low on your levels of vitamin D. “Try taking a supplement to combat the blues, “says Rachell.
For more information, expert tips and over 150 vitamins and supplements, visit www.healthspan.co.uk
Established by Derek Coates in 1996 Healthspan is the UK's leading home shopping supplier of vitamins, minerals and health supplements. Based at Healthspan House in the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey, Healthspan offer pure, pharmaceutical grade vitamins and supplements, at permanently low prices.