Originally published by Jan de Vries, Summer 2006
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects millions of people every winter between September and April, in particularly during December, January and February. SAD is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, it is a milder condition, causing discomfort, referred to as winter blues.
Typical SAD symptoms include;
- A desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake, but in some cases, disturbed sleep and early morning wakening.
- Feeling fatigue and an inability to carry out normal routine.
- A craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, usually resulting in weight gain.
- Feelings of misery, guilt and loss of self-esteem, sometimes hopelessness and despair, sometimes apathy and loss of feelings.
- An irritability and desire to avoid social contact.
- A tension and inability to tolerate stress.
- A decreased interest in sex and physical contact.
- And in some sufferers, extremes of mood and short periods of hypomania (over activity) in spring and autumn.
It may come as a surprise but it’s not just the short days and cold weather of winter that can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some people can suffer from SAD in the summer with symptoms such as agitation and depression.
As odd as it may sound, the symptoms of summer SAD actually remit in winter! For these people, the problem appears to be related to too much heat rather than light, the opposite of winter SAD. It is not fully understood why this occurs but it is believed to involve serotonin, an important brain chemical known to be intimately associated with mood disorders.
However, before reaching for medication it may be well worth trying some simple natural remedies. Taking cold showers daily, wearing dark sunglasses and spending as much time as possible out of the direct sunlight and heat as possible.
If this fails to help, consider using St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), once thought to rid the body of evil spirits, has a history of medicinal use dating back to Ancient Greece, where it was used to treat a range of illnesses, including various ‘nervous conditions.’
A.Vogel’s Hyperiforce tablets contain extracts of freshly harvested St. John’s Wort and are extremely popular when it comes to treating mild symptoms of anxiety or low mood!
In recent years, interest in St. John’s Wort as a treatment for mood disorders has grown and there has been a great deal of scientific research on this topic. St. John’s Wort is one of the most commonly purchased herbal products by those seeking a natural remedy for low mood but because St. John’s Wort can interact with a variety of medications it is important to take it only under the guidance of a health care provider who is knowledgeable about the use of this herbal extract.
Analysis has shown that the active components are now known to be hypericin and pseudohypericin, found in both the leaves and flowers. Both of these plant chemicals are very well preserved in alcohol tinctures and certain high quality dried preparations.
Migraines or summer allergies?
The hot and humid weather and exposure to big temperature fluctuations, such as when you go in and out of an air conditioned building, can be powerful migraine triggers. These symptoms may become confused when in summer many people frequently assume they have allergies or sinus trouble, when in fact, they may be getting a migraine.
To minimise your exposure to temperature changes, wear a sweater or light jacket when you’re in air conditioning. It’s also important to avoid additional triggers. These include artificial sweeteners and certain foods such as hard cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, and meats with nitrates like hot dogs along with flashing or flickering lights, and lack of sleep.
A classic herb used by migraine sufferers is, of course, Feverfew (Tanacetym parthenium). German researchers studied the effects of feverfew on a group of 147 migraine sufferers. At the end of the four-week study, the researchers found that the patients taking feverfew experienced a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of their migraines compared to those in the placebo group. Not only that but pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light were also significantly reduced following treatment with feverfew.
Finally, using the mineral Magnesium may also offer a good degree of help since some migraines have been linked to a deficiency in this mineral. Magnesium is important because it takes part in the transmission of chemical messages from the brain to the arteries and helps to control the degree of arterial widening. A dose of around 200mg taken twice a day appears to be effective many sufferers.
Please be aware that any remedies mentioned are for mild symptoms only. If you find that your symptoms are persisting or becoming difficult to live with, please seek help from a medical professional such as a doctor or your GP.
From the Jan de Vries archives
I hope you enjoyed reading Jan’s article about summer blues – you should be feeling a bit more informed now! You may be wondering what remedies would work best ease the symptoms of this condition. Well as Jan mentioned, a good supplement of magnesium can go a long way towards soothing any migraines stimulated by SAD.
Since a 200mg dose is best, we’d suggest taking a look at Viridian’s Magnesium, B6 & Saffron Capsules. Vegan-friendly, each capsule provides that 200mg dose that Jan recommended, in addition to vitamin B6! Or for a more concentrated dose could try Solgar’s Magnesium Tablets with B6 for an added boost as they provide an incredible 400mg of magnesium in each tablet!