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Seasonal Affective Disorder
This is an Interesting article on Seasonal Affective Disorder. (SAD)
I found this article interesting, due to the way it distinguishes different types of SAD.
“Around 10-15% of the population has sub-syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder. These individuals struggle through autumn and winter and suffer from many of the same symptoms, but they do not have clinical depression.”
The article continues to discuss the various biological systems that can influence the effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the last paragraph lead me to provide a general overview in how nutrition and nutritional supplements alone, can change SAD and how it may affect you, if you are susceptible to it.
The first thing is DIGESTIVE TRACT INTEGRITY. In my practice, it is one of the first things I want to know about my client. We can tell a lot about a person from what we eat, how we eat and the effect that both of these qualities can have on digestive tract integrity.
So what is Digestive Tract Integrity?
Well, how well you are absorbing foods, how well you are breaking down foods into micro-nutrients so that they can be distributed around the body, and how their bio-availability is reaching into your cells. Do you have food intolerance, food allergies, bloating, or constipation?
These are just a few symptoms that could indicate that your digestive tract integrity is not so healthy as you may think.
Let’s not forget what a good dose of stress can have on digestive tract integrity; ask anyone who suffers from IBS. With everything mentioned above and including stress, it can affect the microbiome in the gut and the intestinal tract, the whole tract, that starts from your mouth all the way to your anus, yep, all the way through!
The impact can suppress your digestive tract integrity and digestive tract immunity. The combined effect can start a slow deterioration of your health. This process produces a steady increase of symptoms. When these warning signs occur and are not addressed, the frequency of these symptoms steadily increase. This can go from an acute to a chronic symptomatic relapse, if the symptoms continue to persist for more than 3 months and are not addressed.
So, just to recap, the digestive tract integrity is very important to ensure good digestive tract mucosal immunity. The digestive tract mucosal immunity is an integral part of the whole immune system, they are not separate, they are interlinked. Therefore, if your digestive tract mucosal immunity is compromised and is consistently compromised, it will start to affect the whole immune system.
The symptoms that are generated at this stage can be consistent, with a client experiencing 3 or 4 times a year of suffering with colds and flu’s or frequent relapses from Allergies, Hay Fever, Food Intolerances, Food Allergies, Eczema, Psoriasis, Fatigue, Mood Swings and or Depression, are just to name a few symptoms.
Another area which is associated to digestive tract integrity is when the microbiome status is compromised and this can affects how the nervous system communicates at a cellular level.
Please refer to the following article which explains in more detail, what the affect of the microbiome in the gut, has on the brain.
“Gut bacteria are able to “talk” to the head brain via the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body’s autonomic nervous system. These gut bacteria, referred to as psychobiotics, can profoundly influence the brain. Psychobiotics produce neurotransmitters involved in brain signaling, including dopamine, serotonin and GABA.”
So, now we have the digestive tract integrity intrinsically involved with local immunity, the whole immunity and the nervous system.
OK, So…what has this got to do with SAD…..
Well, like the Seasonal Affective Disorder article is indicating, our body is dependent on biological messengers that enable us to produce serotonin, melatonin and neural transmitters that are influenced by circadian rhythms, and in this case; sun light.
If we, are already deficient in micro nutrients that are required for regular function and enable us to accommodate changes to adapt from autumn to winter, then you are already in a susceptible condition to be affected by SAD.
Therefore, digestive tract integrity is key to getting all the necessary nutrients we require at a cellular level to function. Now, just because you have a healthy digestive tract integrity, does not mean you cannot be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The reason for this is due to the reduced amount of sun light we are exposed in the winter periods. We know that by being exposed to the sun our bodies can produce vitamin D. We are also aware that vitamin D can play a role in the integrity of our immune system.
So, by the forces of nature in living in the northern hemisphere our vitamin D supplies drop, the impact of our vitamin D levels become increasingly dependent on the foods we eat, and if our digestive tract integrity is already compromised we can become deficient.
With the winter periods, being colder and having less sun light, with the nights being longer, can effect a range of micro nutrients that can make us further susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is due to the higher demand of micro-nutrients required to be maintained during the winter periods.
Hence, why our body’s immune system is more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections during the winter periods. It also means stress can have a more immediate effect on your general wellness.
This leads me to my final section which is supplementation. I know and understand there is much speculation whether supplements have any effect, however, clients in my practice are fully aware of their effects on their body and their symptoms.
Taking supplements may be indicated because you wish to cause a desired effect, or because you are deficient in general or specific biological systems, that need support to fulfill their functions.
So it is important to ask what is the context for taking supplements and the next question is whether all supplements are made equal, when comparing brands…..the answer is NO!
So, it’s not only the context by which you use supplements, it is also the quality of the supplements you are using to achieve the desired effect.
Thus, for SAD I would recommend the following, assuming you have good digestive tract integrity and if you don’t, then you need to address this first.
- Omega Fish Oils – Vegan/plant based Omega’s won’t provide DHA and EPA, these are essential, so fish oils are required.
- NAC – N Acetyl Cysteine a precursor that converts into glutathione intracellularly. NAC is depleted very quickly in the winter, the colder you become the quicker your supplies become depleted. NAC is intrinsically involved in biological processes, that are linked to immune modulation and detoxification
- Minerals – we require co-factors that are generally required to enable enzymatic pathways to be fulfilled, we have water and fat soluble base minerals, therefore, the importance of Omegas are very important to transport fat soluble minerals intracellularly.
- Vitamin D – this will boost your immunity and help with depression and is a fat soluble vitamin. It contributes to maintain healthy bones and teeth, however, the dose required to help in the winter period are much higher.
- Probiotic’s – help by boosting immunity, improving digestion, reduce digestive tract inflammation are just few properties to mention. However, if your digestive tract integrity is compromised, taking probiotic may have a counteractive effect. For those who may an over growth from candida to Small Bowl Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), probiotic must only be used during specific stages in your recovery of your digestive tract integrity.
In order for you to know how much you should take, please refer to your health practitioner for advice or book yourself in for a consultation with them.
If you do suffer with depression, independent of SAD, but are triggered by the effects of SAD, whether you are on medication or not, do refer to your doctor and consider seeing a nutritionist, who can facilitate and modify your food planning and your supplement program.