No Need to Be Sad When You Struggle With SAD You walk through life with an optimistic outlook, trying to find the good and positive approach to most things. People often comment on your open energy and enjoy being around you for this reason. However, every autumn into winter when the sun sets earlier, you find yourself feeling indescribably sullen.

You try and try but even getting out of bed in the morning is difficult. You keep your chin up and continue smiling through it all, but deep down you are suffering.

A trip to your general physician will most often result in a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (an appropriate acronym).

SAD was first discovered in the 19th Century but it was not until 1984 that it was recognized in psychiatry. It affects approximately 20% of Americans and starts around September lasting into and sometimes, as residual effects linger,  can go beyond November.

Symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Negative thoughts
  • Lethargy
  • Increased cravings for carbohydrates

Combine these symptoms with the everyday stresses of work and family and you can feel pretty closed in. Usually, come March the symptoms will lessen and by May you are feeling much better. In the meantime, your doctor may write a prescription of a mild to powerful anti-depressant known as an SSRI or Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor.  Decreased serotonin is often the culprit of the body’s response to light changes. These medicines have names like Sertraline, Fluoxetine and Paroxetine and can work wonders by quickly raising serotonin levels in your brain to get you out of your funk. However, like many prescribed, synthetic pharmaceuticals, there are often side effects and sometimes even dependency.

A naturopathic doctor can often determine on what level, or levels, SAD is affecting you by using natural, innovative techniques and remedies to ease your body out of this challenging affliction.

Western Herbs: St John’s Wort
A first choice that has a good record is the western herb St. John’s Wort also known as hypericum perforatum. The extract from this tiny plant, when properly prescribed, has been shown to be highly comparable to the above mentioned SSRI’s. A 2006 report from The Cochrane Review states, “The available evidence suggests that the hypericum extracts tested in the included trials a) are superior to placebo in patients with major depression; b) are similarly effective as standard antidepressants; and c) have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.”  Having the properly prescribed dosage of St. John’s Wort in addition to some other remedies, may enable a naturopathic doctor to not only considerably alleviate SAD, but it may reap other physical and/or psychological benefits as well.

Body Rhythm: Light Therapy and Melatonin
Another possible cause of SAD is a circadian rhythm disorder. When the twenty-four hour light/dark cycle that the mind and body are used to become interrupted, there can be an emotional reaction. One treatment is Light Therapy. This uses bright light (often with a tinge or darker of blue) to stimulate the pineal gland and the retinol receptor in the eye. This, positively affects the hypothalamus successfully reducing SAD symptoms. The hypothalamus is responsible for many things including emotional levels, sleep and hormonal functions. After the symptoms of SAD dissipate, light therapy can be discontinued. Circadian rhythm can also be ‘reset’ by ingesting the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is naturally secreted by the pineal gland and is manufactured into a safe man-made formula for human consumption. Using a precise timing schedule, melatonin has been known to re-tune the body’s sensitive clock, painlessly adjusting it to light/dark change. It can also be successfully applied to ease the effects of SAD as a result of high volume, time change travel as well.

Acupuncture
Certain acupuncture points that may be targeted for SAD are:

  • Yintang – This point is described as ‘calming the spirit’. It is located at the medial (inside) ends of the eyebrows and helps balance anxiety, stress and insomnia.
  • Liver 3 – Liver is considered the mediator of the internal and external environments. Point 3 is located on the top of the foot (dorsum) between the big and the first toe.
  • Kidney 3- This location is between the medial malleolus (ankle bone) and tendo calcaneous or Achille’s tendon. It is a balancing point that strengthens the brain and willpower which if weakened often manifests as depression. This point can also attempt to restore balance to chronic afflictions.

Counseling and Nutrition
Becoming reacquainted with or introduced to certain tools that can help recognize and alleviate seasonal symptoms often comes from counseling. A naturopathic doctor can possess an innate capability to distinguish not only the physical but also the vibration and energy your mind and spirit may be lacking. Changing some habits such as sleeping times, exercise routines or positive thought reinforcement are simple reminders that can be addressed in counseling sessions. In addition, medicinal eating is another gentle approach. Specific foods can raise serotonin levels which is why most people who suffer from SAD crave carbohydrates which do just that. If one must eat carbs, changing from white flour to whole wheat and grain choices will create less of a challenge for weight gain, the GI tract and in turn, the immune system. Protein keeps the inner fires burning, so fish, nuts, some cheese fats, legumes and lean meats are best. Less refined packaged foods and more live foods such as lightly cooked green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and filtered water can benefit SAD considerably.

Essential Oils
The essential oils of jasmine or lemon are known to make one feel euphoric by stimulating the beta brain wave activity and therefore acting as a safely inhaled anti-depressant.

Cell Salts
Cell salts from the practice of homeopathy work on balancing the inner vibration. Mag Phos, Kali Phos and Nat Mur administered sublingually yiels subtle yet successful results.

Dr. Lisanti
Weighing out an alternative treatment for SAD is a good option. Make an appointment with Dr. Fred Lisanti of Integrative Med Solutions (IMS) to see how you may be able to enjoy the change of seasons rather than suffer through them. It is with the intention of inspiration and integrity that our highly trained doctor creates customized health plans that synergize the best of healing arts with contemporary natural medical science. IMS is located in Eastchester, Westchester County, New York with close proximity to New York City (close to the Metro North railroad Tuckahoe stop), Southern Connecticut, and parts of New Jersey. Please call us at 914.337.2980  to make an appointment or feel free to email appointment queries.

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