Ah February. For many of us this is a tough month. The highs of the holiday season are over, New Year resolutions are a thing of the past and now we’re faced with some grim weather. Rain, sleet, fog, short days, darkness, snow, ice, lack of sunlight - this is February.
These conditions can combine into a perfect storm that can cause many of us to suffer from a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a very real form of depression and one that is recognized by medical professionals world-wide.
It’s much easier to be happy and cheerful when the sun is shining, the sky is bright blue and it feels great to be outdoors. Think about summer and all the happy people you see outside. Now think about today, people walking along with their heads down, not smiling and definitely not thrilled to be outside.
The short dark days are also a major contributor - so even if you’re not dealing with cold snowy days, just the lack of sunlight can be enough to impact your mood and well-being. Because so many of us are less active and stay indoors during the winter we can start to feel lethargic, tired, and less concentrated. This is SAD.
What Causes SAD?
SAD is caused by lack of exposure to natural light. During the winter, the days are shorter and the light we do get is often much less than the spring and summer months. When we aren’t exposed to enough sunlight, our brain is affected. Specifically, the hypothalamus (a region of the forebrain) does not work as well as it should with this lack of light exposure.
The hypothalamus is responsible for our sleep, appetite, sex drive, mood, energy levels, and body temperature. For anyone who is suffering from SAD, these important functions begin to slow down, contributing to feelings of lethargy, fatigue, sadness and depression.
Anyone, regardless of age or sex can suffer from SAD. Research has revealed that SAD is most common amongst 18 - 30 year old’s.
How Do I know If I Have SAD?
SAD needs to be diagnosed by a licensed health care practitioner. Please consult with your health care practitioner if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms during the winter months:
- Lacking motivation to do your day-to-day routine
- Fatigue and sleepiness during the day and/or sleeping more than normal
- Feelings of sadness and/or despair
- Boredom and no desire to interact with friends and family
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Irritability, anxiousness, and general moodiness
Typically, experts state that to be diagnosed with SAD you must have been experiencing these kinds of symptoms for three years. But, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your health care practitioner so that they are aware of the situation and hopefully together you can arrive at a solution. These are not normal feelings and symptoms and should not be tolerated.
SAD and Your Immune System
Because of the way our bodies work, people who suffer from SAD also develop a low immune system. This means that SAD sufferers often have colds, headaches, flus, infections and other illnesses.
While the underlying cause is SAD, you can take steps to make sure that your body is running at an optimal level with a strong immune system. Of course, the lack of sunlight and SAD symptoms cannot be completely counteracted but by taking steps to strengthen your immune system with a natural supplement such as AHCC, you can take a big step in helping yourself.
As you may know, AHCC works to strengthen your immune system by checking in on your innate and adaptive immunity. These two levels of immunity work together to keep you healthy and fit. Your innate immunity launches an immediate, non-specific attack against a threat. Your adaptive immunity takes longer to kick in, but produces a specific response to a particular microbe.
When it comes to the types of illnesses that people who are suffering from SAD must deal with, studies have shown that AHCC is effective in protecting the immune system. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that mice treated with AHCC prior to infection with common flu, pneumonia bacteria, and staph infections experience: decreased severity of infection, shortened recovery time, and increased survival. This all speaks to why you may want to consider taking a natural supplement such as AHCC daily, particularly in the months leading up to and during winter.
Your health care practitioner will likely recommend one or all of these common SAD treatments:
- Light therapy: bright light therapy helps 85% of people suffering from SAD. This form of treatment requires patients to spend up to four hours a day exposed to a very bright light that replicates natural sunlight. This kind of light has ten times the intensity of domestic lighting and is best provided using a light box.
- Get outside: it’s not easy but take advantage of the sunlight and get outside for a walk.
- Keep things simple: try not to do too much in these tough winter months. So many people get bogged down and the cumulative impact can lead to SAD.
- Go on a trip: if you can, book a trip to somewhere warm, sunny and hot for a week or two in February.
Remember, SAD is very common and is a recognized health problem. Be sure to contact your health care practitioner to get treatment and take care of yourself.