15 Supplements for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) & Mild to Moderate Depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder & Mild to Moderate Depression Season is Upon Us Again

Is it a coincidence that I've just been asked to give a lecture on this at Colgate University for the Shaw Wellness Institute program?  The lecture is for the college community only, but I thought I'd share a bit of the information I'm putting together with a wider audience.  The following information has been approved by this blog's medical consultant, Kevin B. Mathews, MD.  Kevin is a graduate of the University of  Arizona's Fellowship in Integrative Medicine.  (Full disclosure: he is also my husband!)

Supplementing Happiness

I have seen many of my clients improve when they begin adding the following mood supporting supplements and activities into their day.  You need a proactive approach to maintain health and wellness.

Your mood is not just all in your head. Without the body, your spirit doesn't have a leg to stand on. 

1.  Anti-Inflammatory Diet Your daily diet is your primary medicine.  Learn more about the principles behind an Anti-Inflammatory diet and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid.  This is not about weight loss, but aims to protect and help your body reduce chronic inflammation that is associated with depression, cognitive decline, heart disease, etc.  Not convinced?  Watch the movie Fed Up .

2.  Omega 3 fatty acids   Taking fish oil can dramatically improve mood and reduce depression. Take a supplement that provides 1000-2000 mg of DHA/EPA omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re bothered by fish-flavored burps, try keeping the product in the freezer and swallowing frozen capsules. Be sure to take them on a full stomach.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of taking a good fish oil supplement as a simple measure to improve emotional well-being.”  (Andrew Weil, MD, Spontaneous Happiness)

3.  Vitamin D Have your doctor measure your baseline Vitamin D level and consider taking 1,000 to 2,000IU a day with your largest meal for optimal absorption.  Research shows that low levels of vitamin D correlate with mental disturbances and even psychosis.

“The benefits of vitamin D on both physical and mental health are so numerous, and the deficiency so common, that it is wise to supplement the diet with it.”       (Andrew Weil, MD, Spontaneous Happiness)

4.  Quality Multi-Vitamin & Mineral supplement with the whole complement of B-Vitamins and Vitamin E in mixed tocopherol form.

5.  Magnesium Magnesium levels may be linked to depression, anxiety and migraines.  Consider a magnesium / calcium supplement that has twice the amount of calcium, to magnesium ration to offset calcium's constipating effect and to ensure the appropriate balance of these two key minerals in the body. Look for magnesium citrate, chelate, or glycinate, and avoid magnesium oxide, which can be irritating to the digestive tract.  I suggest the powder form and the product Natural Vitality - Calm Plus Calcium , as it may be more readily absorbed.  It comes in flavors also, but I use it plain.

6.  Re-establish / Maintain Social Connections  Social connection protects people from depression. Substituting online connection is not enough. Relationships with family and friends are key to maintaining happiness.   Learn more about why your mother was right about that here.

7.  Deep Tissue Massage  Deep tissue massage helps reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which promotes both happiness and relaxation.

8.  Home Biofeedback see this previous post on the many benefits and available technology here.

9.  Exercise 30 minutes a dayis a no-cost anti-anxiety and anti-depression treatment.  Exercise prevents depression and boosts mood in healthy people.  Research shows that regular exercise is as effective for mild to moderate depression as antidepressant medication.  Activities of moderate intensity, like brisk walking, are more successful than vigorous activity.

10. Epsom Salt Baths Daily (2 cups Epsom salt) with 10 drops Lavender Oil. Soak for a minimum 10 minutes.  Magnesium is absorbed very well trans-dermally and lavender oil aids relaxation.

11.  Sufficient SleepToo much or too little sleep has immediate health and cognitive impact. Learn about proper sleep hygiene and the effect of blue spectrum light.  Research strongly advises that you avoid backlit screens (computers, video games, smart phones) for at least two to three hours before bedtime because of the melatonin suppressing effect they have.  (Read Harvard Health newsletter article Blue Light Has a Dark Side.) Be very aware of this also for the health of your children.

Recent research has shown that skimping on a full night's sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death… Wall Street Journal article

12. Re-evaluate and re-educate yourself about your use of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs, herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications.  Regular use of any of these mood/brain altering drugs can effect mood and energy levels and disrupt the brain and body’s natural balance.

13.  Get outdoors and exposed to natural light daily.   Getting outside helps to offset Nature Deficit Disorder.  Light deprivation affects our mood; exposure to full-spectrum bright light elevates it.  Getting 20 minutes of exposure to natural light prior to noon encourages a boost in melatonin in the evening hours when you need it for sound sleep.

14.  Learn something new.  Get more creative. Do you know about these many cognitive and emotional benefits of engaging in a handcraft? No? Click here...

15.  Ask yourself, "Do I suffer from Play Deprivation Syndrome?" Take the quiz here.  How many of the six signs of play deprivation do you suffer from? No wonder your happiness level is compromised! Do you know that playing with others will even make you happier?  (Have you considered starting a Creativity & Camaraderie Club for yourself yet?  It's better than a book club!)  Ask yourself, "Am I rootbound or depressed?" (see previous post here.)

Note well:  You should report any and all supplements you are taking to your doctor during your regular checkups.  When shopping for supplements choose those with the GMP (Good manufacturing Practice) Certification.  The NOW brand is a reliable one.

Several of my proactive clients have done very well when they have taken the quizzes and followed the step-by-step protocol suggestions in the book The Mood Cure.

What have you found helpful?  What might you add to your day?

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