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Many people who are energetic and outgoing during the long, sunny days of spring and summer, may find themselves melancholy, depressed, and perhaps even fatigued during the long days and dark nights of winter. These individuals may suffer from what is termed "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or SAD. Although this common condition can be quite debilitating, there are a number of options available, including light therapy, to help alleviate these winter blues.


Studies have shown that people who exercise are less affected by SAD and other forms of depression than those people who don't exercise. Although outdoor exercise may be difficult during the winter months, especially if you are limited to early morning or evening hours, you may want to consider using a nearby health club or creating an exercise room in your own home.


Maintaining adequate blood sugar levels throughout the day is one important way to help combat depression. Eat small, frequent meals low in processed foods and simple carbohydrates ("sugary" foods). Your diet should also contain adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, and other sources of protein. Protein is also necessary to help provide amino acids, precursors to neurotransmitters in the brain. Adequate protein intake is 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.


Numerous studies have shown St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) to be effective in helping to relieve symptoms associated with SAD and other forms of depression, including apathy, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

5-HTP, a precursor to serotonin, has demonstrated its ability to be converted to serotonin and help relieve depression and insomnia. Studies have shown significant clinical response in two to four weeks at a dosage of 50 to 300 mg, three times a day.


Do not combine St. John's Wort or 5-HTP with any antidepressant medications without the consent of your naturopathic doctor or other physician knowledgeable in herbs, nutrition, and pharmaceuticals.

L-tyrosine has also been shown to be effective in relieving depression, both on its own and in combination with other therapies. In a recent study, an average of one out of five people who initially responded well to 5-HTP, had a relapse of depression after only one month. These individuals responded particularly well to the addition of L-tyrosine.

B-vitamins, particularly B-6, B-12, and folic acid, have also had an excellent track record in helping to relieve depression.

Additionally, homeopathy can be effective in facilitating the relief of symptoms of depression. Homeopathics can be taken individually or in combination, and they're generally prescribed by a homeopathic doctor.

The supplements I have mentioned may be taken individually or in combination formulas, such as Tyler's "EleMax" or Pain and Stress Center's "Mood Sync". A fine complex homeopathic is Newton's "The Blues."

Lastly, a deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFAs) has been shown to contribute to symptoms of depression. A diet high in saturated fats and low in essential fatty acids results in decreased fluidity of cell membranes, which directly influences neurotransmitter synthesis, signal transmission, uptake of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, and neuro-transmitter binding. Most studies utilized fish oil as the source of the EFAs. A person must regularly consume fish oils for two to three months to allow the EFAs to be effectively incorporated into cell membranes.

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