Healthy Q & A: Seasonal Affective Disorder


I think I have seasonal affective disorder.   These dark days are killing me, and I just feel down and like I have no energy to do anything.  Do you have any ideas of something natural that could help?  I do not want to go on prescription antidepressants.


Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is very common this time of year as the amount of daylight is so short.  Some people who work in an office may hardly even see the sun in the winter months, which makes it very easy to become depressed.  First, I’d like to say not to absolutely rule out prescription antidepressants.  I am all for doing things naturally, and believe a natural approach should be tried first, but there are times when pharmaceuticals are both beneficial and necessary.


That being said, there are a number of supplements which can be very helpful for people with seasonal affective disorder.  The first thing that comes to mind, which has been shown to be incredibly effective for people with SAD, is a supplement called SAMe (pronounced “Sammy”) which is short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine.  SAMe works by helping to boost the manufacture of “feel good” or mood boosting neurotransmitters in the brain.


Research has shown it to be as effective as prescription anti-depressants (some studies have even found it to work better) without the side effects of conventional pharmaceuticals.  Instead of having side effects, SAMe has the side benefits of helping with pain and inflammation and also aiding in detoxifying the liver. 


SAMe is most commonly used for seasonal affective disorder and depression, but is also used effectively for fibromyalgia and joint pain.  Many natural mood enhancers can take a bit of time to gain full effectiveness; in fact, some like St. John’s Wort can take several weeks before the benefits are seen.  I particularly like SAMe since its benefits are felt quickly, usually within the first week and for some people within just a couple days. 


SAMe is most effective when taken on an empty stomach.  Most people find 400mg daily to be an effective dose.  If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or depression, I would very much recommend giving it a try.  I know several people who take it with great success.  My one caution would be for people with bipolar disorder, since there has been some research which has linked SAMe supplementation with an increase in manic episodes for people with bipolar disorder.


Other supplements which can be of benefit to people with SAD (along with everyone else really), would be a quality omega 3 supplement as well as additional vitamin D.  One of the benefits of omega 3 fish oil is its help for brain function and mood.  Many people are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids since the body is unable to manufacture them- they must be obtained through diet, so unless you’re eating fatty fish several times a week, or consuming flax or chia seed regularly, you are likely deficient in that nutrient.


Vitamin D is great for everyone to take in the winter months, since it is usually made in the body from the reaction of sunlight on the skin.  Vitamin D can help with immunity, bone health, as well as proper mental health.