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Seasonal affective disorder is generally linked to fall and winter and reduced exposure to sunlight. Variations in natural light disrupt our circadian rhythm, which affects our mood and overall well-being. If your spirits are low, the first step is seeking help from a health professional to get an accurate diagnosis and advice. Naturopathy can also help improve your overall well-being and help mitigate the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Supplements are not substitutes for a healthy diet. However, taking vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 supplements is an effective way to combat seasonal affective disorder.

Omega-3s – food for thought!

Recent studies have shown an inverse correlation between fish consumption and depression rates throughout the world. Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are found in fish oil and play an important role in brain function. Research indicating that insufficient omega-3 intake is a contributing factor to the development of mood disorders has opened the doors to its therapeutic potential. Taking fish oil supplements or eating a diet rich in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flax seeds and walnuts have been proven to ease symptoms of depression and improve mood.

Vitamin C – the immune booster

Vitamin C is known for its immune-boosting properties, helping to fight off winter ailments and regulating mood by modulating the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because vitamin C is not synthesized by the human body, it must be consumed. Kiwis, strawberries, bell peppers and citrus are excellent sources of vitamin C and can be easily incorporated into your diet. Vitamin C supplements in powder, tablet or chewable form are effective and inexpensive if you are not able to consume enough vitamin C in your diet.

Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is synthesized when our skin is exposed to sunlight and plays an important part in mood regulation. Supplements may be required if there is insufficient exposure to sunshine during the winter months where you live (here in Quebec, it’s a must!). Taking supplements, especially vitamin D3, can help you keep your spirits up in the darker months. Supplements are available in drop and spray forms that make this vitamin bioavailable and easy to take, even for toddlers. Health Canada recommends between 1,000 and 4,000 IU depending on the time of year and your individual needs.

Magnesium – the relaxation mineral

Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and helps regulate stress. Magnesium also has antidepressant effects. Studies have suggested that there is a link between adequate magnesium levels and a reduced risk of depression. Chronic stress depletes our reserves of this important mineral, which in turn increases the likelihood of depression. Taking magnesium supplements (between 150 and 400 mg per day) or eating magnesium-rich foods can be particularly helpful during periods of stress and the winter months.

Get help choosing the right supplements

It is essential to opt for bioavailable supplements so that your body can absorb them easily and effectively. Consult a naturopath to determine the dosage and format that best suits your needs. Besides dosage, the different supplement formats (capsules, liquids, tablets, sprays, powders, etc.) and ingredient lists can be confusing. Always choose a reputable brand, as they are committed to the quality of their supplements, from raw materials to finished products.

A complementary approach in motion

While these supplements can help tackle seasonal affective disorder, they are most effective when combined with a healthy lifestyle. A balanced and active lifestyle, a varied diet of nutritious food, good sleep hygiene, and stress-reducing practices such as meditation or deep breathing can help improve your overall well-being year-round.

Emma Lecky, Naturopath and ESNQ graduate

École d’enseignement supérieur de naturopathie du Québec

The health and medical information published or presented in this article is the opinion of the author only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should use their judgment. It is their responsibility to independently verify the information provided in the article. The contents of this article are for discussion and informative purposes only and should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. A medical professional is the only person who can evaluate your health and give you advice following a medical examination. Rachelle Béry will not be liable for any of the information presented in this article or in any associated links, nor the use or misuse of the information.

Sources and references:

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