ent medications before finding the one that works well for them and has the fewest side effects. There are also other non-medical ways to help treat SAD, specifically with nutrition and changes in diet. I spoke with Ann Marchant, a Consulting Dietician/Nutritionist at Oregon State University Student Health Services about dietary recommendations that could help people with SAD. "Baseline I would recommend of course having an overall balanced diet, and that would include several meals a day. A mixture of fruits, vegetables, protein sources and grains," Marchant says. Marchant recommends a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. At least three servings of a whole grain, such as whole wheat, brown rice or oatmeal. And some protein sources like, fish, poultry, meat and dairy products several times a day. She also included the importance of including a healthy fat source with every meal. Examples of healthy fats would be avocados, nuts, seeds and olive and canola oil. "The fat helps us to absorb the fat soluble nutrients. So, if there were to be a vitamin D source in your meal, you won't absorb it if it's a fat-free meal," Marchant says. I also spoke with nutritionist and owner of Stoker's VitaWorld in Corvallis, Wesley Stoker about which vitamins could help people with SAD. Stoker is a strong proponent of people taking vitamin D to make up for not having enough available sunshine in the Willamette Valley during the late fall and winter months. Stoker believes, as do some other researchers on the subject, that a lack of vitamin D due to the absence of sunlight during the winter can lead to symptoms of SAD in people, specifically in relation to mood and mental performance. He and Marchant agree that taking a vitamin D supplement is a method of treating SAD that would benefit people almost as much as light therapy and medication. "Research has shown support that many people who have SAD benefit from supplemental vitamin D and their symptoms diminish. It compares favorably to Prozac and
full spectrum lights," Marchant says. According to Marchant, the current recommendation for vitamin D intake per day is 400 IU (International Units). However, that amount of D is currently being reviewed, and will likely be increased to either 1,000 or 2,000 IU per day soon, though it hasn't officially been released yet. Stoker mentioned that taking too much vitamin D used to be an issue of toxicity, but that times have changed in terms of how much of the supplement people can now take safely. "There's been a paradigm shift, because D now goes far beyond the 200 IU recommended in the past," Stoker says. Both Marchant and Stoker already recommend that their clients take 2,000 IU per day. "The body does have the capacity to handle excessive amounts of vitamin D, so we really have to take huge amounts before we run into toxicity issues," Marchant adds. Marchant also recommends people take Omega 3 fats, such as those found in fish oil. "It doesn't have as strong an affect on symptoms related to SAD, but it does help overall with essential function and depression," Marchant adds. I've heard from many people, including Marchant, that exercise and just being outdoors are other methods that can not only help people deal with the effects of SAD, but stress and depression as well. This could prove to be difficult at times in the valley due to rain and that it gets dark earlier, but even being outside a little is beneficial. Marchant recommends people make the effort to get out of the house by opting to walk to work, walk the dog, etc. In my own experiences with winter depression it helps me to find a friend to exercise or go to the gym with. This provides extra motivation for me to leave my apartment and helps me deal with my social anxiety issues, in addition to being a helpful reminder that there's someone counting on me to show up so they can exercise. SAD is a very common illness in the Northwest, but it is important to remember that it's treatable and there are always people available in the community for support.
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OCTOBER 19-OCTOBER 25, 2010
Published on Oct 19, 2010