many people in the usa are affected by depression at some time during their lives, especially during the winter months, whether they themselves, or someone close to them.  adults, children, and young adults are all vulnerable.  unfortunately, many of these people are not properly diagnosed, leading to potential struggles through normally regular routines. this tends to be most difficult through the short days of winter when we experience less sunlight.

Clinically diagnosed, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression related to changes in the seasons, and is more intense than “winter blues”.  It usually starts in late fall and lasts through the winter into spring.  Women are four times more likely than men to have SAD.

Symptoms of SAD include depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, weight gain, a loss of pleasure in activities you once loved, and even thoughts of death or suicide. SAD has all the clinically recognized symptoms of depression, the difference being that the symptoms are only present for the winter months.

There are many factors that contribute to SAD.  They include chemical, hormonal and nutritional imbalance.  Regarding hormonal imbalances, darkness activates the production of the hormone melatonin.   Melatonin makes us feel lethargic and sleepy. But, if you have too much melatonin, you will experience symptoms of SAD.  With regard to nutritional deficiencies, if you lack B vitamins or amino acids you will not be able to create adequate amounts of serotonin.  Without serotonin, you cannot be happy.  In other words, to avoid the winter blues, you need to have ample supplies of B vitamins, amino acids, and vitamin D.

practitioner recommendations


  • Vitamin D
  • Fish Oil
  • 5-HTP
  • Vitamin B6
  • S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe).
  • Magnesium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Dietary Changes

  • increase protein consumption
  • increase fish consumption
  • increase dark leafy greens consumption
  • avoid sugar
  • avoid excess carbohydrate consumption
  • avoid alcohol consumption
  • avoid caffeine

Lifestyle Recommendations

  • increase exercise
  • light therapy (phototherapy) (light stimulates the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin)
  • mirrors (reflective light therapy)
  • psychotherapy
  • positive Thinking
  • relaxation techniques

The Atlantic, NIMH, CDC


This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.