One in five Americans is estimated to have some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Most people are affected by SAD around the same time of the year, with symptoms beginning around fall and lasting through the winter. SAD is characterized by loss of energy, problems with sleep, depression (which comes with its own bag of symptoms), and agitation. SAD itself is a form of depression.
Besides varying levels ranging from mild to severe, SAD can appear during both winter and summer. Though winter SAD is much more common, we’ll refer to both throughout the piece. Let’s dive further into what causes SAD.
Why do you feel depressed during certain seasons?
Women are four times as likely to be diagnosed with SAD. Besides gender, there are many factors that can influence why you’re feeling the “winter blues” (or summer blues) during certain times of the year. It would be misleading to pinpoint one or two factors that determine why you feel down, but a few generalizations apply to a wide range of groups. These common risk factors are:
- Living in an area with little sun exposure, due to the distance from the equator and/or the current season.
- Already having depression or bipolar disorder - in this case, symptoms worsen during certain seasons.
- Having a history of SAD or other types of depression in your family.
There are numerous suggested therapies if you’re suffering from SAD. These range from lifestyle changes, such as exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and even cognitive behavioral therapy; to light therapy (ex. working by a window, using a light therapy lamp, or moving to a sunnier location); to nutritional support.
We’ll focus on the nutrient side of treating SAD, as there is a lot of misconceptions and confusion surrounding vitamins and minerals that actually help alleviate SAD symptoms.
Can Vitamin D help with SAD symptoms?
Dubbed the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D3 (the most common form of Vitamin D) is the media’s poster child for SAD symptom relief in the nutrient category. There are a number of studies on the vitamin’s effects on people suffering from SAD, and even more revolving around D3’s role in depression.
Even in the scientific community, there is an overwhelming amount of contradictory information. In 2014, a thorough meta-analysis was performed on a set of scientific papers on the subject of Vitamin D3 and depression. The author had to select 15 relevant sources from a database of 465 on the subject, and even then, some studies were flawed in their methodology.
The analysis found that there is evidence of a link between Vitamin D3 deficiency and depression. In other words, fixing the deficiency might depressionalleviate depression symptoms - and in effect, assist with SAD.
How do you know if you’re deficient? In our Vitamin D3 piece, we cited that 48% percentage of the population has a variation of their VDR gene, and thus requires a higher intake of Vitamin D3. If you have this variation, even if you’re consuming the daily recommended dose of Vitamin D3 through your diet, or getting enough sun, you might still be deficient.
The domino-chain effect doesn’t stop there: lifestyle, blood levels and even other nutrients linked to Vitamin D3 all play a role in determining your appropriate daily dosage.
At Rootine, we aim for accuracy and transparency. When you submit your DNA sample via our at-home kit, we provide you with a full report of your vitamin deficiencies and take into account all three factors - lifestyle, genetics, blood levels - when we create your personalized set of daily vitamin microbead packets.
What are the effects of Vitamin B and Omega-3 on SAD?
For those with depression who don’t find much use in antidepressants, Folic Acid has been found to alleviate symptoms of depression. Actually, deficiencies of B vitamins - Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9 (Folate), Vitamin B12 - have all been tied to depression.
Like with Vitamin D3, there is a complicated relationship between factors such as environment, diet, genetics and blood levels that determine your Vitamin B dosage requirements.
As for Omega-3 fatty acids (another popular media subject around nutrients that can alleviate SAD symptoms), Harvard Health reported that there is still much research that needs to be done before any recommendations are set in stone.
Why is vitamin dosage important when treating SAD?
It’s not enough to rely on popular media or even individual research reports to properly assess the effectiveness of nutrients on SAD. Many studies point out that resolving nutrient deficiencies will help with depressive symptoms. But you can’t simply guess what you’re missing - you need a personalized assessment to draw conclusions.
Rootine takes all the guesswork out of the equation - you can learn more about our process here. We recommend you take our lifestyle quiz - we’ll email you further information about your demographic and how Rootine’s DNA test and personalized nutrient microbeads can target specific deficiencies in your body.