S.A.D.? Try Fish Oil!
It’s that time of year when Seasonal Affective Disorder can slowly creep in for those who are susceptible. If you find yourself feeling a little edgy or grumpy, a little sad or less social, lacking motivation, unable to focus, dwelling on things from the past, sleeping poorly and generally not feeling well, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D. is generally a result of sunlight deficiency. We don’t fully understand all the ways sunlight, or lack thereof, impacts our biochemistry but if all our biochemical pathways are not functioning at optimal levels, lack of sunlight just makes things worse. The good news is that nutritional support can help.
In a recent blog post titled “Nurturing that Happy Feeling During the Winter Months”, I discussed the importance of adequate Vitamin D supplementation, and the use of 5HTP to increase serotonin levels. But there are other nutritional interventions which can be beneficial.
There is research evidence that low levels of Omega 3s in our diet may be an underlying cause for an increase in brain and mood disorders. The change in the American diet away from sources of saturated fats and toward polyunsaturated fats, has even further reduced a healthy intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, in favor of much higher levels of Omega 6 fatty acids. The imbalance of these fatty acids can lead to systemic inflammation. Research is confirming that depression is an inflammatory disorder.
Consuming fish that is high in omega 3s, especially wild caught Pacific Salmon, tuna or sardines at least 3 times a week can help correct this fatty acid imbalance, or you can supplement with quality fish oil. Studies suggest that fish oil supplements may help ease symptoms of depression in some people and may be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. There is a lot of research out there confirming that Omega 3 fatty acids are very important “brain food”.
Although the role of B vitamins in preventing depression, especially B-12 and folate, are still being debated, evidence shows that populations with high serum levels of B12 and folate are at lower risk for depressive disorders. What we can take away from this is to remember to “eat a rainbow” every day. High intake of fresh vegetables and fruits will supply much needed natural folate, while ensuring adequate B-12 intake from animal protein or supplementation is recommended.
Nobody has to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder anymore, when there are so many resources at hand, but the foundation for improving mood and mind sits firmly grounded in preventing nutrient deficiencies with a robust, nutrient rich diet and ensuring a high intake of Omega 3.
Lisa Murray, RDN, LD
Sarris J, et al. Adjunctive Nutraceuticals for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. Am J Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 1;173(6):575-87. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15091228. Epub 2016 Apr 26.
- Raison. Is Depression an Inflammatory Disorder? Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2011 Dec; 13(6): 467–475. doi: 10.1007/s11920-011-0232-0
- Lawson. Be Healthy with B12, B vitamins may ward off depression and other mental health problems. Psychology today. Feb 1, 2004 https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200402/be-healthy-b12. Accessed 2.7.2017.