Ways to avoid SAD
Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.
Q: This time of year always sends me into tailspin of the blues and weight gain. What can I do about it?
— Sonia G., Cincinnati
A: Seasonal affective disorder is most common in middle and northern latitudes as the sun begins to set earlier and earlier.
No one’s completely sure what triggers SAD, but it may stem from overproduction of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep (light shuts of its production) and changes in neurotransmitters that influence mood. Symptoms include hopelessness, irritability, craving for carbohydrates, weight gain, oversleeping and lack of interest in work or recreational activities.
Here’s how we stave it off in Cleveland (Dr. Mike’s town, where sunlight shrinks to 9 hours 11 minutes on Dec. 21) and New York (Dr. Oz’s town, where sunlight dips to 9 hours 15 minutes):
What not to eat: Avoid processed carbs and sweets. The temporary energy bump they give you sets you up for a crash, and they cause weight gain that increases the sluggishness you’re battling.
What TO eat: Start with an ounce of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao); it boosts feel-good neurotransmitters and provides a dose of inflammation-dampening, heart-friendly nutrients. And try vitamin D-3-boosting foods: salmon, mushrooms, vitamin-D fortified nonfat yogurt and niacin-rich whole grains, coffee and tuna.
Get fully D-termined: Have your vitamin D level checked; preliminary research indicates that low levels may fuel depression. Take 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily until you know how much you need in order to have a consistent blood level of 50ng/ml.
Make your moves: Get outside daily for at least 30 minutes. Physical activity helps regulate mood, sleep patterns and weight. You know our mantra: Head for 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent (every minute of aerobic exercise equals 100 steps).
Try blue light therapy: Blue wavelengths of light treat SAD the way sunlight does. So if SAD affects you, spend 30 minutes a day in front of a blue light. And do some sit-ups and push-ups while you’re there for double protection against SAD.
Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.