Better gut health can help manage the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder- SAD: Winter Depression

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

The condition is more prevalent in women in the age group of 18 to 30

New Delhi, 14th December 2018: Studies indicate that the estimated lifetime prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the general population is about 0.5% to 3%. The point prevalence in primary care outpatients is approximately 5% to 10%, and in depressed outpatients, it is 15%. SAD is defined as recurring depression with seasonal onset and remission. Fall-onset (winter) SAD is more common than spring-onset SAD. The former is characterized primarily by atypical symptoms of depression, while spring-onset SAD is associated with the more typical features.

The milder version of SAD usually resolves itself within months. It is also estimated that 4 out of 5 sufferers of this condition are women. The age of onset is estimated to be between 18 and 30 years but it can affect anyone irrespective of this.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “SAD occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year. It can be mistaken as a ‘lighter’ version of depression, but this is not the case. It is a different version of the same illness and people with SAD are just as ill as people with major depression. The human body, its metabolism, and hormones react to changing seasons. This further leads to changes in mood and behavior. Just as certain people become irritable and aggressive in summer, others feel low and lethargic during the monsoon and winter. For women, especially those who are housewives, can fare worse than men since they do not have much access to the world outside in a colder weather.”

Some symptoms of fall-onset SAD include inability to wake up in the morning, craving for carbohydrate-rich food, marked increase in weight, irritability, interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity), and leaden paralysis (heavy, leaden feelings in arms or legs).

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Light therapy has been proven to be effective in people with SAD. It may take 4 to 6 weeks to see a response, although some patients improve within days. Therapy is continued until sufficient daily light exposure is available through other sources, typically from springtime sun. Other ways to prevent the onset of this condition include eating a healthy and balanced diet; staying hydrated; getting enough sunlight; and engaging in regular outdoor activities.”

Some tips from HCFI.

Including certain food items in your diet can help in managing the symptoms of SAD.

  • Mix turmeric with milk and drink at night before sleeping. It also helps get rid of cough and cold, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, keeps you warm.
  • Sweet potatoes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin A, and potassium. Apart from relieving constipation, they also boost immunity.
  • Dates are rich in nutrients; keep you warm; and prevent cold-related illnesses.
  • Consume ginger juice with honey every day. It can provide relief from cough and cold and aid digestion.
  • Instead of processed snacks, you can opt for dry fruits in between meals or add it to food items. They generate heat in your body and are rich in nutrients.