Smorgasbord Health Column 2018 – Seasonal Affective Disorder – Part One – The way we were!

seasonal-affective-disorder

Normally I would start the year with weight loss but there are so many blog posts and books out there that I really do not think that you need my contribution.. I will save that up to the summer when you are thinking about getting a beach body!  Only kidding.

But having spoken to family and friends (on and offline) it is clear that the cold and flu season has been extended and very debilitating this last couple of months.

Whether or not we know we are suffering from lack of sunshine (and I am still very sun deprived after being back in Ireland for the last two winters) we actually are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D… which usually requires sun on skin action to be usable by the body.

I am going to repeat my SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder earlier than usual as it might help you get through the next three months physically, mentally and emotionally in better form.

For those of you who have read the post before I hope that some of the scientific updates and new products now available that I feature during the next posts will be helpful.

SAD…….

On the off chance that some eminent scientist involved in the extensive research over many years into the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder might stumble upon my blog……..you never know!!! I am not going to apologise about my theories as to the cause of this alleged disorder that affects millions around the world as their days become shorter and the nights longer.

We are now in the last two months of winter and having moved to Ireland at the end of April last year this has been my first Irish Winter for fifteen years. And I know that my body has noticed the difference.

Here is a little more about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The typical symptoms of SAD include depression, lack of energy, increased need for sleep, a craving for sweets and weight gain. Symptoms begin in the fall, peak in the winter and usually resolve in the spring. Some individuals experience great bursts of energy and creativity in the spring or early summer. Susceptible individuals who work in buildings without windows may experience SAD-type symptoms at any time of year. Some people with SAD have mild or occasionally severe periods of mania during the spring or summer. If the symptoms are mild, no treatment may be necessary. If they are problematic, then a mood stabilizer such as Lithium might be considered. There is a smaller group of individuals who suffer from summer depression.

My experience with SAD.

I loved summer in Madrid – long sunny days, heat of the sun as I worked in the garden or swam (lots of Vitamin D and more about that on Wednesday), crisp salads and lots of fish and protein, being tanned (safely of course) and sitting at 10 at night watching the sun going down. Autumn was also a very pleasant season – beautiful colours in the garden – still sunny days – little nip in the air – prospect of getting the leather jacket out of the depths of the wardrobe, a move to slightly more carbohydrates in the diet. Nuts and seeds, porridge with a little honey…lovely.

Then winter……………for millions of people around the world the lights go off. Add the fact that for many of those millions, their diet consists of white fats, grains and sugars and their bodies are not prepared for the plunge into darkness. And, because their diet is not going to change through the winter months the symptoms of SAD will only intensify. The symptoms are varied but include, depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, unexplained weight gain and loss, slow growth in children, overeating of carbohydrates and sugars, insomnia and for many increased infections.

For me the last two winters have been hard. Not because it has been cold but because most days it has been grey. I do not like the dark days and although I include foods that contain Vitamin D in my daily diet I do require it in supplemental form too.. I will talk about that at the end of the series.

So you can see why I have spent many years exploring ways to improve my health and those I have worked with who also suffer winter blues.

So, back to our lives in caves and my hypothesis as to why our bodies have not adapted to this ultra high tech modern world of ours as fast as our minds have.

Reading Jean M Auel’s books, starting with the Clan of the Cave Bear back in the 80’s, was a revelation for me when I was determined to sort my health and weight out. Jean was decorated by the French Government for her work and her research alongside anthropologists was evident throughout her books which I highly recommend.
I would like you to consider this.

DNA mutations occur in humans rarely, about every 10,000 to 12,000 years. So for the sake of argument let us take a quick trip back in time.

mammoth

During the summer months the clan would hunt, fish, gather nuts and seeds, possibly some root vegetables and some green edible shoots and leaves. All would have been seasonal and most would have been consumed at the time. However, fats from their meats would have been used along with nuts and seeds to make long lasting cake and stored probably in gourds or leaves and used by hunters heading out as well as for the winter months. Meat and fish was dried in the sun both at the time of the hunt and for transport back to the cave but also during the months of abundance for consumption in the winter months.

nuts and seeds

Autumn in particular would have been a wonderful opportunity for finding fruit, seeds and nuts and of course these could be sweetened with honey.

Then came the dark – there are various theories about when fire was discovered but probably quite early on from natural events such as lightening strikes that caused bushes to combust and as man developed he would have exploited this resource – probably 10,000 years ago someone had discovered that liquid fat in a gourd burns and provided light but for all intents and purposes the dark came and stayed for many months.

Apart from opportune kills and for the lucky ones on the coast who could fish, the reliance was on stored foods. If it had been a lousy hunting season and poor autumn for nuts and seeds, many starved to death, especially the very young and elderly. What, do you do in the dark months anyway? Most babies were born in the late spring! Still happens today in the winter months following winter power outages!

Imagine a world without any stimulation except for a few brief hours a day when you would rush around getting firewood if available – collecting water or snow in the depths of winter for drinking water, hunting for the few animals still awake. Then back to the cave where I guess apart from interaction between the clan, working in dim light on essential tasks, it would be nibbling on the sweet stored cake and the dried meat and then sleeping until the sun came up the next day.

Back to the present day, for our minds perhaps; but I believe that our bodies have not evolved enough yet. Remember that our world that we know and understand with all its sophisticated technology is really only around 150 years old. Our DNA is about 9,850 years adrift. Therefore, SAD is not a disorder, illness or disease but our natural winter state.

And, if you are going to try and alleviate the symptoms associated with this natural, semi hibernating condition, you need to do so with the right type of diet and exercise.

If you have been reading my blog about some of our modern lifestyle diseases you will have already twigged that the diet that I enjoy and have introduced to my clients, readers and listeners over the years is simply this. Natural unprocessed, meats, poultry and fish, oily in particular, wholegrains, seeds, nuts, root vegetables and green leafy varieties, fruits and honey. As you can see nothing new in history and not something I invented but my great grandmother several times removed.

The reason diet is so important is that there are certain nutrients that are necessary for the chemical reactions in the brain and our bloodstream that tell our body that, along with the artificial light many of us now enjoy, we also continue to have access to essential food groups that would have normally disappeared by the end of the autumn. Additionally, the body needs to try and adapt to the concept that we now no longer need to limit our activity, change our sleep patterns or suffer from nutrient deficiency.

In the following posts I am going to be writing about the most important ingredients in our food that will encourage our bodies to stay well and also promote emotional and mental well being year round…..Including Vitamin D and Tryptophan.

©sally cronin 2017 Smorgasbord Health

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34 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column 2018 – Seasonal Affective Disorder – Part One – The way we were!

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column 2018 – Seasonal Affective Disorder – Part One – The way we were! | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. It’s the greyness that gets to me. I can cope with proper frosty winter days with sunshine (even if I can’t expose much of my skin to it) but when we have day after day of grey skies I really sink. I do try to eat all the things I should but I use a SAD lamp as well.
    I hope Storm Eleanor isn’t causing too much damage round your way – looking at the graphics it seems to be hitting further north than you. It’s wild and wet here but, Jon (a golfer and therefore always optimistic about the weather) says it will be okay tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantabulous post Sal, especially at this crazy time of the world where weather is at extremes in even unsuspecting countries. And I’m astounded by the amount of friends online alone who have been fighting debilitating viruses lately. I’m trying to lay low with my Vitamin D and exercise at least 3 times a week. Bikini time is approaching LOL (LOL not on your life!) ❤ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an insightful post, Sally. The American Indians functioned much the way the cavemen did in their day. They gathered and stored during the hunting and growing months, then hunkered down to ride out the winters. We could learn a lot from that. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am lucky, Sally, we have sunshine most of the year around. One of the few benefits of living in Africa. I love Jean Auel’s books and have read them all twice except for the most recent one where the endless romantic issues got me down.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I discovered years ago I suffer badly from SAD so when we left SA I knew I couldn’t face UK or Ireland for that matter. Even here in Spain, I feel very down if we have more than a couple of days with grey skies – and it’s much colder than I expected. However right now I’m sitting in the sun at 18 degrees 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks, Sally. I hope my move will have positive effects on that side of things, especially after so many years of living in the UK. I hope everything improves soon and the seasonal illnesses don’t get you. Take care and thanks for all the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is informative. Though I’ve never had this experience, I do know a woman here in Southern California who suffers from SAD. She once came to my house carrying a portable light machine, which she plugged in and kept by her as we visited with each other. It was the first time I’d heard of Sad, and she did tell me her symptoms were pronounced in the winter, which certainly aren’t as grey as in Ireland, yet any shift in seasons significantly affected her. I enjoyed reading about foods that alleviate the symptoms, and look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Elephants and Whales, Blogging Watering Hole, Music and Funnies | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  10. A great post, Sally. I use light to combat SAD. The winter can really get me down, make me feel sluggish and disinterested in doing anything. The gym I go to is brightly lit, so that boosts my desire to go exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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