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  • Writer's pictureDr. AJ Gagliardi

Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you are anything like me, right now you are looking forward to spring and warm sunshiny days that it brings. We hate to be closed up in house for days on end while a blizzard continues to drop 22 inches of snow over two days as our body naturally craves and needs sunlight. Produced within that sunshine are ultra violet rays which the body used to convert Vitamin-D into usable forms throughout the body. Many of us, up to 8.9 percent in countries and states in the northern latitudes, are diagnosed with seasonal affect disorder (SAD) (Rosen et al. 1990). This has led to research which points to a positive correlation between seasonal depression and exposure to sunlight. Another comorbidity of developing (SAD) is decreased levels of Vitamin-D. Because some of our Vitamin-D needs sunlight to be broken down into usable forms, (SAD) is accompanied by low Vitamin-D levels.

“Improvement in Vitamin-D was significantly associated with improvement in depression scale scores. Vitamin D may be an important treatment for SAD (Gloth et al. 1999).”

This study along with many others establishes the clear and important link that Vitamin-D levels have in the development of (SAD).

We now know that decreased sunlight and decreased Vitamin-D levels leaves us susceptible to developing (SAD). But what are the symptoms? Symptoms are similar to depression and include but are not limited to; overall lack of energy (your get up and go, got up and went), disinterest in activities you normally found exciting and fun, weight gain, lethargic movement, and social withdrawal.

Now that we know what to look for there are ways to decrease and prevent the effects of (SAD). One way is to increase the amount of sunlight that you get each week. Another is increasing your Vitamin-D intake. I believe that both should be used in conjunction. If you believe that you have (SAD) please contact your doctor before undergoing light therapy or taking nutritional supplements.

After consulting your doctor and determining that light therapy is right for you, you must use a light that emits a bright white full spectrum light. Full spectrum light emits exactly what it sounds like, all different wave lengths of light that have been shown to be effective in treating this disorder. And if you are going to begin taking Vitamin-D it is important to know that there are multiple forms of Vitamin-D. The form that you want to be taking is Vitamin-D2 (Ergocalciferol) because this form of the vitamin does not need sunlight to be broken down into a usable form like its brother Vitamin-D3. So let sunlight, spring, and Vitamin-D turn that winter frown upside down.

There are risks associated with each of these therapies and that is why you should not begin a course of therapy without first consulting your Doctor.

If you feel as though you would like to learn more about nutritional therapies for (SAD) please contact Sharon Gaffney, RD, CDE. She is a very knowledgable Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Certified Diabetes Educator.

Contact Info: 203-483-4383 or


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