Staying active can help with SAD symptoms

To avoid symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a proactive approach may help. Seek good nutrition and exercise as preventative medicine to keep the mind and body happy and healthy. “I try to get people to do more than they are doing which may not be much at all,” said Dr. Adam Ailabouni, a family physician with FamilyHealth Medical Clinic-Northfield. “Many have so many excuses for not being active – they get into a winter rut of not doing anything. I encourage them to come up with a plan for winter so there is no back sliding; I like emphasizing it more in that way.” (Kara Hildreth/Northfield News)

Do you feel lethargic when the sun sets early after Daylight Savings Time ends?

Do you crave sweet, salty foods that are slightly sinful or do you long for extended time outdoors to enjoy your favorite form of exercise or outdoor hobby?

You may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a reoccurring form of depression with an exact cause that is unknown. But experts believe the condition may be related to how decreasing sunlight affects natural body chemistry.

Symptoms can be low energy, weight gain, appetite changes with cravings for sweet, starchy foods, fatigue or sleepiness or trouble sleeping, low sex drive, poor concentration, anxiety and irritability or even avoiding social activities.

“I practice internal medicine which focuses on complex adult medicine, and I see a fair amount of mental health issues which would include Seasonal Affective Disorder,” said Dr. Randolph Reister who practices at Northfield Hospital and clinic.

“In general, therapy consists of counseling, light therapy and medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain,” Dr. Reister said. “We prefer to do counseling and have patients make lifestyle modifications ... and work through issues that are of trouble,” Reister said, adding how the goal is “to address challenges with stress, work and family.”

Family physician Dr. Adam Ailabouni from FamilyHealth-Northfield said making a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder can involve the similar criteria as depression, but timing plays a role.

“People know and they are seeking help; it is kind of a pattern,” he said. “I am a big believer in how exercise can do a whole lot to improve the mood, and we really notice it when we are not able to do it.”

Taking a natural vitamin supplement can help. A doctor can also order a patient’s thyroid and iron levels be checked to see if he or she may be anemic. That condition could attribute to a person feeling tired or lethargic.

Light therapy can also be helpful. One theory is light which increases in intensity early in the morning when a person awakens will reproduce the effect of sun rising.

If SAD symptoms return each year a person can look for ways to prevent symptoms.

“Anytime of the year exercise is key – day or night — and this can be a key treatment for anxiety and depression,” Reister said. If exercise and conservative therapy are not effective in alleviating SAD symptoms, Reister said a seasonal prescription medication may be considered.

Kara Hildreth can be reached at 507-645-1113.

Kara Hildreth can be reached at 507-645-1113.

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