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Natural remedies to combat seasonal depression

With no sign of winter weather letting up any time soon, it seems there are more people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) than ever.

Seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression, usually occurs during the winter when daylight hours are shorter and people tend to stay inside more. People suffering from seasonal depression often feel a sense of being confined to their homes, with no sun exposure due to the cold, cloudy – and in some places -- snowy days.

Minimal exposures to sunlight can throw your hormones off balance leading to problems like:

  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased serotonin and dopamine levels
  • Low vitamin D
  • Over eating
  • Weight gain

The good news is: There are things you can do to improve your symptoms.

First, we need to recognize that this is a real depression and this is quite different than just feeling like you don’t want to go to work. With seasonal depression, you may experience crying spells and a loss of desire to socialize.

But before you make an appointment with a psychiatrist to get on antidepressants, there are some alternative remedies that can help.

One natural amino acid that is sold over-the-counter, and which has shown some efficacy in treating depression is 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).

If low vitamin D levels are contributing to your mood, you may want to try taking 2000 units of vitamin D3 daily.

If you suffer from depression normally, seasonal affective disorder can make it worse. So before taking anything, you should speak with your doctor. He or she can test for deficiencies in thyroid hormones or vitamin D levels as these could be contributing factors.

Light therapy is another option to increase vitamin D levels and lift your spirits. This is done using a special lamp that mimics natural daylight, which can be placed at your desk while you’re working for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Finally, exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will increase your serotonin and dopamine levels – which are the “feel-good” chemicals released in the brain. Keeping all of this in mind, can help you against the battle of seasonal depression syndrome.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. Dr. Samadi joined Fox News Channel in 2009 as a medical contributor. To learn more please visit his websites and Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.