Spring may be coming around the corner, but many of us are still struggling with the mood swings that often accompany the cold, dark months of winter. Medically known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), these dark times — pun intended — can have serious ramifications on our immune health.

Managing SAD won’t just boost your mood. It may bring surprising immunity benefits, too!

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

seasonal affective disorder

The cold, dark winter months bring more than just a change in the seasons but also a change in your mood.

Seasonal affective disorder affects up to 10 percent of Americans. Women are especially hard hit, with four women experiencing SAD for every adult man.

Symptoms usually appear a few weeks into the winter season and can last all the way until things brighten up in the spring. These symptoms may include:

  • Feeling low on energy
  • Over-eating (and especially experiencing an unusual craving for carbohydrates)
  • Hypersomnia and over-sleeping
  • Weight gain and lethargy
  • An urge to “hibernate” & withdraw from parties & social gatherings

How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Affect the Immune System?

SAD can be both an indicator of risk factors that may be impacting your immune strength, as well as directly weaken your immunity.

For instance, SAD may be linked to two major environmental risks:

  • Reduced sunlight in the winter
  • Lower levels of vitamin D in your body during the winter

While excessive sun exposure can lead to harmful health effects, such as skin radiation and increased cancer risks, the sunlight spectrum contains blue light.

According to Georgetown University researchers, when this specific blue type of sunlight hits your skin, it activates your immune system’s T-cells and helps these immune cells circulate through your body faster and more efficiently. That means they’re better empowered to reach and eliminate infections in your body before you get sick.

Next is the vitamin D factor. Many Americans have low levels of this vitamin all year, but especially during the winter when it’s dark and they’re not getting enough sun.

Vitamin D helps to signal to your immune system when it’s time for it to fight an invading bacteria or virus. Your body also needs vitamin D to help it to absorb other vitamins and minerals, such as iron and calcium and immune-strengthening zinc (BioPro-Plus 500 contains natural zinc), which also help with immune cell communication and immune responses.

Finally, there are the side effects of SAD that may affect your immune system.

  • Poor diet and excessive carb intake may compromise your immune system strength.
  • Poor sleep habits increase the levels of cortisol in your body, which cripples your immune system.
  • Weight gain may limit immune strength if you become overweight or obese.
  • SAD-related lethargy may reduce your motivation to exercise, and exercise helps move lymph fluid and boost immune strength.

4 Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder and Boost Immunity at the Same Time

1. Get blue light exposure

Light therapy has been one of the most common ways to treat SAD since the mid-’80s. The concept is simple and straightforward: Using specialty light bulbs or light boxes, you expose yourself to bright light each morning that mimics the full spectrum and wavelength of sunlight. The treatment typically lasts 45 to 60 minutes long.

This helps to “trick” your body out of the dark winter blues. The full wavelength available in light therapy also means you get the critical blue light needed for a strong immune system.

2. Take a vitamin D supplement

If your vitamin D levels are low, it will impact mood, SAD risks and your immune system’s ability to respond to infection.

Take your vitamin D supplement in the morning so your system is flooded with it to jumpstart your day. Some people find that taking vitamin D in the evening negatively affects their sleep.

It’s also important to take your vitamin D supplements with a healthy meal that contains fat. Vitamin D is fat soluble, and taking your supplements with a meal may help improve its absorption.

3. Sweat away the SAD

seasonal affective disorder

Run away from the winter blues, literally!

Exercise doesn’t just help you get a handle on the weight effects of any SAD-influenced over-eating. Exercise also releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones to elevate your mood, and researchers note it can help to reduce your risks of SAD or limit the intensity of existing SAD.

You don’t have to be a gym rat to experience these benefits. Just 30 minutes of working out a day can help improve your mental and physical health.

Exercise also helps your body to better circulate your immune system’s cells, and may help flush your lymph fluids for improved immune responses.

4. Support the thymus

Your thymus plays a big role in producing your immune system’s T cells. These cells attack infection and defend your health. BioPro-Plus 500 is the only product on the market offering five complete bio-identical thymic proteins to help your thymus gland do its important immune-boosting work.