You have likely heard of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, when the longer days of winter cause depression. But some people feel more depressed in summer, which is called summer SAD, or reverse SAD. While it’s unclear what causes it, Hashimoto’s low thyroid may contribute because your thyroid has trouble regulating your body temperature.
Like summer SAD, winter SAD can cause sadness and anxiety, sluggishness, weight gain, oversleeping, carb cravings, social withdrawal, and a loss of interest in what you used to enjoy.
However, winter SAD can also include:
- Agitation and irritability
- Weight loss
- Feeling overheated at night
- Loss of appetite
- Increased suicidal ideation
- Increased sex drive
Both are considered major depression with seasonal patterns and can be a struggle if you’re already dealing with symptoms of Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Summer SAD is also difficult when you’re miserable while everyone else is happy and vacationing.
Suicide is also a concern with reverse SAD as summer SAD causes an agitated depression versus the more lethargic winter SAD.
Do the same things cause winter and summer SAD?
Conventional wisdom surrounding SAD is that it stems from reduced exposure to daylight, thus increasing the sleep hormone melatonin. This can skew the body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, as well as hormones that influence mood, motivation, and appetite.
This theory stems largely from the overwhelming success of light therapy in the winter. Exposing the brain to natural light in the morning helps it regulate the body’s clock and improves sleep, energy level, and mood.
Summertime SAD, however, is more of a mystery, with the following theories proposed so far:
Allergies. Some patients experience their worst symptoms on high-pollen days. Immune imbalances such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid may make you more prone to allergies.
Genetics. The majority of people with with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.
Hypothalamus. Dysfunction in the brain’s hypothalamus, the control center for hormones, could be a culprit.
Light changes. The longer days and increased light of summer may impact the the circadian rhythm in vulnerable people by triggering the melatonin response at the wrong time of day.
Heat and humidity. A sensitivity to heat and humidity can be especially hard on people with Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Incidences of summer SAD go up in hotter areas.
Study subjects with summer SAD also have been shown to be “hot sleepers” compared to non-sufferers and cooling blankets at night relieved symptoms, however they returned with the heat.
Managing summer SAD?
While the causes for summer SAD are murky, the following tools can help you cope with summer SAD blues:
Early morning sunlight. Get 30 to 60 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning as often as possible to shift your circadian rhythm into balance.
Blackout curtains. Blackout curtains in your bedroom during the summer can mimic cool winter nights.
Avoid blue light and screen light in the evening. Avoiding blue light at night helps the body’s sleep and wake hormones come into balance. Wearing blue-blocker glasses and installing the f.lux app on phones and computers is very helpful.
Check thyroid levels. Evidence suggests those with summer SAD have low thyroid function, which can make it difficult to regulate temperature, mood, sleep, appetite, weight, energy, and more. Hashimoto’s low thyroid could be setting you up for summer SAD.
Exercise daily. Stay within your limits but get your heart rate up too.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Eat plentiful and varied produce. This will support your healthy gut bacteria and help support production of neurotransmitters to support brain health and mood regulation.
If you suffer from summertime SAD or Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office to find out how you can reclaim your energy, appetite, and mood.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.