Category Archives: Uncategorized

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Part I

What is SAD?

SAD is a type of depression that occurs primarily during winter months in colder climates where these geographies experience decreases in seasonal sunlight. While it is possible to be afflicted with SAD during spring and summer months, we will be focusing our post on winter-onset of SAD. Our bodies responds physiologically to changes in season and sunlight by altering chemical production that regulate core functions such as sleep and appetite — it is these changes that have been hypothesized as one of the key factors in causing SAD.

According to Environment Canada, Toronto experiences an average of 2,066 sunshine hours, or 45% of daylight hours, varying between a low of 28% in December (29% in January) to 60% in July.  That means on average, Toronto receives less than 4 hours of sunlight a day in December and January compared to over 7 hours of daily sunlight in July – staggering!  Given the severe swing in sunlight hours (the same can be said for temperatures levels too), it’s easy to see how Torontonians are more susceptible to more than just the occasional bout of the winter blues.


Winter-onset SAD symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating


While there have not been conclusive links to causes, evidence has strongly suggested that other mental conditions, genetics, age, sex and your body’s biological balance play an important role in developing the condition.  More specifically, your body responds to decreases in temperature and sunlight by disrupting serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and appetite) and melatonin (an important hormone that controls your sleep-wake-cycle) production.  While these chemicals are naturally produced by the body throughout the year, it is the imbalance of these chemicals between seasons that may cause the depression.

Next week, we will focus on treatment and preventative remedies.  If you suspect that you are experiencing more than just the “winter blues” and that your current symptoms are having a detrimental impact on your daily life, please contact your primary healthcare provider immediately.


2014 is Your Year!

The Chan-Cameron'sWow, 2013 was quite the year!  Having my first child was an incredible experience. In many different ways, we have adapted (and are still learning) our lifestyle to ensure we are raising a healthy and happy baby.

It made me reflect on how first and foremost, I need make sure that I am in an optimal state of health in order to make sure that my family is well taken care of.  The phrase “You are only as strong as your weakest link” is very fitting as I think about our plans for 2014.  With that, I’d like to share with you a couple of thoughts as many set resolutions for the new year:

1 – Set realistic goals.  Caring for a baby takes time, a lot of time.  I recognize limitations to my schedule and therefore, have set realistic goals I know can be attainable.  Involve your team (whether it is family members or co-worker) with your goal setting.  You will need their help and support to make dreams a reality!

2 – Be mindful of making healthy choices most of the time.  When given a choice, take a few seconds to think about opting for the healthier option and act on it a majority of the time.  Key word “majority” — I believe deprivation (especially when it comes to food) leads to an unsustainable lifestyle, so make the right decision most of the time to keep your emotional and physical states optimal and aligned.

All the best in wellness in 2014!

Dr. Eva Chan

5 Tips For A Healthy Back This Winter

Winter is here.  Keep these 5 simple, yet effective tips in mind as you navigate through winter’s many hazards.  Don’t let a bad back keep you from being active this winter!

1)      Dress for the weather.  Hats, gloves and scarves!  Layered clothing  also keeps muscles warm and your skin dry so you don’t get chilled.

2)    Shovel snow often and regularly. Frequent shoveling means moving smaller amounts of snow at once.

3)    Watch your weight.  Extra pounds, can cause and make back pain worse.  Integrate “lighter-eating” days into your festive celebration schedule.

4)     Warm up before activity.  Take time to warm up with overall conditioning followed by doing some simple stretching before engaging in moderate to intense physical activity.

5)    Take your time. Allow for more time to get to your destination. A fall on the ice can result in contusions, sprains, or even fractures and concussions.

Dr. Eva Chan