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The Functional Medicine Toronto Approach To Surviving The Winter Blues


If the lack of sunshine is affecting your mood, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that symptoms of depression tend to be common among Canadians during the wintertime. But it’s possible to uncover coping strategies based on functional medicine from the Toronto area. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs at certain times of the year. Some scientists postulate that being exposed to less sunlight and condensed days can instigate chemical alterations related to your brain health, which can potentially cause depressive symptoms, such drowsiness, lack of motivation, weight issues, headaches, low mood, and social withdrawal. 

So, what can you do to improve your mood during these dark days? Clinicians from the Toronto Functional Medicine Centre (TFMC) frequently meet patients affected by SAD. We offer tips in this article based on the integrative functional medicine model, which include altering lifestyle factors and using nutritional  supplementation. 

7 Quick Tips to Help Cope with SAD

    1. Get moving. Exercise boosts feel-good endorphins, and “…recent studies suggest that physical exercise may provide an effective and easily accessible treatment for patients suffering from SAD,” confirms an article from Biological Rhythm Research. Outdoor exercise may be problematic in this case, so consider giving a rec centre a try. You’ll have access to different workouts, such as strength training, swimming, group classes, and more, and you can explore customizing workouts with a personal trainer. 
    2. Ask for help. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Know that it’s okay to ask for help. For example, if you have to host an event, why not turn it into pot luck instead of preparing all the food yourself? 
    3. Let it out. If you find yourself shedding tears often, that’s okay – let yourself cry. According to Frontiers in Psychology, crying can trigger the release of both endorphins and oxytocin, which can promote “feel-good” emotions and contribute to easing mind and body pain. 
    4. Adjust your sleep patterns. Melatonin can be overproduced in patients who suffer from SAD, which can trigger lethargy and fatigue. This is because the hormone reacts to darkness, which then naturally instigates sleepiness. If you’re having sleeping issues, consider re-evaluating your sleep hygiene. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, cut back on your intake of sugar and caffeine, and refrain from technology use by your bedside.  
    5. Look into light therapy. A lack of sun can interfere with circadian rhythms, which contributes to reducing both serotonin and vitamin D levels. Speak to a functional medicine practitioner about using a light therapy box – think of it as a device that provides you with a “copycat” of outdoor light. It could potentially help manage circadian rhythms and improve mood and sleep. 
    6. Get a comprehensive treatment plan designed. Your hormonal balance and amounts of nutrients may be affected if you experience SAD symptoms. A tailored TFMC treatment plan can address nutrient shortcomings and winter-related depression for your biological needs. We may possibly recommend functional lab tests to scrutinize your condition and understand how to dose any custom supplements (i.e. IV nutrient therapy). For example, we may recommend DUTCH testing to measure melatonin levels, a gut health assessment for digestive issues, and/or a metabolomics test to examine nutritional biomarkers. 
    7. Consider supplementation. After analyzing the results of your functional medicine testing, we can recommend a wide range of nutraceuticals for promoting optimal wellness. One study from the International Journal of Integrative Sciences explored “…the therapeutic benefits of mixing omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan, B vitamins, S-adenosyl methionine (same), and Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) as adjunctive treatments … Equal supplementation has confirmed efficacy in enhancing temper and may be taken into consideration as an adjunctive treatment choice for melancholy,” wrote the authors of the study.

Depression can affect your long-term health, and we’re here to offer compassionate health support that recognizes both your mind and body. Please reach us today to address your current health issues.

Suggested Reading: Winterize Your Skin with Functional Medicine and IV Therapy Tips from Toronto

Applying our functional medicine therapies to your self-care

At the TFMC, our patient care consists of a personalized approach to wellness. Disease conditions can manifest differently between individuals – this also means that each person responds differently to therapies. Thus, we customize treatment plans for your unique health goals, such as improving mental health. 

Our functional medicine practitioner has experience tailoring therapies for various conditions, especially issues that affect brain health, immune function, cardiovascular disease, hormone imbalances, cellular health, autoimmune conditions, irregular periods, and nutritional deficiencies. 

Complementary and integrative medicine holds a central role at the TFMC. We offer this so that 

patients have the chance to uncover health strategies from various treatment modalities, allowing them to access multiple “tools” to promote symptom relief. Let us know what you would to add to your treatment plan – we offer Western medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, holistic nutrition, nutraceutical support, hormone replacement therapies, herbal medicine, booster shots (intramuscular shots) and IV therapy. 

IV therapy is administered in our IV Lounge, where we freshly compound custom-made IV drips.  In addition to a healthy lifestyle and other functional medicine therapies, IV drips can contribute to optimal health and functioning. 

Sometimes we need help fine-tuning our health – and that’s okay! Unchain your potential to improve energy levels and cognitive function with the Toronto Functional Medicine Centre. Request your session by sending us a message

Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. You should always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of information you have read from the Toronto Functional Medicine Centre website or other affiliate media. 



Benny Peiser (2009) Seasonal affective disorder and exercise treatment: a review, Biological Rhythm Research, 40:1, 85-97, DOI: 10.1080/09291010802067171

Drew EM, Hanson BL, Huo K. Seasonal affective disorder and engagement in physical activities among adults in Alaska. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2021 Dec;80(1):1906058. doi: 10.1080/22423982.2021.1906058. PMID: 33871315; PMCID: PMC8079121.

Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears” from Medical News Today, medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD, by Lana Burgess, updated on July 13, 2023, viewed on February 6, 2024. 

Ekong, M. B., & Iniodu, C. F. (2021). Nutritional therapy can reduce the burden of depression management in low income countries: A review. IBRO Neuroscience Reports, 11, 15-28.

Gračanin A, Bylsma LM, Vingerhoets AJ. Is crying a self-soothing behavior? Front Psychol. 2014 May 28;5:502. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00502. PMID: 24904511; PMCID: PMC4035568.

Kunugi, H. (2023). Depression and lifestyle: Focusing on nutrition, exercise, and their possible relevance to molecular mechanisms. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 77(8), 420-433.

Lukmanji, A., Williams, J. V., Bulloch, A. G., Bhattarai, A., & Patten, S. B. (2019). Seasonal variation in symptoms of depression: A Canadian population based study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 255, 142-149.

Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015;2015:178564. doi: 10.1155/2015/178564. Epub 2015 Nov 25. PMID: 26688752; PMCID: PMC4673349.

Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food Nutr Res. 2012;56. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252. Epub 2012 Jul 20. PMID: 22826693; PMCID: PMC3402070.

Rehan Haider, & Asghar Mehdi. (2024). Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Tryptophan, B Vitamins, SAME, and Hypericum in the Adjunctive Treatment of Depression. International Journal of Integrative Sciences, 3(1), 69–96.

Staying Active When It’s Cold Outside” by Cindy Jenkins, extension assistant professor, viewed on February 6, 2024.

Wang, R., Xu, F., Xia, X., Xiong, A., Dai, D., Ling, Y., Sun, R., Qiu, L., Ding, Y., & Xie, Z. (2024). The effect of vitamin D supplementation on primary depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 344, 653-661.


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