How to Beat The Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Punxsutawney Phil, the King of the Groundhogs, says we can expect an early spring this year. That means — we’re in the home stretch! We need only to make it through these last few weeks of winter. 

As a native of South Africa, I grew up with hot to mild weather year-round. We were guaranteed 300 days of sunshine — that’s enough to make anyone happy!

As you can imagine, winters in the northern hemisphere feel very long to me, and I know many of you share my sentiment. During this time of year, Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”) is very prevalent among my patients.

This blog post provides  important information on SAD, and offers natural remedies for staving off those ‘winter blues.’

What is SAD?
SAD is recognized as a recurrent depressive phase that occurs yearly in the fall and/or winter and eases when we enter spring. Although this syndrome is fully recognized, the biological mechanisms surrounding the causes are still not well understood.

What Causes SAD?
SAD is believed to be brought on by the absence of sunlight during the winter months, which can cause hormonal imbalances, such as an additional secretion of melatonin. Exactly how decreased sunlight and the associated increase of melatonin produces the symptoms of SAD is unknown, although we do know that increased melatonin levels are associated with lethargy.

Unfortunately, artificial indoor light is not an adequate substitute for sunlight – actually, for some, including myself, artificial light can even trigger migraines.

You’re most likely to experience symptoms related to SAD if you:

– Live in an area such as the Pacific Northwest, which is typically rainy and cloudy

– Have depressive tendencies

– Live far enough north to experience lengthy periods of winter darkness for many months of the year

Six Ways to Combat the Winter Blues
SAD symptoms may begin as early as autumn (October) and end in the spring (April-May). Since we’re currently in the home stretch, here are a few ways you can combat those lingering feelings of depression and fatigue:

1. Feel that Morning Sun. Light is essential for balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal mechanism. Adrenal hormone release increases just before awakening and is delayed when you are kept in the dark after your body wakes up. Open those blinds in the AM, dress warmly and go and get daily natural light and fresh air!

Remember, the best way to absorb Vitamin D is still from the early morning sun falling on the retina. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are deficient, especially in the winter, and Vitamin D deficiency is linked with depression, cognitive impairment and thyroid imbalances.

2. Get Your Walk On. Do you end up staying home much more often in the Winter? For some of us, our ‘hibernation response’ is triggered by cold temperatures. If this is the case for you, then it’s actually possible to use the cold temperatures to trigger an endocrine response and increase your energy!

Acclimatize to the cold through physical conditioning — walk for 45-60 minutes in cool air dressed in as little as courage permits — be as scandalous as you must, it’s in the name of health!

What’s happening medically? You’re increasing visceral thermogenesis (turning up that internal thermostat) and your metabolic rate by increasing the reaction of the thyroid gland.

3. Supplement Your Diet. Choosing the right brand and quality of supplement is essential. My patients obtain their products through me to ensure that they’re professional grade and whole-food based, allowing for optimal absorption. 

Here are the recommended supplements sold through Seasonal Health for supporting your mood this winter:
-Vitamin B6 25-100 mg per day (Standard Process Cataplex B & G)
-Vitamin A 100,000IU per day (2nd half of cycle, if female)
– Vitamin E 300 IU per day (2 month trial) (Standard Process Cataplex E2)
– Magnesium 400 mg per day (Standard Process Magnesium Lactate)
– Vitamin D2/D3 528 IU
Executive Calm for mood & stress support

4. Incorporate foods that invigorate both your Qi (life force energy) and your liver. 

Choose sour and bitter tasting fresh, local produce, which will aid your mood by increasing internal energy and ensuring that your liver is functioning at an optimal level and can eliminate the harmful toxins that can make you feel sluggish.

According to chinese medicine, the foods listed below will enhance your liver function.

– Citrus peel, beets, carrots, artichokes, lemons, parsnips, dandelion greens, watercress, burdock root
– Foods rich in Vitamin B-complex such as brewer’s yeast
– Avoid: meat, alcohol, hot sauces, spicy foods, fried foods, fatty foods, salty foods, and sugar

5. Implement Therapeutic Teas, Juices and Oils.Here are my go-to sources of liquid goodness that you can use at home:

– Tea from licorice, Chinese black dates, and wheat chaff
– Carrot, beet, and cucumber juice
– Lemon juice in warm water
– Borage oil – Borago officinalis add 1tbs into your morning protein-shake

6. Herbal & Complex Homeopathy Therapy.  My passion and expertise lies in blending and formulating powerful therapeutic tools to create a remedy that is just as complex and unique as you are. Patients are often very intrigued with all the bottles and jars from which I dispense from to create their formula!

The ingredients in your custom formula may include the following;
– Withania Complex (Medi-Herb) Ayurvedic herb that support the adrenals and will help to aid in energy
– Energetix Fields of Flowers (a broad spectrum Bach flower formula that balances the heart-body-mind connection)
– Guna Mood to help with the serotonin activity
– Adrecor (Neuroscience) following, a saliva test of the adrenals and cortisol levels so that we can target the specific imbalance. A neurotransmitter urine sample will also be helpful in determining what other imbalances may lead to your fatigue.

Luckily, the end is in sight for this winter season. Soon all the spring shoots will break through and all the energy you preserved while in ‘hibernation’ this season will come roaring forth!

Mention this blog entry in my office and receive 15% off any of the products listed above!

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