Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
Every year, when Daylight's Saving Time kicks in, I realize if I'm not careful, I'm headed for an emotional slump that makes my body want to live as though light bulbs were not, yet, invented. Light bulbs allow us to run counter to an inborn cycle where, for humans, light = time to wake and dark = time to sleep. This "circadian rhythm" is set in motion when our eyes transmit light energy along the optic nerve to the pineal gland at the base of our brain. This tiny, light sensitive gland releases the hormone, melatonin, into our bloodstream, triggering sleep and lowering body temperature. When, at dawn, our eyes get more high intensity sunlight, melatonin release is slowed, body temperature rises and we begin to awake.
For many of us, more sensitive to these changes, the darkening days of winter produce higher and higher blood levels of melatonin. In animals this may be what causes bears to hibernate, birds to migrate and salmon to return to their birthplace. Humans who can't move to sunnier climates can get depressed and irritable, have trouble waking in the morning, crave carbohydrates, withdraw socially and have trouble focusing on work and relationships.
If you have SAD you are not alone. About 25% percent of U. S. adults experience some form of "winter blues," and a full blown case of SAD affects about five percent of us. Surveys reviewing mood changes in children reveal they, too, experience seasonal mood changes supporting the belief this gloomy outlook is a genetic trait.
If you suffer from SAD the least invasive therapy is sunlight in a box. Light therapy exposes you to a set of full spectrum fluorescent lights during early morning and evening hours. Two websites, besides my own, that will give you more information about the variety of expensive but lifetime sun replacement products are: www.ottbiolight.com and www.sunboxco.com. The amount of light you use should be suggested by a physician though, quite frankly, most don't have useful information.
Some doctors are suggesting patients try St. John's Wort to combat the depression of SAD. Doses vary so you should check with your physician. Here in Oregon there is research being done with oral melatonin to help relieve the extremes of SAD exacerbated by the months of days that are short AND sunless.
Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that can thwart the effects of SAD. Keeping blood brain levels high should be the goal of your smart eating and exercise plan for winter days. You can do that by lowering dietary sugar and increasing dietary fiber with foods high in complex carbohydrates--in opposition to the currently popular low carb diet craze. Exercise daily--and, when sunny, go for an outdoor routine. Make your home bright and, if possible, get an extra hour of sleep at night.
And, when and wherever possible, LET THE SUN SHINE IN!!
In response to reader demand, the last 52 weeks of LIFESTYLES messages have been collected into an undated, spiral bound, weekly planner or journal, I hope you'll consider for a holiday gift exchange, stocking stuffer or as a way to spread the good health message to friends and co-workers. It's only $10, including postage, for your first copy. Visit the LIFESTYLES web site: http://www.rondagates.com, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call my office, 1-480-242-4812, to find out more about significant discounts for multiple copies.
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