Categories
Treatment

Light Therapy

The importance of light therapy to our good health is greatly underestimated. The very fact that many suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which is easily resolved by the regular skin exposure to adequate sunlight, is one of many reasons that we need to make the most of it.

How it Works

Light therapy works on a variety of levels for our health. Our skin can absorb the energy of the ultraviolet B rays from sunlight and in turn create vitamin D. The light filtering in through our eyes is actually contributing to a whole host of chemical processes that will lead to hormone production and greater feelings of well being.

Benefits

Light therapy is well known in relieving seasonal affective disorder which is substantially related to the lack of sunlight in the winter. However, it has many other benefits such as increasing serotonin levels which is a feel good neurotransmitter produced in the brain that is associated with happiness and tranquility.

It is known that after just 20 minutes of walking in the sunlight serotonin levels will be higher than when you started! When our skin is exposed to sunlight we can make vitamin D, which has a wide variety of purpose in our well being, from enhancing our outlook on life, decreasing inflammation to enhancing the absorption of calcium.

Precautions

It is wise to be mindful not to be out in the sun for too long a period of time. Utilize a good natural sunscreen after you have done your daily “sun bath” so that your skin doesn’t get a burn. If one were to spend a lot of time in the sun it would be wise to ensure adequate hydration with water.

Summary

There are many forms of light therapy, but the most economical is 100% free sunlight! If getting outside in the winter is too much for you, consider purchasing a high quality sun lamps so that you can continue to feel the positive effects from light.

References

  • Dark Deception Discover the Truths about the Benefits of Sunlight Exposure by Dr. Joseph Mercola
  • Heal Yourself with Sunlight by Andres Moritz
Categories
Condition

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Natural Treatments

Who doesn’t feel tired and out of sorts at times during the holidays? Late nights, a long to-do list and extra food and drink can do that to most anyone.

For some people, however, these feelings don’t end with the changing of the calendar year–and they aren’t just suffering withdrawal from too much of Great Aunt Phoebe’s fruitcake. They may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (also appropriately known as SAD).

SAD can perhaps best be described as depression triggered by the winter season (though some people can experience a similar phenomenon during the summer). Symptoms include feelings of depression, anxiety and fatigue along with the urge to oversleep and/or overeat. It tends to peak in December, January and February though it can strike any time from September to April in the northern hemisphere.

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects approximately half a million people a year with even more experiencing the milder “winter blues.” Seventy-five percent of sufferers are women and it commonly begins between ages 18 and 30. Risk factors include a family history and/or personal experience with depression or bipolar disorder as well as location (it’s very uncommon in people who live within 30 degrees latitude of the equator for example).

Seasonal affective disorder natural treatments include light therapy, supplementation, and environment modifications.

Self-Care Therapies

  • Bright light therapy (phototherapy)

    The dark increases the body’s production of melatonin which may lead to depression symptoms. Using a bright light can mimic sunlight and help reduce the amount of melatonin created. Typically it’s a specially designed fluorescent light box (10,000 lux) that is used for about 30 minutes a day while doing other activities.

  • Vitamin D Supplementation

    Our bodies create vitamin D when we spend time in the sun (without sunscreen) but often this naturally-occurring exposure is less during the colder, darker winter months. Some studies have shown improvement in people who have taken supplements while others have shown no change.

  • Negative air ionization

    Several studies have found people who used a high-density air ionizer (2,700,000 ions per cubic centimeter) for half an hour daily for several weeks showed an improvement in SAD symptoms. (Note those who used the low-density air ionizer (10,000 ions per cubic centimeter) did not experience as much relief.

Additional Self-Care Therapies

  • Time outdoors: For mild cases taking a walk or otherwise spending time outside (or even inside near a window) can be helpful.

Professional Care Therapies

  • For anyone not experiencing an improvement in symptoms with the above methods, it’s important to see a medical professional.

Precautions

Side effects from most of these treatments are minimal. Light therapy may cause eye strain and/or headaches and anyone taking medications that make them sensitive to light should consult with their healthcare provider before using a light box.

Excessive intake of vitamin D (more than 4000 units per day) can be dangerous and result in headaches, fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting and more.

Most importantly, keep tabs on symptoms. If they do not improve or resolve, seek help.

Summary

A more serious version of the “winter blues,” Seasonal Affective Disorder most often strikes during the dark months of winter when melatonin production increases and can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety. Fortunately there are a variety of treatment options available ranging from light boxes, vitamin D supplements and negative air ionization therapy to antidepressants when necessary.


  • Mental Health America: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
    nmha.org/go/sad
  • PubMed Health: Seasonal Affective Disorder
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/
Categories
Treatment

Supplements

We all know how important a varied diet is to our overall health but sometimes even good eating habits can use a little boost. Fortunately that’s where supplements come in.

Supplements exist in a variety of shapes and sizes from pills and powders to beverages and bars. Contents run the gamut from vitamins and minerals to herbs and enzymes to fish oils, probiotics and more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of dietary supplements increased by over ten percent from 42 percent in the late 1980s to mid 1990s to 53 percent by 2003-2006.

How It Works

Different supplements provide different benefits. Folic acid, for example, is important for pregnant women to take as it can lessen the chance of birth defects while calcium and vitamin D can help encourage bone health. Multivitamins which contain at least three vitamins are the most commonly taken supplement though many vitamins and minerals can also be purchased individually.

Supplements are not strictly limited to vitamins and minerals, however. Echinacea is an herb many swear by to help lessen cold symptoms and duration of illness. Fish oil can usually be found in a softgel tablet and may help with heart health. Probiotics may assist in improving digestive issues.

Benefits

Benefits of supplements vary depending on the type and its designated purpose. It is important to note that the best way to meet daily nutritional needs is through a healthy diet featuring a variety of foods. When eating habits fall short, however, supplements can provide a useful nutritional edge.

Precautions

Just because supplements can be purchased over the counter doesn’t mean buyers shouldn’t do their homework. Some can interfere with medications or increase the chance of bleeding.

Many are water soluble with extra amounts simply being excreted but a few exist that are not and can build up in the body to dangerously high levels. In addition, some foods like cereals and breads are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals so beware how much is being ingested through the daily diet before beginning supplementation.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way over-the-counter medications are and are not intended to actually prevent or treat diseases. To ensure the supplement contains what it says it contains (and not harmful contaminants), look for the seals of approval from U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International or ConsumerLab.com.

If in doubt be sure to discuss use of supplements with a medical professional.

Summary

While there is no substitute for a healthy diet, supplements can be useful for a variety of purposes including providing a nutritional benefit and addressing a specific issue like building stronger bones or fighting a cold.

References

  • Dietary Supplements: What you Need to Know from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
    ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/DS_WhatYouNeedToKnow.aspx
  • Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know from the FDA
    fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm109760.htm