Beat the Winter Blues!
Tags: natural remedies (9), supplements (8), mental health (2)
Many people suffer from the winter blues or a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight is essential for maintaining a healthy mood, so the darkness of the winter months can take its toll on us. Low mood can become even more severe as the winter goes on, leaving you still feeling depressed when spring arrives. Taking measures in the fall and early winter when the darkness rolls in will help you maintain an optimal mood all winter long. So if you’re experiencing symptoms of SAD this winter, start support in the fall next year.
Here are some suggestions for beating these winter blues:
Get Lots of Sun During the Summer Months
Build up your body’s vitamin D stores with plenty of sunshine during the spring and summer. Adequate sunshine during these months can carry you through the winter. Supplement with vitamin D3 and maintain adequate vitamin D levels. During the winter months your need for vitamin D increases because of lack of sun exposure. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 from 2000-5000 iu/day can be very helpful. I recommend having your blood levels checked so that you know how much to supplement with. Ideally your vitamin D levels should be around 50 ng/dl..
Turn on the lights!
Keep your home or work place brightly lit during the day with lots of full spectrum lights. If you have a fire place, spend plenty of time relaxing in front of a cozy fire in the evening. Buy a light therapy lamp. Bright white lights can be a great substitute for natural sunlight. I recommend a bright white light emitting10,000 lux. Work your way up to 30-45 minutes of exposure at about 1-2 ft from you. The brighter the light box, the less time you need to be exposed to it, so units emitting 10,000 lux are ideal. Make sure the light hits your eyes (but do not look directly into the light). Do not wear eye glasses or contacts as the light needs to directly hit your retina. Be sure to use the light box during the daytime when the sun is shining outside (or supposed to be shining!). The morning when the sun comes up is a great time. The NatureBright SunTouch Plus Therapy Box is a good and is available on Amazon.com. Use for at least 20 mins every day. .
Support Serotonin Levels
Consider supplementing with natural supplements to boost your brain’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is one of the main brain chemicals responsible for a happy, feel good mood. Research has shown that SAD is most likely due to serotonin depletion. St. John’s Wort has been shown to increase serotonin levels. 900mg standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin at nighttime or in divided doses during the day is the typical effective dose. Do not take St. John’s Wort if on birth control as it interferes with the pill’s efficacy.
Amino Acid Supplementation
Another option for boosting serotonin is the amino acid 5-HTP. Be sure to find a 5-HTP supplement that contains B6 or take an additional b vitamin containing B6. B6 is needed for 5-HTP to be converted to serotonin. Typical dosage is 50-150mg/day. Some people with SAD may also benefit from boosting Dopamine - another feel good brain chemical. Serotonin and Dopamine work together in the brain to maintain a healthy mood. L-tyrosine is the amino acid that helps raise dopamine levels. Typical dosage of L-tyrosine is 500-1500mg/day. The book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross is a great resource for using amino acids such as 5-HTP and Tyrosine to help balance your brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Visit her website to take the Amino Acid Questionnaire to find out which amino acids you may benefit from.