If winter has you feeling down and cravings carbs, there are natural solutions that can help.
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it can be hard to leave the comfort of your warm bed in the morning. But for some it goes beyond this, into the Winter Blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you feel tired, depressed, anxious, and lethargic only in the winter months, then you may be among the 20 percent of US adults who suffer with some form of winter depression. Overeating carbs and gaining weight are also common in this disorder, where 4 out of 5 sufferers are women.
While scientists don’t know what causes it, the good news is there are natural therapies that work well to fight the fatigue and boost your mood.
Shedding Some Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Even though scientists don’t agree on what causes SAD, most of their theories revolve around one main factor – lack of sunlight. When the sun is shining, the light hits the retina at the back of the eye and messages are sent to the hypothalamus – the area of the brain responsible for appetite, sleep, temperature, mood, and sex drive. When we are exposed to less sunlight, these functions slow down. The amount of light you need to maintain your moods may vary from person to person, which explains why some people get depressed while others don’t.
We also know people with SAD have lower levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter considered the “feel good” chemical. When serotonin levels are normal, our general sense of wellbeing increases, cravings are controlled, and we feel full faster when we eat. This lower level of serotonin is thought to come from the input from the hypothalamus, in response to lower levels of light.
Another area of the brain affected by light is the pineal gland. This gland produces melatonin when we are exposed to darkness, causing us to sleep. The increase in darkness during the winter months triggers an increase in the release of melatonin, which causes us to sleep more. Even people without winter depression sleep more, though it doesn’t appear to affect everyone’s moods the same way. The difference seems to be in how it affects your body’s internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm. Your body’s internal clock uses sunlight to time important functions, like your sleep-wake cycles. In people with SAD, it seems their circadian rhythm has been disrupted, causing the desire to sleep during daylight hours.
Light Up Your Life
The most natural remedy for Seasonal Affective Disorder is to increase exposure to light. Studies show that increasing daily exposure to bright, full spectrum light in the morning decreases melatonin levels. Start by taking a walk in natural sunlight in the morning hours for at least 20 minutes. The exercise increases serotonin levels, while the morning light stimulates normal circadian rhythms and lowers melatonin levels. Make sure you aren’t wearing sunglasses so the light can reach the retina and stimulate the hypothalamus.
In many parts of the world, sunlight is a rare commodity during the winter months. Full spectrum light boxes have traditionally been recommended for use during winter months, and while I agree with their effectiveness, a new solution, which is also anti-aging, has caught my attention. Near Infrared (NIR) sauna combines the benefits of phototherapy (light therapy) with heat therapy. NIR also helps your body detox and repair at the cellular level, similar to how plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight into plant tissue. I recommend Sunlighten 3-in-1 Saunas, which combine NIR, MIR and FIR and all their healing properties together. Exclusively for my readers, Sunlighten is offering free shipping on any sauna purchase through February 28, 2018.
Unfortunately, incandescent light bulbs are a thing of the past, and gas discharge lights (limited spectrum fluorescents) are becoming more common. Replace those compact fluorescents with full spectrum lighting wherever possible, or halogen bulbs if full spectrum isn’t available. Be sure to dispose of those fluorescent bulbs per your city regulations, because they do contain mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
You Are Not Deficient in Prozac
While some people find relief through pharmaceutical antidepressants, the side effects can be overwhelming and they don’t get to the root cause of the depression. When it comes to seasonal depression, my go-to is Ultra H-3 from UNI KEY Health. This supplement is based on the original Gerovital H3 (GH-3) formula by cardiologist Ana S. Aslan, MD, developed more than 60 years ago. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in 1973 showed that GH-3 relieves depression by inhibiting MAO, an enzyme that blocks serotonin and other brain chemicals essential for our vitality and wellbeing. I recommend 1 to 2 pills in the morning, followed by another 1 to 2 pills in the afternoon before 4pm.
If sleep is your number one issue when it comes to SAD, then taking melatonin at night and limiting exposure to blue light from your electronic devices may be effective for you. By taking 3 to 6 mg of melatonin at your normal bedtime, then using light therapy upon waking, you reinforce your body’s normal circadian rhythms and can reset your internal clock.
Glycine is the best-kept secret when it comes to brain health. Glycine is an amino acid and a neurotransmitter. During depression, glycine levels have been found to be low while taurine levels are high. Glycine is present in high amounts in Whey Protein Powder and bone broth. Natural, grass-fed gelatin is also high in glycine. When supplementing, I recommend 2,000 to 3,000mg of glycine in the form of TMG (trimethylglycine).
If you are suffering from the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder, try going for a walk outside in the mornings, taking a 30 minute sauna in your Sunlighten 3-in-1, supplementing with Ultra H-3 and glycine, and taking melatonin at bedtime while limiting nighttime exposure to electronic devices for renewed vitality and lighter moods. Springtime and longer days will be here before you know it.
PS – A Note from Team ALG:
In case you haven’t heard, the ALG Inner Circle is LIVE! This is an exciting addition to the First Lady of Nutrition’s repertoire, designed specifically for YOU! To learn more about it, we invite you to read more about it HERE. And, check out this video message from Ann Louise!