Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are You SAD?



Are you SAD?
Q. How can I treat seasonal affective disorder?
A. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is most prevalent in the darkest winter months. Changes in the quality and quantity of sunlight affect levels of mood-regulating brain chemicals like serotonin, and also disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and the pineal gland’s secretion of melatonin, which is responsible for the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Symptoms include: mild to severe depression; low energy levels; prolonged sleep; cravings for sugar and starch; and weight gain. Treatment includes light therapy (both spending time in as much sunlight as possible, and exposure to a full-spectrum light-box), exercising, preferably outdoors, and avoiding alcohol, to prevent mood swings. One study showed that an hour’s walk in winter sunlight was as effective in reducing SAD symptoms as 2.5 hours’ exercise under artificial light. Natural therapies that can help to light up your life include:
Eat to boost mood
Vitamin D deficiency and SAD are closely associated, so much so that studies show that supplementing with vitamin D is more beneficial than light therapy. While we can’t presently supplement with melatonin in Australia, we can increase levels by eating foods rich in l-tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted to melatonin. Good sources include turkey, soy beans, yoghurt, nuts and seeds. (Note: If taking l-tryptophan as a supplement, go easy on high-protein meals, to optimise absorption.) Melatonin also occurs naturally ricotta cheese, Montmorency (or tart) cherries and walnuts, and eating these foods in the evening is believed to promote sound sleep. You can also buy tart cherry supplements from healthfood stores, or online.
Anti-worry Ayurveda
In Ayurvedic medicine, depression is thought be due to an excess of one of the doshas – vata, pitta or kapha – in the mind and nervous system. An excess of vata is evidenced by agitation, anxiety, nervousness, forgetfulness, and restless sleep; too much pitta results in anger, fear of failure and unrealistic ambitions; too much kapha is seen in weight gain, excessive night-time sleep, daytime drowsiness and cravings for greasy foods. Ayurveda is a complex science so you should see a practitioner for an individual prescription. These herbs can be safely self-prescribed:
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): Used to treat all dosha imbalances. Take as a tea or nasya (nasal oil).
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi): From the same family as valerian, this herb creates calm and restores peace.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Clinical studies show curcumin (the active ingredient) may naturally raise dopamine and serotonin levels.
Brighten with homeopathy
This therapy is a great adjunct to diet and lifestyle measures for SAD. It is important to consider all symptoms when treating homoeopathically, however inconsequential they seem, so the remedy matches the whole person.
Aurum metallicum (gold): Commonly recommended for SAD because of its similarities to the sun. People who need Aurum metallicum often have high expectations, need to feel appreciated, have no love of life, feel hopeless, and are extremely irritable.
Calcarea carbonica: For people who feel worse in the cold and are more comfortable in warm conditions, and who are likely to have many fears and are very affected by other people’s sadness.
Phosphoricum acidum: For people with nervous exhaustion who are flat and emotionless. They may lie in bed with their face to the wall and be inclined to severe memory loss. They are drowsy during the day and suffer insomnia at night.



Source : Nature and Health
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