Monday, 27 September 2010

Diamond Sad Light Box - Seasonal Affective Disorder

Between September and April as autumn and winter approaches sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) feel the effects most greatly. In those few months it's like a little bomb shell in their lives. Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason, lethargy, lack of energy, anxiety, inability to cope, social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people, sleep problems, finding it hard to stay awake during the day and having disturbed nights, loss of libido, not interested in sex or physical contact, craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, increased appetite leading to weight gain. Take your pick but apparently over half a million suffer this problem in the UK, with women affected the most.

To combat the effects there are a number of natural ways you can go. Keeping a sad lightbox handy is always a good idea and we stock a great range, according to need and pocket. The lack of sunlight reduces our serotonin levels, the absence of which is a major cause of depression and the winter blues. Sad Lightboxes, in other words using light therapy, is a proven drug-free way of alleviating the effects of SAD. Studies have also shown that light therapy can prove extremely beneficial with sleep disorders and helpful with PMS, jet lag, shift work, insomnia and with some cases of MS and ME. New studies have also shown that light therapy can be useful for some eating disorders with a seasonal pattern. I've sometimes thought about the irony of some of the Scandinavian counties regularly polling high positions in World Quality of Life Surveys yet suffering some of the highest rates of suicide. There's probably more to it than at face value but those long winter months don't help. If you live in the northern latitudes supplementation with Vitamin D3 is a must.

Useful supplements include 5-HTP (-Hydroxy Tryptophan) capsules which boosts serotonin levels and has been shown to be as effective as conventional antidepressants, without the side-effects. They are also used for anxiety, panic attacks and aiding with sleep. Some people regard 5-HTP as Nature's Prozac. St John's Wort supplementation, tincture, tablets or capsules is also useful for mild to moderate depression. I'm a great believer in taking a daily B Complex. I take one capsule of a B-100 a day and see the B's as part of my recipe for the stresses of modern day living. The B Vitamins are so versatile in nourishing the nervous system and dealing with stress, extracting nutrients from food, brain and heart health, energy, memory and all aspects of the body's growth, nails, hair, skin and so on. They're also helpful in the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone.

Recently much is being written about Vitamin D3, the so-called Sunshine vitamin but particularly in terms of the higher levels we actually need if we're to benefit. A nutritionist friend of mine who takes a Vitamin D3 supplement of 1000mcg daily recently had his Vitamin D3 levels tested. He was shocked to discover that it was only 60% of what it should be!

So why all the fuss about Vitamin D3? Vitamin D3 promotes a healthy nervous system, healthy memory and brain, healthy blood vessel relaxation and blood flow. Vitamin D3 is also essential for healthy calcium metabolism promoting bone strength. Poor Vitamin D3 levels are also implicated in the causes of depression although more research is going on here as to how it occurs. Vitamin D3 strengthens our immune system, which helps protect us against colds and flu. And of course one of the major sources of Vitamin D is from the sun; so, in winter Vitamin D3 levels fall dramatically.

In the UK, two factors don't help here. Firstly, the lack of sufficient sunshine (we absorb Vitamin D via the skin) and secondly, the use of sun blockers. The accumulation of poor summers may well mean that our D3 levels are well below par. So take a good vitamin D3 supplement such as Solgar's Vitamin D3 2200iu, ("D3" is the most active, available form of Vitamin D), which is one of the highest strengths around.

Vitamin D3 also requires vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese to convert to its hormonal form in the body. Ensuring that adequate quantities of these nutrients are consumed daily via diet and supplements will help with this conversion. I like Solgar's Multivitamins or any of their range of Multivitamins but there other reputable brands of course. Don't go for the cheap supermarket type brands where the levels and quality of the active ingredients are so low or poor that it's hardly worth taking them at all.

As always, if you are on any medication consult your health care practitioner, speak to them first about possible contraindications with your medicine. Staff at a good health food store should also be able to give information in that area.

Have a good winter – hopefully a cheerful one!

Some of the products mentioned above are as follows:

- Sad lightboxes
- St John's Wort
- B Complex
- Vitamin D3
- Multivitamins
- 5-HTP (-Hydroxy Tryptophan)

All these products can be ordered online from our store. Either click on the links above or visit us at or telephone us on 01208 814500 for further information.

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