If you've ever noticed that your mood seems to dampen during the fall and winter months, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. In fact, many people live with a mild form of SAD and don't even know it.
A form of clinical depression, SAD symptoms include:
Lack of interest in normal activities
Unlike other mood disorders, SAD symptoms are associated with seasonal changes in light, often occurring only during the autumn and winter months, with the most difficult months being January and February. Outside of the winter months, SAD can be triggered by long stretches of cloudy weather or working year-round in a dark environment without natural sunlight.
Symptoms may vary in intensity. Any of these symptoms, alone or in tandem with one another, can have a serious effect on your quality of life.
With the right course of treatment, SAD can be a manageable condition. If you think you may be experiencing SAD or any other mood disorder, discuss your symptoms with your Naturopathic Doctor to create an individualized plan for mood stabilization and enhancement.
Ask your doctor about these four ways you can prevent and manage SAD.
1. Get as much sun as possible. Bundle up and take a walk, sit near a window at work, or participate in outdoor winter sports. However you choose to do it, exposing yourself to sunlight can help curb the symptoms of SAD.
2. Give phototherapy a try. Otherwise known as light therapy, phototherapy often uses a special fluorescent lamp to trick the brain into thinking the day is longer, and it has proven to be an effective treatment option for many. Just 30 to 90 minutes of daily exposure may have profound effects on your mood.
3. Increase your vitamin D intake. Although there is still insufficient evidence to conclude that vitamin D deficiency causes depression, cross-sectional studies have identified associations between depression and low vitamin D levels. Discuss intake of vitamin D supplements with your Naturopathic Doctor.
4. Supplement with a healthy lifestyle. Additional ways to manage SAD include herbal remedies, homeopathy and other types of supplements. However, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are still the best ways to improve and maintain your psychological health year-round.
Ancient Romans referred to them as "food for the gods." Ancient Egyptians thought they could grant immortality. While those claims may be a stretch, crimini mushrooms (the common button type) are packed with unique phytonutrients that have been shown to contribute to boosting immune function, regulating inflammation, preventing arthritis, and protecting against cardiovascular problems. Not bad for a fungus.
If that weren't enough, new evidence suggests that crimini mushrooms can provide a boost of vitamins D1 and D2, which are instrumental in maintaining a healthy immune system. In fact, crimini mushrooms have proven to be more beneficial to the immune system than their more exotic mushroom counterparts.
Crimini mushrooms also provide an excellent source of selenium, zinc, and manganese critical antioxidant nutrients and vitamins B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B5, B6, and B12, which contribute to better cardiovascular health.
1. Buy organic. Due to modern agricultural practices, it is important to purchase or cultivate organic mushrooms in order to lessen your risk of ingesting contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and other unwanted substances.
2. Store them properly. How you store your mushrooms is vital to preserving their nutrient content, especially where vitamin D is concerned. To prevent discoloration and hardening, wrap mushrooms in a damp cloth and place them in a loosely closed paper bag, or spread them out in a glass dish and cover them with a moist cloth. Store them in the refrigerator at about 38F (3C). Whichever storage method you use, you'll want to try to restrict surface-to-surface contact among the mushrooms in order to keep them fresh longer. If you need to stack them, be sure to separate each layer with a damp paper towel.
3. Saute and enjoy. The mushrooms should be wiped clean, sliced, and sauteed lightly, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, in order to ensure a golden-brown exterior and moist, succulent interior. Take care not to overcook mushrooms as this will make their nutrient count plummet.
With crimini mushrooms and tawny port, this barley-mushroom soup is chock-full of flavor, nutrients, and fun! Prep time: 20 min. Cook time: 55 min.
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced in 1/4 inch cubes
2 and 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup tawny port
1 tablespoon + 6 cups organic vegetable broth
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Rinse and soak barley in 1 cup of warm water while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Heat 1 tbsp of broth in a medium soup pot. Saute onion, garlic, and carrots in broth for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for another 3 minutes. Add drained barley and tawny port; cook for about 2 minutes. Add rest of broth and bring soup to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until barley and carrots are tender. Add herbs, salt, and pepper at the end of cooking and serve.
Vitamin D, also known as the "sunshine vitamin" is actually a hormone and an essential part of the human body. Throughout evolution, sunlight has produced vitamin D in the skin, but the advent of the electric light and sunblock, as well as a common fear of skin cancer, seem to have led to a mass vitamin D deficiency. In fact, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin D recently tripled, going from a recommended 200 IU (5 mcg) for adults up to 50 years of age to 600 IU (15 mcg) for those 1 to 70 years of age, based mainly upon bone health research.
A vitamin D deficiency can cause osteopenia, osteoporosis, increased risk of fracture, sunken pelvic area (due to rickets) and trouble getting pregnant and delivering a baby naturally.
Of the six forms of vitamin D, vitamins D2 and D3 have been identified as the most important for human nutrition. Vitamin D2 predominantly comes from the sun and fungi, such as mushrooms. Vitamin D3 can be produced in the body from the absorption and conversion of the sun's UVB rays or from animal sources.
Because vitamin D affects the entire body, it is vital to maintain your body's vitamin D levels. If you're looking for a vitamin D boost, try eating fatty fish, mushrooms, liver, egg yolks, milk, and yogurt. Better yet, get plenty of direct sun exposure. If you are concerned that your vitamin D levels are not up to par, talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about an assessment and individualized plan.
- Tarragon is high in vitamins, including the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, as well as potassium and other nutrients.
- Its antioxidant properties help neutralize the effect of free radicals in the body.
- Tarragon supports cardiovascular health and maintains the health of the female reproductive tract.
- High levels of eugenol make it an effective pain reliever, historically used to take the edge off of toothaches.
- Some studies suggest that tarragon may help to increase appetite, which could be useful for those who have poor appetites due to age or illness.
- It's an excellent digestive aid, traditionally used to improve natural digestion and eliminate intestinal worms, as well as relieve common digestive problems such as upset stomach, irritable bowels, and dyspepsia.
- As a mild sedative, tarragon may help to relieve anxiety and stress, and work as a sleep aid.
To add a little extra health boost to your meals, try tarragon with vegetables such as artichokes, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, and salads; with meats such as chicken, rabbit, fish, shellfish, and lobster; or best of all in sauces such as Bearnaise sauce.
Even though tarragon is generally safe for regular use as a culinary herb, the appropriate therapeutic dosage will vary based upon age, overall health, and medical conditions. People with a liver condition should only use tarragon at therapeutic levels under the supervision of a doctor. When considering using tarragon, it is best to consult with your Naturopathic Doctor to discuss if tarragon is right for you.
Phototherapy, or light therapy, has shown promise in treating eczema, reducing itching skin, guarding against inflammation, increasing bacterial defenses in the skin, and increasing vitamin D production. It's also a unique therapy for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Phototherapy provides the body with the additional light it needs to stimulate the brain activity that controls circadian rhythms. Research suggests that the benefits may be heightened by undergoing light treatment as soon after waking up as possible. The therapy, which can be done in a clinical setting or at home using a special light box, may actually be as beneficial or more so than antidepressants. Symptoms typically improve within two weeks to two months of steady treatment.
Phototherapy uses a light box to emit specific wavelengths of light, imitating sunlight, but avoiding exposure to harmful UVA rays. Generally, phototherapy light boxes provide 10,000 lux ("lux" is a measure of light intensity), which is roughly 100 times brighter than typical indoor lighting, but not as bright as a sunny day, which can clock in at 50,000 lux or more. Recent advances in light therapy include using light boxes that simulate sunrise, gradually increasing in intensity from darkness up to 300 lux. Another new therapy uses lower-intensity blue light, which has a more powerful effect on the retina than white light, tricking the brain into thinking it's brighter than it is.
However, phototherapy is not without risks. It can cause burns, increase signs of aging, and increase the risk of skin cancers if used regularly over long periods of time, or if administered using subpar equipment.
Before investing time and money on phototherapy, discuss your concerns and needs with your Naturopathic Doctor. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis and prescribe an individualized treatment plan for brightening your winter. Because the FDA does not regulate light boxes, be sure to discuss your equipment options with your Naturopathic Doctor, or phototherapy professional, before purchasing a light box.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.