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Winter Blues

Written By Michael Gerber, MD, HMD |

‘Tis the season for shorter days and longer nights; and along with the diminished light comes the dreaded SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or winter depression. Many clinics see increased incidences of depression every year around this time. Fortunately, there are many great fixes for this problem.

Vitamin D
Lack of sun exposure reduces the amount of vitamin D that we receive in the winter.  Part of our body’s manufacturing process of making vitamin D from cholesterol involves ultraviolet light from sun exposure on the skin. Naturally, people don’t do as much sun bathing in the winter, so vitamin D levels can run low.

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with the SAD syndrome. Testing vitamin D levels in the blood is important; most people who do not supplement vitamin D have low levels in their blood to begin with. Of course, vitamin D deficiency is also linked to an increased incidence of cancer, infectious diseases, dementia, osteoporosis as well as depression.

According to David Perlmutter, MD, a prominent neurologist from Florida, low vitamin D levels are also linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s. To achieve a mid-range vitamin D level, some experts recommend taking 8,000 IU’s per day, or 50,000 IU’s per week.

Hormonal Support
Hormones also fluctuate with seasonal light deficiency. Thyroid goes down, as does adrenal cortical hormones including cortisol, DHEA, pregnenelone and aldosterone. Testosterone, estrogen and progesterone also fluctuate with the seasons. But, you can support your hormonal change with bio identical hormone replacement therapy.

Bio identical means hormones that are the same as our body makes and not patent medicine hormones that can cause side effects. Frequently, the symptoms of low hormonal output are depression, excessive fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and reduced sex drive. Putting back proper amounts of the natural hormone will help improve your mood, energy and sexual drive.

Candle Gazing
Light box therapy has been touted to help the SAD syndrome. Candle gazing has been around for millennia and yogis have used it for thousands of years as a meditation. Meditating on a beeswax candle is a good way to get a routine light infusion. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum and give off a reddish color, where beeswax gives the natural color of sunlight, so it’s best to stick to candles made from beeswax. It fills the body with light and stimulates the sixth chakra, the area between the eyebrows. In yoga theory, they call this meditation Tratak. It helps the mood, gives great ideas and promotes fearlessness.

Simply place a beeswax candle eight to ten inches from the bridge of the nose and gaze into the flame for five minutes or so without blinking much. Then, close the eyes for five minutes or so and look at the after image of the candle flame, which may be pink, purple, yellow or black, in the shape of the flame. When the eyes are open during Tratak, the pineal gland makes serotonin, which is anti-depressant. When the eyes are closed, it makes melatonin, which is calming and relaxing. It is good to do this in the morning, or anytime. Enjoy the light!

References
•    Gaby, Alan R., MD. Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing. 2011.
•    Johari, Harish. Dhanwantari.  Ramshead publisher. San Francisco, 1974.

For more info, contact the Gerber Medical Clinic at (775) 826-1900.