While some people look forward to fall and winter, others dread the cooler temperatures and shorter days. They know that the winter season will bring worsening symptoms of depression.
Up to 3 percent of the population in the U.S. may suffer from winter depression, which experts term seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Countless others have a less severe form, dubbed the "winter blues." Symptoms may include:
• Extreme fatigue
• Getting too much sleep
• Difficulty concentrating
• Weight gain
Several treatments have been shown to improve seasonal winter depression, including:
• Light therapy
• Talk therapy
Light therapy might be as simple as getting up early and walking outside on a bright winter morning. A technique called "dawn simulation" -- in which a light is programmed to turn on early in the morning in your bedroom -- can also help.
Light boxes are widely sold over the Internet, and exposure to them can help. When buying one, choose one that is at least 1 foot by 1.5 feet. These larger boxes have more supporting research. Patients sit in front of the light boxes daily for a specified amount of time. Getting bright light in the morning is best for most people.
Most people with seasonal winter depression respond best not only to bright light exposure in the morning, but also to a low dose of the hormone melatonin in the afternoon to reset their body clocks to normal.
For some people with winter depression, getting more therapy during colder months can help, too. A boost in activity will also help, even walking around the block or getting out to a ball game.
One warning: Craving carbohydrates -- especially sweets -- is a common symptom of SAD. But the boost in energy you get form these simple carbs is temporary, and the extra sweets can mean you'll put on weight.
How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health
Additionally, a robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention. Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D levels, and vitamin D receptors have been found throughout the human body.
Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.
In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. This is an ongoing campaign during the month of February, and will become an annual event.
To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."