As the days grow shorter, are you worried about the onset of winter blues? Red light therapy is often used to counter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light. As the winter solstice marks a seasonal turning point with daylight getting incrementally longer from here until June, for people with seasonal affective disorder, it’s just another day of feeling lousy.
People with this condition lose steam when the days get shorter and the nights longer. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. Although they fade with the arrival of spring, seasonal affective disorder can leave you overweight, out of shape, and with strained relationships and employment woes.
We don’t know exactly why seasonal affective disorder occurs. According to a review published in the current issue of American Family Physician, there are probably several different causes, including changes in the body’s natural daily rhythms (circadian rhythms), in the eyes’ sensitivity to light, and in how chemical messengers like serotonin function. Some people find that taking an antidepressant medication helps, yet a new unique approach is the use of light therapy.
The value of light
If lack of sunlight causes or contributes to seasonal affective disorder, then getting more light may reverse it. Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.
Exercise and eat well
Exercise primarily works by helping to normalize your insulin levels while simultaneously boosting “feel good” hormones in your brain. Restoring health to your gut is also of prime importance. Your gut is literally your second brain and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior. Your gut actually produces more mood-regulating serotonin than your brain does. To optimize your gut microbiome, eat fresh food and be sure to include traditionally fermented foods such as fermented vegetables, raw milk kefir, kombucha, and others. Ideally, you’ll want to start trading out all processed foods for whole foods and cook from scratch.
If you’re interested in trying this treatment, get advice from your doctor and give us a call today to have your questions answered.