Many Minnesotans absolutely love the change of seasons. A break from the hot, humid summer months with our windows shut and the air conditioner continually running. We welcome the crisp fall air, cozy sweatshirts, open windows, and a fire on the patio.
All too often, the fall season is a brief transition, with much of our time focused on back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and before you know it we’re smack dab in the dead of winter.
We are all affected by the change in temperature and sun. Some effects are good and some are bad. How are you affected by the winter months? We ask this now because if you know you are one that is affected by the change in seasons, now is the time to plan and prepare. Don’t wait until the symptoms are there — planning ahead will create far better results. Are the winters long, gray, and taxing on your emotional health? Have you considered St. John’s Wort? Vitamin D? Sun therapy?
St John’s wort is a pretty little shrub with cheery yellow flowers that have medicinal properties and is especially beneficial to those affected by the sun (or lack thereof). It has become fairly accepted that St John’s wort is a good, safe alternative to antidepressants, but did you know that the form you take it in will have an effect on it’s absorption capacity? St John’s is most readily available in pill form. A lot of the active ingredient is wasted as the body breaks the tablet down and deciphers what can be utilized. Taking liquid St John’s wort that is meant to be used sublingually bypasses the digestive system and goes directly into the bloodstream, minimizing waste and increasing absorption capacity.
When the colder weather keeps us inside more, our body makes less Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin; our body produces vitamin D as a result of sunshine on our skin. James M. Greenblatt M.D., in Psychology Today states, “Regardless of cause, deficiency of vitamin D has significant medical and psychological consequences. Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system, which means vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function.” This sunshine vitamin activates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that affect brain function and sleep cycles, which also affect our emotional health. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that the drop in Vitamin D leaves many people feeling down.
A good way to increase the amount of light you’re exposed to as the season changes is by using a light box. There are light boxes for emotional health and different boxes for skin issues. The difference is whether they emit Ultraviolet (UV) light. For emotional health, look for a light box that does not emit UV. There are four components to help you get the most out of a light box: timing, consistency, duration, and intensity. To work with your body’s natural rhythm, it’s best to use the light therapy as part of your morning routine. Consistency is key, so have it on for 20-30 minutes during a routine that you do often. For emotional wellbeing it is recommended to use a 10,000-lux light box at a distance of about 16 to 24 inches from your face. For more information on specifics regarding light therapy read this.
It is always best to work with a professional when making changes to your regime, and to understand route, form, type, and frequency of the various options available. Should you take Vitamin D2 or D3? The answer is always D3. Having a professional reviewing your current regime to ensure there are no contraindications is very beneficial.
A natural regime for those affected by the lack in sun may look like this:
- St John’s Wort: Taking liquid St John’s sublingually initially for three continuous months. Then, as part of a proactive plan begin taking St John’s wort again (liquid/sublingual) in fall and continue until spring. Ending in the spring will be right in time for the natural sunshine and allows your body the chance to take over.
- Vitamin D3: Lab work from a physician will determine the amount and how often you need Vitamin D. Some people only need it in the winter months, others take it year-round because their work has them in an office all day rather than outside, but they can take a lower amount in the summer.
- Light therapy: Begin a light therapy routine in the very early fall as the days become shorter and cloudier.
Working at this consistently as part of a proactive plan by starting a regime prior to symptoms will provide you with the maximum reward for your efforts. Have you heard the phrase about the ineffectiveness of “chasing the pain”? In a similar fashion, use caution and don’t “chase the emotion.” Discontinue, or modify your regime in the spring to allow your body to take over and “rewrite” the way your body functions.
Contact your local Holistic Health Practitioner and create a plan together. They will help keep you on a path of success, seeing the sun in the midst of winter.
Rachael KraMer, Holistic Health Practitioner/RN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. shekinahwellness.com. 763-923-8112.