Time to check in with your Neurotransmitters.
PART ONE – LIGHT THERAPY AND VITAMIN D
It’s that time of year. The days are getting shorter, the sky is getting darker. If you are one of the many people affected by the changing seasonal light patterns, you may be starting to feel physical symptoms such as:
- Feeling more tired or feeling a need for more sleep.
- Feeling “blue”, sad, or even depression.
- Increased food cravings, especially carbohydrates.
Learn more from my earlier blog “Get to Know Your Neurotransmitters”.
BOOST YOUR NEUROTRANSMITTERS THIS FALL: CONSIDER LIGHT THERAPY
As our daylight dwindles are you getting tired and grumpy?
Reduced exposure to sunlight in the fall and winter can be a major factor contributing to symptoms of seasonal depression, cravings, and fatigue. With light therapy (also called phototherapy), a light device (which is most often a light box but also available as a light visor) emits a full-spectrum light resembling sunlight. Light therapy is felt to work by regulating and improving the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (key chemicals in regulating mood, energy and food cravings).
For best results using light therapy:
- Your light box or device should emit 10,000 lux (a measurement of light intensity).
- You should sit with your face near the light, eyes open but not looking directly into the light.
- Aim for 30 minutes daily, preferably in the morning.
OPTIMIZE YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS
Vitamin D - the “Sunshine Vitamin”
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, however is not actually a vitamin at all! Vitamin D is a hormone that is produced in the body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. That being said, as the daylight hours lessen, so does your ability to produce Vitamin D. As a physician who has been routinely checking Vitamin D levels in my patients for many years, I can tell you that I rarely see an “optimal” Vitamin D level in the winter months without Vitamin D supplementation.
You may be aware of the numerous well-studied benefits of Vitamin D - including it’s role in bone strength, fracture prevention, healthy immune and nervous system function,and even prevention of certain cancers - but did you know that Vitamin D was also important in regulation of mood? Several studies have suggested that the symptoms of seasonal depression may be due to changing levels of Vitamin D3, which may affect serotonin levels in the brain (a key neurotransmitter in mood and appetite regulation).
My Vitamin D recommendations:
- Have your blood levels of 25 OH Vitamin D measured. While a number greater than 30 is considered “normal”, aim for an “optimal” level closer to 60.
- If supplementing with Vitamin D, choose Vitamin D3, and take with a meal containing fat for best absorption.
- While supplementing, recheck 25 OH Vitamin D levels approximately every three months.