Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Winter is coming. Are you ready for it?

Well with the forecast in mind, snow, wind, and all the things associated with it, I have to ask: Are you ready for winter?

The ten foot snow banks, the blizzards, the -38 C wind chills, the bad roads and everything else that I’d rather not even think about right now?

Hold on a second.

You might have assumed I was talking about the physical requirements to get through yet another Winnipeg winter, but I wasn’t. We all go through it every year right? Winter clothes are in good shape? Check. The furnace is in good working order? Check. Got the winter tires on? Check.

Sure all those things are necessary to get by in the six month Manitoba deep freeze, but what about mental preparation?

I never used to think about that very much because you just dealt with it, you handled it. You knew what to expect and you managed it accordingly.

However I’ve had a pretty serious bout with mental health fairly recently so I’ve developed a different perspective from the psychological side of things.

Winter can be a daunting foe and if you’re not prepared to get through it mentally, it could lead to some fairly serious issues like depression. I mean really, how uplifting is it to hear the high today is -33 C with the wind chill right?

When you hear the word depression you might think, “well, toughen up buttercup,” but sometimes it’s just not that easy and it could go much deeper than you or anyone else thinks.

Aside from the obvious drawbacks of the long winter season there could be other factors in play for the person (perhaps you or a person close to you) affected, whatever they happen to be.

Job loss, ongoing anxiety issues, relationship break up, death in the family, financial issues etc. they can all enter into it and with one more factor like winter coming into the mix, things could go from bad to worse pretty quickly.

So how can a person mentally prepare for a season?

Well here’s a guy. Richard Wurtman, M.D., is the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Professor of Neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and of Neuropharmacology in the Harvard – MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. (Enough for you?)

Here’s what he says about your winter mood:

“The long hours of darkness and short hours of light affect serotonin, the brain chemical that keeps us in a good mood and turns off our appetite. Serotonin is the body’s natural mood booster, and levels plunge (along with mood) as it gets dark.”

Ok, so what do we do about it?

Well, a Canadian research group headed by Dr. Robert Levitan senior scientist at the Campbell Family mental health research institute in Toronto have discovered that 30 minutes of light therapy daily during the winter months worked just as well as Prozak to ease depression and the symptoms associated with it. Not only that, they found the light therapy started to work faster than the drug regimen, one week vs two to four weeks.

I have a friend who uses one of those “sun lamps” every day in the winter. It just sits on her desk, she turns it on for however long and she claims her mood (along with her office) is much brighter than it’s been in recent years. She swears by it. I was of course skeptical so I started looking into it and yep, she was right.

After all, who am I to dispute the claims of doctors and researchers who’ve worked for years to finally be able to publish results like this?

Experts also suggest, and I know this going to sound cliché, to eat well, exercise, get the proper amount of sleep, do things that make you happy and develop an outlet, whatever it happens to be. Playing a musical instrument, writing in a journal, learning a new language, whatever you can put energy into and get positive results out of.

I will also always say, especially considering recent events in my life, you should always consult with a medical professional if you’re experiencing dark moods and strange changes in behavior. Just getting the reassurance you need about whatever it may be will most likely start to make you feel better.

PS: those sun therapy lamps I was talking about? You can pretty much get them anywhere. Wal-mart, Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond etc or just order one online. They range in price from about $50 to $300 CAD.

By Shadoe Davis   Radio Host   CJOB
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Fun Fact Friday

  • You can “rewire” your brain to be happy by simply recalling 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days.
  • Hardest question to answer: “Describe yourself?”
  • People who are exposed to bright light early in the morning tend to be more alert throughout the day.
  • The difference between caramel and butterscotch is butterscotch contains brown sugar instead of white. Toffee is butterscotch cooked longer.

mangoes

  • Most of the problems in your life are due to two reasons: you act without thinking, or think without acting.
  • The mango is the most popular fruit in the world. It also helps against cancer, clears skin and lowers cholesterol.
  • Human bones are 31% water.
  • Happiness is increased when tangible goals like “making someone smile” are made.
  • Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.

 

Happy Friday  🙂

 source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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Exposure to Bright Light Might Impact Metabolism

By: Elise Moreau     June 4, 2016     Follow Elise at @elisem0reau

Most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D for good health and that it comes from the sun in its natural form. And many know that the light from our electronic devices can mess with their ability to sleep at night. But did you know that your exposure to bright light — perhaps natural or artificial — may even be powerful enough to alter your metabolism?

In a recent study conducted by Northwestern University, 19 adults were exposed to bright, blue-enriched light for three hours each in the morning and in the evening over a four-day period. Hunger, metabolic function and physiological arousal were tracked and the results were compared against the results for exposure to dim light.

All participants were exposed to dim light in their waking hours over the first two days. On the third day, half of the participants were exposed to bright light in the morning while the other half were exposed to bright light in the evening.

What the researchers found was that bright light in both the morning and evening hours increased insulin resistance — the body’s inability to move glucose out of the bloodstream to use for energy. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.

The researchers also found that when the participants were exposed to bright light in the evening, higher peak glucose (blood sugar) levels were detected. And in a related study conducted previously by Northwestern researchers, they had found that people who were exposed to the majority of their light before midday weighed less than people who were exposed to the majority of their light after midday.

screen

This is the first time these results have been seen in humans, although researchers at this point can’t say why light exposure has the impact it does on our bodies. Previous studies conducted on mice that were exposed to light over a consistent period of time showed higher glucose levels and weight gain compared to mice in a control group.

These findings suggest that the amount of light, and what time of day we’re exposed to it, has a direct impact on our health. This would certainly include all the light we surround ourselves with these days that come from our electronic devices — from smartphones and tablets to television monitors and laptops. If you spend all evening around glowing screens, which we already know is bad for your body’s internal sleep clock, it could very well be partially to blame for why you may be having trouble shedding those few extra pounds.

The good news about this and future related research is that we may be able to find out more about how we might be able to use light to manipulate metabolic function. But for now, it’s probably safe to say that altering your morning and evening routines so that exposing yourself to light earlier in the day will be far better for your overall health than exposing yourself to much of it later on in the day.

Findings like these serve as just another good and healthy excuse to ditch the devices in the evening hours and do something a little more productive, enjoyable or just plain relaxing. Your mind and body deserve it.


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What is SAD?

What is Seasonal Depression?
(Also Called ‘SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)’, ‘Seasonal Depression’)

Seasonal depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter, and ending in spring. It is more than just “the winter blues” or “cabin fever.” A rare form of SAD, known as “summer depression,” begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression, including:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • irritability
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • inability to concentrate
  • extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • a “leaden” sensation in the limbs
  • increased need for sleep
  • craving for carbohydrates, and accompanying weight gain.

Symptoms of summer SAD include:

  • weight loss
  • agitation and restlessness
  • trouble sleeping
  • decreased appetite

How common is SAD?
Approximately one half million of the U.S. population suffers from winter SAD, while 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues. Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, and the onset typically is early adulthood. SAD also can occur in children and adolescents. Older adults are less likely to experience SAD.

This illness is more commonly seen in people who live in cloudy regions or at high latitudes (geographic locations farther north or south of the equator). Individuals who relocate to higher latitudes are more prone to SAD.

What causes seasonal affective disorder?
The exact cause of this condition is not known, but evidence to date strongly suggests that—for those with an inherent vulnerability—SAD is triggered by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is shifted. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.

Another theory is that brain chemicals that transmit information between nerves, called neurotransmitters (for example, serotonin), may be altered in individuals with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.

How can I tell if I have seasonal affective disorder?
It is very important that you do not diagnose yourself. If you have symptoms of depression, see your doctor for a thorough assessment. Sometimes physical problems can cause depression. But other times, symptoms of SAD are part of a more complex psychiatric problem. A mental health professional typically can evaluate your pattern of symptoms and identify whether you have SAD or another type of mood disorder.

How is seasonal affective disorder treated?
Research now shows that phototherapy, also known as bright light therapy, is an effective treatment for SAD. Sometimes antidepressant medicine is used alone or in combination with light therapy. Spending time outdoors during the day can be helpful, as well as maximizing the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to at home and in the office.

winter depression

What is light therapy? Is it safe?
Light therapy, sometimes called phototherapy, is administered by a device that contains white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The intensity of light emitted (Lux) should be 10,000 Lux. The patient does not need to look directly into the light, but reads or eats while sitting in front of the device at a distance of 2 to 3 feet.

Light therapy is generally safe and well tolerated. However, there are some contraindications (e.g., conditions such as diabetes or retinopathies, certain medications) because of the potential risk of damage to the retina of the eye. Bright light therapy can cause hypomanic or manic symptoms; therefore, individuals with bipolar affective disorder require medical supervision to use light therapy.

Side effects of light therapy include:

  • eye strain
  • headache
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • insomnia

At what time of the day and for how long should I use light therapy?
The timing of light therapy appears to affect the treatment response. Recent studies suggest that morning light therapy is more effective than evening treatments. Using this treatment too late in the day may produce insomnia. Many health professionals today prefer to treat SAD with 10,000 Lux for 15 to 30 minutes every morning. Patients often see improvement within two to four days, and reach full benefits within two weeks. The symptoms of SAD return quickly after light therapy is stopped, so light treatment should be continued throughout the entire season of low sunlight.

Even though they generate enough light, tanning beds should not be used to treat SAD. The amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays they produce is harmful to the skin and eyes.

Can I prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder?
If you think you have symptoms of SAD, see your doctor for a thorough examination. Your doctor will want to make sure that these symptoms are not caused by another psychiatric condition or major medical illness.

If you have been diagnosed with SAD, here are some things you can do to help prevent it from coming back:

  • Begin using a light box at the start of the fall season, even before you feel the onset of winter SAD.
  • Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it’s very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and include sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the FDA. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy and sweet foods.
  • Try exercising for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
  • Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support during winter months.
  • Consider consulting a mental health professional trained in cognitive behavior therapy, which has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for SAD.
  • Talk to your doctor about antidepressant medication if your symptoms are severe or persist despite interventions such as bright light therapy.

If your symptoms become severe and you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, call your doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room.

References
American Psychiatric Association. Seasonal Affective Disorder Accessed 11/11/2013.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Seasonal Affective Disorder Accessed 11/11/2013.
National Institute of Mental Health. Properly Timed Light, Melatonin Lift Winter Depression by Syncing Rhythms Accessed 11/12/2013.


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4 Tricks to Avoid the Afternoon Slump

How to steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap

By Natalie Ruskin, CBC News       Posted: May 08, 2015 

CBC Health spoke with registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom and naturopath Hilary Booth.

Choose your lunch wisely

What you eat for lunch directly impacts how you feel later in the afternoon. Many people eat a high carbohydrate lunch but don’t include enough protein. You’ll experience a slump and feel more fatigue later if you’re just eating carbs. Protein is the nutrient that makes you feel fuller longer and also helps carbs break down more slowly so that you feel energized longer.

When you choose your lunch, consider including a good source of protein such as lean chicken, fish or tofu.  Try to include a healthy source of fat, like avocado or almonds. And equally important, select complex carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes to provide sustained energy rather than white rice or refined carbs like pasta or bread.

Plan ahead for snacks

Steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap by preparing your snack in anticipation of the slump. We automatically crave sugar when we feel depleted because sugar provides instant energy. For a snack that sustains energy and delivers better nutrition, think along the lines of raisins with almonds, Greek yogurt with fruit, or hummus with vegetables.

yawn

Increase your water intake

Hydrate! People often confuse hunger cravings with actual thirst. Staying hydrated helps you avoid that sleepy feeling. Adequate water intake is important for cognitive performance, weight loss and chronic disease prevention among other benefits. Make a cup of tea or enjoy water with cucumber, lemon or mint. Keep the beverage unsweetened.

There is not a single level of water intake that can be recommended for everyone: the amount depends on several factors such as metabolism and environmental conditions. What’s important is to remember your body needs water so don’t neglect this vital fluid.

Get outside and move your body

Sitting indoors all day drains energy. Make sure to get up and stretch every hour — stand up during phone calls or do a few stretches at your desk. Step outside even for five minutes to get some fresh air and take a walk. Fresh air, natural light and movement improves cardiovascular and cognitive function so that when you’re back in the office you’ll be more energized and creative.

What is it about natural light that makes us feel better? Direct sunlight exposure increases vitamin D which improves mood. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests that a “few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all some people need to get enough vitamin D.”

source: www.cbc.ca