In the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the lack of bright light in Winter can cause a condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of many types of depression.
SAD can bring feelings of misery, hopelessness and despair. Fatigue and lethargy can make every activity an effort. Even taking care of families and homes may become too much of an effort to bother with.
SAD can also show physical symptoms such as joint pain or digestive problems, a craving for carbohydrates, overeating, and weight gain. The overeating and weight gain can lead to even more of a poor self image than they had before. It becomes a viscous circle of feeling bad and lack of energy, to trying to eat more to gain energy, and then feeling bad because they gain weight.
Dealing with SAD
For the person suffering from SAD, even large amounts of sleep may not be restful. People often report that they are sleeping much more than usual during the fall and winter but still seem to have no energy.
SAD is treated by phototherapy, exposing the patient’s eyes to light about 10 times brighter than ordinary domestic lighting.
But, some experts believe exposure to artificial light actually BLOCKS the benefits of certain vitamins and minerals to your eyes. H.L. Hembold, M.D. describes in his book, Mega-Nutrients For Your Nerves, how full-spectrum light enters the eyes, stimulates the brain, and facilitates the absorption of specific nutrients.
Vitamin D for Seasonal Affective Disorder
So, Mom was right after all – fresh air and sunshine ARE good for you. And, unless you’re one of the almost half million people around the world suffering from SAD, it’s all you need. Even people suffering from SAD may be able to benefit from sunshine. Sunlight has been shown to improve depression in several studies.
Just about everyone knows about the link between sunshine and Vitamin D. So, although you may have been pushed out the door to stop being a pest around the house, mom was doing your health a favor. Lately, due to an increase in skin cancer, there has been an increase in public health warnings about going out in the sun without protection. However, doctors suggest at least 10 to 20 minutes of sunshine a day is needed for your body to produce vitamin D.
I don’t know about you, but there are times, while working in front of my computer, that I just HAVE to get outside and get some sunshine and fresh air, even when it’s cloudy. Clouds may block some of the warm summer sunshine but they don’t necessarily block the much needed UV-B rays.
I suppose in a way, those times are almost a CRAVING for sunshine, much like how there are times when I crave certain foods. Perhaps my body is trying to tell me that I’m low on vitamin D and need a booster shot of sunshine.
John Ott, a pioneer in the relatively new field of photobiology was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle in September of 1987 as saying, “by deliberately screening out supposedly harmful traces of atmospheric ultraviolet with tinted windows, sunglasses, suntan lotions and the like,” we may just be making ourselves sick. He termed this condition, “malillumination,” which he thought of as a sort of malnutrition.
There are times when I wake up and see the sun shining through the window and I just know that it is going to be a good day. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I have to do that day, it’s just because the sun is shining. This seems to work even if there is snow all over the ground. Just the sight of the sun shining brightly through my window cheers me up.
So, now is perhaps the time to push away from the computer, step outside, and get some visual nutrition. As the song says, “Let the Sun Shine In.” You’ll not only be making yourself feel better you’ll be helping your vision as well.
Sunshine and Eye Health?
The Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London has been running tests on older mice. The results have been amazing! Using a supplement of vitamin D3 they have found that the mice have:
- Improved vision
- Reductions in inflammation and lower levels of amyloid bets accumulations (a sign of aging)
- Marked reduction in immune cells that can cause inflammation
So get your daily dose of sunshine and feel better while you help your eyes stay young!