Colds, coughs, flu

cherriesEveryone’s got colds at the moment but there’s not much the doctor can do when you have a cold or flu,  because antibiotics won’t work for viruses. But there’s plenty you can do yourself.

  • Regular Vitamin C – especially as Montmorency cherries.
  • Echinacea daily – you can take it all winter.
  • Garlic – many people swear by garlic capsules, or if you can stomach it, plenty of raw garlic.
  • Blackcurrant – in various preparations.

 

COLDS Serious illnesses are not cured with complementary medicine, but symptoms can sometimes be managed with a healthy eating regime and use of therapies. We’re more likely to get colds when we’re run down, stressed and tired. They are most common between September and March with the peak time around Christmas (when you may be stressed and worn out). People still work when they have a cold, but rest and sleep are the best solution because the body heals itself when you sleep. Symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • blocked up nose
  • sore throat
  • earache
  • sinus pain
  • low grade fever
The way to avoid colds is to eat and sleep well, manage stress, exercise and take regular Vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea in winter. Once a cold is in full force the aim is to get over it as quickly as possible.
  • Keep taking Echinacea to boost the immune system and help to clear up the cold faster.
  • Chew grapefruit seeds or take the liquid extract, according to Suzanne Woodward, medical herbalist.
  • Steam inhalations help to clear stuffed up noses – put a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, or lavender oil in a bowl of boiling hot water and breathe in the vapours.
  • Try ginger root tea– one inch of peeled and chopped ginger boiled in water.
  • Cherry Active is made with Montmorency cherries and is absolutely packed with Vitamin C. It tastes nice and helps to keep you in top form.
A great combination is Yarrow, Peppermint and Elder, often prescribed by herbalists as a tea – Yarrow fights fever, Elderflower eases catarrh, and Peppermint cools and calms.

The other great soothers for colds:

  • Plenty of Vitamin C – nutritionists claim that 200 mg a day or more is safe when in need
  • Garlic boosts the immune system – take capsules or if you can bear it put it raw into soups and casseroles.

Cautious note: always check with your GP if taking prescribed medication BEFORE having herbal remedies as they may contraindicate the medicines.

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Antibiotics
  • Antibiotics don’t work for viruses, such as colds and flu
  • Taking too many can lower the body’s defences when it needs to fight more serious infection

COUGHS Respiratory tract infections take up more of the GPs’ time than anything else, but while pneumonia and bronchitis can be serious some coughs linger after cold and flu symptoms have gone.Trudy Norris, herbalist and president of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, suggests an infusion of thyme which is antiseptic, clears phlegm and fights chest infections . ‘Put a heaped tablespoonful of dried thyme into a litre of boiling water and fill a thermos flask. Add a teaspoonful of honey to the mixture to relieve irritation and keep near day or night.’ Just sipping a mixture of one teaspoonful of honey and warm water can prevent persistent coughing at night as well.

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FLU:

Echinacea can be taken at the first signs of aches and pains (unless you are on medication in which case you should check for contraindications), as well as homeopathic remedies:

  • Gelsemium for aches and pains, rising temperature and constant aching;
  • Rhus Tox for aches and pains which get better when moving around;
  • Belladonna for sudden high fever, with or without sweating, cold hands and feet.

Boneset is an excellent herbal remedy for someone who has had flu for a couple of weeks, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

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  SORE THROATS: Antibiotics should only be offered for infections like tonsillitis but natural remedies can help to soothe the throat. If a sore throat seems to be signalling the start of a cold the homeopathic remedy Aconite can stop it progressing. Over recent years doctors have been advised to cut down on handing out antibiotics yet research shows that 44 per cent of people who see doctors when they have a cold are given a prescription for antibiotics. The downside of this is that when they get a serious illness they may be antibiotic-resistant (as we’ve seen with many hospital infections). Propolis is made by bees from natural ingredients to protect their hives from infection and invasion, and gargling with it soothes a sore throat. Gargling with a few drops of tea tree oil or a pinch of salt in a glass of warm water also eases the pain.

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HEADACHES

Too many painkillers can suppress headaches and make them recur. The causes of a headache may be tension, hormonal imbalances, blocked sinuses, or back and neck problems. If headaches persist you should always consult a doctor, but if there is no serious problem you might find that a chiropractor or cranial osteopath can find the problem and ease the pain.

Trying to get rid of a headache can be really difficult, and one approach is to put strong smelling eucalyptus or camphor on the skin above the sinuses or on the forehead as so many headaches are caused by blocked sinuses. There are now several sticks available that make this easy to do, except you must be sure not to get it too near your eyes or they will pour.

Feverfew is the herbal answer to painkillers and Belladonna homeopathic remedy, is good for a throbbing headache, particularly in children.

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GLUE EAR/EAR ACHE

Often children with ear problems have repeated prescriptions for antibiotics which run down their immune systems. Homeopathy works well for glue ear and Pulsatilla is the most common remedy when there is lots of discharge. In cases of repeated ear infections a visit to a professional homeopath can be invaluable.

For adults earache can be cleared by putting a drop of lavender oil on a piece of cotton wool and placing it in the ear, but the vapours are quite strong and may not be recommended for children. For a desperate child you could try the old fashioned remedy of a baked onion, cut in half, wrapped in muslin and placed on the outside of the ear. Jenny Jones, herbalist, explains, ‘The vapours from the onion oils are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and they go into the ear and the heat of the warm onion is also soothing.’

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The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, 01392 426022, www.nimh.org.uk For a list of homeopaths contact: The Society of Homeopaths, 01604 621400, www.homeopathy-soh.org

Jenny Jones, Creative Health Centre, Leamington Spa, 01926 316500

 

 

The spice of life

ginger
Root ginger

Spices are good for you, and they have many health benefits.    Turmeric is a wonderful spice with so many properties, especially in the fight against osteoarthritis (see below).  Spices are also used to preserve food and make it taste good.

At the end of this post there are lots of spicy supplements and products you can buy at www.superfooduk.com using the promotion code: HSoul1.

Rob Hobson, a nutritionist, who co-authored the Detox Kitchen Bible, says it is an excellent way of getting nutrients to people who need them – such as elderly people in care homes and young girls, who are almost all low in iron and other minerals.

Most spices have similar health benefits because they warm the system. In Chinese Herbal Medicine (see Therapies) an imbalance in the energy flow is considered to be due to heat, coolness, damp, or dryness in the system in the way that old women complain about the cold getting into their bones.

The warming properties of spices help to relieve damp and cold and have many other health benefits:

Caraway

Babies have been reared on gripe water for over a century and many of them love it. Commercially made with dill, it can equally be concocted at home using caraway seeds.

Rosalind Blackwell, naturopath and herbalist, claims that caraway is very safe for anyone’s stomach and can ease gripey pains and other stomach problems.

Cardamom

Its pungent taste makes cardamom a popular spice with curry eaters, who sometimes eat it whole in their food. Chewing a cardamom pod can help to relieve indigestion and stomach pain, but the spice has many medicinal purposes too. It has been known to relieve asthma, bloating and travel sickness, boost circulation and alleviate symptoms of colds and flu.

Make a tea using crushed pods, or follow Deepak Chopra’s recommendation in his book, The Chopra Centre Herbal Handbook, of adding a pinch of cardamom powder to hot milk for a good sleep.

Cayenne pepper and chilli

The capsicum family encompasses peppers of all kinds – hot and mild. Cayenne is the ground spice from a hot chilli, which is rich in Vitamin C, and it can certainly induce sweating!

It is so pungent and hot that TCM practitioners use it for:

•warming the spleen and stomach
•eliminating damp and cold
•promoting appetite
•soothing digestive problems and vomiting
As a gel its warming effect eases rheumatic and muscular aches and the nerve pain of shingles.

Rosalind Blackwell claims, ‘I use the tincture of cayenne as a circulatory stimulant as it has a very warming effect.’

Cinnamon

Many British cooks use cinnamon regularly for its recognisable flavour in apple pies, mulled wine and curries. A particularly warming spice, it makes a good blend with turmeric and coriander for many types of ailment.

According to Rosalind Blackwell, ‘Cinnamon gets rid of all kinds of bugs, particularly in the gut and eases muscle spasms, but its properties are much stronger as an essential oil.’

Commonly used in a hot toddy to ease cold and flu symptoms, it has also been proven to fight E-coli and has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. A dash of cinnamon in a honey and lemon drink can ease a sore throat, or made into a tea with boiling water it can relieve period pain and muscle spasms.

Cloves

Any grandmother will tell you that oil of cloves soothes toothache by numbing the gum – just put some oil on a piece of cotton wool and place it near the tooth, but if it touches your lip it will really sting! Chewing a raw clove has the same effect if there is no oil in the house. Traditionally used to preserve meat, as a component of mulled wine and to flavour apple pies cloves can usually be found in the kitchen cupboard.

Essential oil of cloves also:

•Soothes insect bites;
•Is a good cold and flu fighter due to its antiseptic properties;
•Eases nausea.
Rosalind Blackwell suggests making an infusion of cloves in hot water or combining it with cinnamon and ginger in a tea to ease nausea and stomach problems, and relieve colds.

Cumin

These seeds of an umbrella-shaped plant are used in cooking whole or ground and they can be liberally added to food to give it a delicious curry flavour. The black variety was said by Mohammed to heal every disease ‘except death’.

Particularly it is known for:

•alleviating wind
•preventing blood platelets sticking together
•preventing clotting
•fighting bacteria
•protecting the heart
•relieving heartburn, indigestion and bloating.

Fenugreek

Often used in pickles, curries and garnishes, fenugreek has been recognised in medicine since Hippocrates’ time, particularly for its beneficial effect on blood glucose levels.

Deepak Chopra recommends a couple of teaspoons in the diet every day for anyone with diabetes or high cholesterol levels;
•Chinese herbal medicine practitioners use it to supporting the kidney function;
•The seeds can be ground or crushed in a cup of hot water to be drunk or used as a gargle for sore throats.

Ginger

Apart from its versatility in cooking, ginger can be kept in the fridge simply for its therapeutic benefits. Make a tea by chopping up about one inch of the root and infusing it in boiling water either in a pan over the heat or in a teapot.

•Drink it to relieve colds – adding garlic if you can bear it – or stomach problems;
•Ginger is anti-inflammatory, helps to improve circulation. Massage arthritic fingers with some warmed ginger oil in a base oil.
•In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is particularly used to fuel the system and warm it up, when there is too much cold and damp;
•For nausea or travel sickness a child can be given a ginger biscuit, cake, crystallised ginger or ginger ale as they all ease the symptoms.

Juniper berries

Most known as an ingredient of gin, juniper berries have been used in cooking and for medicinal benefits since ancient Egyptian times.

According to Rosalind Blackwell, ‘Juniper berries have traditionally been used to disinfect the urinary tract, particularly in cases of cystitis. It can irritate the kidney if used for a long time an infusion of berries in water should only be taken as long as the discomfort lasts.’

Mustard

It may be an old wive’s tale but you can’t beat a hot mustard footbath for easing the symptoms of colds such as blocked nose – just put some mustard powder into a bowl of hot water, put both feet in and relax! ‘It is particularly good for clearing phlegm too,’ Rosalind Blackwell explains.

‘I only suggest this to people who like it because it is an acquired taste, but a regular sandwich with mustard and meat could be helpful’. The Indian mustard plant (Brassicaceae) is believed to act as a magnet for essential minerals and metals in the soil, which we don’t get enough in our food these days.

Turmeric

Its bright yellow colouring has made turmeric useful for adding colour to rice, potatoes, mustard and sauces, and in primitive civilisations for dying clothes. A member of the ginger family, turmeric is familiar to us as a ground up powder, but it is now available in tablet form for medicinal purposes.

To extract the essential ingredient – curcumin – you need either alcohol or cooking in oil. The golden paste which is so good for arthritis in dogs and people involves heating up turmeric powder in water, and then adding coconut oil, and pepper – which is a vital ingredient to help the absorption in the body.

It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antifungal properties, and is an anti-oxidant which means it fights damaging free radicals.   It is especially good for arthritis, general aches and pains, a healthy digestive system, and an all round boost to the immune system.

Deepak Chopra advises sprinkling it into organic honey and licking the teaspoon every two hours to ease sore throats, or for colds and flu making a tea of one half-teaspoonful of turmeric and some honey to sweeten works well!

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Cystitis tips

One in three women get cystitis in their lives and some get recurrent attacks, but doctors can only provide antibiotics as a solution. There are plenty of ways of trying to prevent it and natural solutions when you’ve got it.  At its worst cystitis can be excruciating.There are a number of symptoms and some can be present without the others:

•  burning sensation on passing water
•  pain in the lower abdomen
•  pain in the lower back, the kidneys and in the ureters   – the tubes from the bladder to the opening.

Often the vagina itself feels inflamed and there may be general malaise, depression and fever.

The woman may have to go to the toilet regularly and as this is a painful experience it makes it even worse. The urine becomes cloudy, smelly and often contains blood streaks, although these may not be visible to the naked eye. The pain can be so severe that you feel like pulling your hair or sticking your nails in your palms – this is danger point and requires medical attention.

It is vital that if someone is in severe pain and has a temperature that they see a doctor immediately because it can spread to the kidneys and become very serious. At this stage self-help may not work.

Repeat attacks

Some women are particularly prone to cystitis and bladder discomfort, which may not involve an infection but means that going to the loo can feel uncomfortable afterwards with pain in the bladder situated in the lower abdomen or in the back.

The medical profession has found little to no solutions to repeated cystitis and bladder discomfort. Common treatment is by antibiotic which will certainly take away an infection fairly quickly but often has the effect of giving thrush as well. It is possible that the antibiotic you get doesn’t fight the specific bug and you have to go back to the GP and get a different one.

Antibiotics don’t help to prevent further attacks and unfortunately if someone has cystitis regularly repeat prescriptions eventually wear down the immune system making them more susceptible to everything!

Prevention is the answer

As there’s no medical cure self-help is the only answer. Standard advice is:

• Drink plenty of water to flush out the infection;
• Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol which are all diuretics and make you go to the loo even more;
• As germs come from the anal area wipe from front to back with toilet paper;
• Don’t use soaps, shower gels, bath lotions contain chemicals;
• Go to the loo immediately after intercourse and wash in a bidet or bath;
• Wear cotton pants;
• Ask your partner to wash his genitals before sex – often embarrassing!

Intercourse triggers attacks

Intercourse is one of the most common causes of bladder problems and it may be the position of the bladder and the womb that cause it in some females and not in others. Most women don’t want to give up sex for the rest of their lives so they need to find an answer!

Cystitis is caused by bacteria going up into the bladder and causing infection. This is often because the penis causes bruising to the vaginal walls and bladder and the bruising sets up infection. If the woman is using spermicides or the cap it is more than likely that these will aggravate the condition as does menopause when the vagina becomes dryer.

One of the reasons why women suffer from this debilitating problem rather than men is the position of the genitals. The anus is full of germs and is situated very close to the vagina, which is near to the ureter so it is easy for germs to move from one to the other.

Candida

Sometimes repeated attacks of cystitis are due to candida, a yeast infection that takes a hold on the system. There are plenty of symptoms of candida including fungal infections (thrush, athlete’s foot), digestive problems, bloating, tiredness, lethargy. See our article on Candida in Women’s Health.

Natural remedies

There are a several over the counter solutions, many of them based on bicarbonate of soda which aims to neutralise the acid in the urine. There are also plenty of herbal and homeopathic solutions:

  • Uva ursi – a herbal remedy for urinary infection
  • Echinacea – boosts the immune system and can help to prevent an attack when the first twinges start
  • Taking regular probiotics such as Acidophilus helps to keep the gut replenished with healthy bacteria which reduces chances of infections
  • Cranberries – contain PACs (proanthocyanidins) that attach themselves to the bacteria – mostly E-coli – preventing them from attaching themselves to cells in the body. Supplements can be good but choose a juice that has no artificial sweeteners or sugar in
  • D-Mannose, made from the bark of the spruce tree, is a compound which is present in the urine to fight bacteria, but by providing more in a supplement it can ease cystitis
  • Cantharis – homeopathic remedy when there is a burning sensation on going to the loo
  • Witch-hazel squeezed on a piece of cotton wool at the opening to the ureter so that it can be felt right up into the tubes or held in the vagina to soothe inflammation
  • Gokshura and Shatavari are Ayurvedic herbs for urinary discomfort with pain on passing water, urgency, dribbles, burning and blood streaked urine


Complementary therapies

Naturopathy – looks at lifestyle and the causes of the problem which could be emotional as well as finding herbal and other natural solutions. People with bladder problems are said to be holding on to the past or they may be feeling out of control in their lives (literally!).

General Council and Register of Naturopaths & British Naturopathic Association, 01458 840072,  www.naturopathy.org.uk

Reflexology – particularly helpful during an attack because the reflexologist can work on the bladder area and can help it to go away entirely.

Association of Reflexologists, 01823 364951,  www.aor.org.uk

Nutrition – unhealthy eating habits won’t help sufferers of cystitis to get better. A nutritionist can be more specific, but generally it may help to eat organic food so that chemicals aren’t irritating the bladder and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. As the problem may stem from candida, an overgrowth of yeast, avoiding bread and sugar may help.
 

The British Association of Nutritional Therapists, 0870 6061284,  www.bant.org.uk
The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, 020 8614 7800,  www.ion.ac.uk

Emotional Freedom Technique – where tapping the ends of the meridians helps to get out emotional causes for illness.

The Association for the Advancement of Meridian Therapies: www.meridiantherapy.org

Chinese Herbal Medicine – herbs have to be boiled up and drunk twice a day as a tea to build up the ‘chi’ or energy in the kidneys.

Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, www.rchm.co.uk,  01603 927420

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All about cholesterol

Prescription of statins for lowering cholesterol has become more and more widespread, but latest recommendations are that healthy people should not routinely be taking them. NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommends them for people who have a 20 per cent greater chance of developing heart disease within 10 years.

The latest study published in The Cochrane Library claims that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that statins should be taken by those who aren’t at risk.  Statins bring a variety of side-effects with them which have been reported as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, swelling of the ankles,  liver problems, kidney failure and muscle weakness.

 Vinciane Ollington,  one of Healthy Soul’s experts, explains the role of cholesterol in the body:

‘There are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume. These myths are actually harming your health.’

What is cholesterol, and why do you need it?

Cholesterol is a lipoprotein – fats combined with proteins which is found in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids. It is also vital for neurological function. Your liver makes about 75 percent of your body’s cholesterol.

According to conventional medicine, there are two types of cholesterol:
1. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, removes excess cholesterol from your arteries.
2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, circulates in your blood and may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible. If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.

When HDL, the “good” cholesterol, takes cholesterol from your body’s tissues and arteries, it brings it back to your liver. It goes back to your liver because your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so essential to life. If the purpose of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys or intestines so that your body could remove it.

Cholesterol and inflammation – what’s the connection?

If your arteries are damaged, cholesterol is necessary in order to replace your damaged cells. This results in a “scar” forming in your artery which is known as plaque. This plaque, along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels that normally occur during any inflammatory process, can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.

It is sadly quite common for damage to occur in your body on a regular basis. In this case, you are in a dangerous state of chronic inflammation. Instead of looking at the cause of chronic inflammation, conventional medicine looks at the effect (the increased cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream to repair your arteries) and conclude that cholesterol is the cause of heart attacks.

Where is the wisdom in lowering cholesterol?

If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body heal and repair. It does not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol, the reason for the chronic inflammation.

As cholesterol is essential for the good functioning of your body, all kind of nasty things can happen if your cholesterol is too low. These range from depressive symptoms and violent behaviour to higher risk of various chronic diseases. An optimum level of cholesterol would be around 200 mg/dL (5.12 mmol/L).

The adverse effects of statins
Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that is needed to manufacture cholesterol. Side effects of statins include an increased risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands and feet and trouble walking), dizziness, memory loss, decreased function of the immune system, depression and liver problems, including a potential increase in liver enzymes.

Statins also happen to deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), beneficial to heart health and muscle function. This depletion can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness, and eventually heart failure.

It makes more sense to lower inflammation, and thereby the risk of heart disease, naturally by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Sadly rather than educating their patients, doctors choose the easier option of prescribing a cholesterol lowering drug….. for life.    Vinciane Ollington, MSc, LCH, MARH  www.completehomeopathy.co.uk

Supplements that lower cholesterol

Dr John Briffa in his book, Ultimate Health A-Z, and renowned nutritionist Patrick Holford suggest that  Niacin (a form of Vitamin B3) can be helpful in  lowering cholesterol, but you need the ‘no blush’ niacin or you can get a kind of ‘hot flush’ in your face when taking it.  Eskimos are very healthy despite their high cholesterol diet, so eating fish all the time is obviously good for your health –  Omega 3 fish oils can have the effect of lowering LDL cholesterol. Patrick Holford also claims in his book, New Optimum Nutrition Bible, that statins block the production in the body of COQ10 (Co-enzyme Q10) which is essential for the healthy functioning of the heart.  These books are available at Amazon (see below).

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See our article on Soya Good for Cholesterol

Further reading


– Trick and Treat by Barry Groves
– The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth about what really causes heart disease and how to avoid it
by Malcolm Kendrick
– Put your heart in your mouth by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride

Click on the Amazon carousel on the home page to order these books

Don’t get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

moon winterIt’s that time of year again – nights drawing in and it’s getting dark.  And we only have British Summer Time until Saturday, 28th October!  Winter blues affect some 17 per cent of Britons*, while 7 per cent experience  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).   Winter blues can mean feeling extra tired, lacking in energy and feeling low.
 
Symptoms of SAD include:

• Depression – low self-esteem, misery, despair, hopelessness, numbness,apathy
• Constant fatigue
• Disturbed sleep patterns with early morning waking
• Lack of energy
• Craving for sweet foods and carbohydrates – consequent weight gain
• Mood swings
• Anxiety and inability to cope with stress
• Loss of libido
• Lowered immune system so more prone to colds
• Bursts of activity in spring and autumn

People who get SAD tend to live far north of the equator (Britain, Scandinavia, Alaska, Iceland), because of the long nights and short days.  They are more likely to be pre-menopausal women than anyone else.

Why it happens

Light deprivation is the main cause of SAD and in some people it causes a deficiency in serotonin and dopamine – chemicals the brain needs to control mood, appetite, sleep and sexuality.

The main cause of SAD is believed to be a drop in levels of serotonin, a brain chemical or neurotransmitter, responsible for:

• hunger   • thirst   • sexual activity   • sleep patterns   • moods    • body temperature   • (indirectly) the production of hormones.

Daylight triggers the hypothalamus gland in the brain to produce serotonin, so lack of daylight leads to reduced levels.At night the pineal gland which is attached to the brain releases the hormone melatonin (a derivative of serotonin) giving the signal to the brain that it is night time and that it is time to sleep. Similarly, during the day when light hits the retina in the eye signals are sent to the brain to bring about change in the pineal, adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands.

However, if it is dark more often than it is light there is too much melatonin being released and may account for tiredness, lethargy and fatigue in SAD sufferers.

Light boxes

One of the best ways of dealing with SAD is to use a light box, which can be rigged up in the workplace with a minimum of half an hour recommended twice a day. Dawn simulator alarm clocks also help people to wake up with a ‘natural’ dawn when the mornings are dark.

Doctors and complementary therapists alike recommend light therapy.

 How SAD affects our appetite

Comfort eating helps to relieve depression and many people with SAD crave sugary snacks and stimulants like caffeine. These give a temporary lift but blood sugar levels plummet afterwards and cravings become worse. When someone gets trapped into a low blood sugar cycle they tend to put on weight because they are constantly craving and consuming foods and drinks which are high in sugar.

Change of diet

A change of diet to boost serotonin levels, cut down cravings for sugary foods, and eat more healthily is the best way to lose weight and gain confidence to try and avoid getting SAD every winter.   A diet high in proteins helps to boost serotonin levels because proteins contain tryptophan, an amino acid, which is converted by the body firstly into 5HTP and then into serotonin.

High protein foods include:

  • Fish, turkey, chicken
  • Beans – kidney, borlotti, lima and aduki, lentils,
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Wheatgerm, oats, quinoa.

Herbal medicine: St John’s Wort (use the code HSoul1 for 5% discount) has been proven to improve some symptoms – 900 mcg a day is recommended from mid-October through the winter. It is essential to consult a GP or registered medical herbalist before taking St John’s Wort  because it contra-indicates some medicines and can cause side-effects when used at the same time as light therapy.

One natural remedy that can be very good for SAD is a type of algae, Blue Green Organic Klamath Algae, (use the code HSoul1 for 5% discount)  which is abundant in minerals and contains a natural (feel-good) endorphin and plenty of antioxidants.

 

If in doubt contact: The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, www.nimh.org.uk

Other recommended therapies:

• Acupuncture
• Reflexology
• Homeopathy
• Nutritional therapy
• Yoga
• Counselling
• Hypnotherapy

See Complementary Therapies for more information.

*According to an ICM Online Omnibus Survey conducted for Lumie of 2,000 people in the UK.