HOW TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES
I see a lot of people for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in my practice. Acupuncture is beneficial to improve mood and increase energy. The key is to start treatments early — come once a week beginning in the fall. Acupuncture stimulates endorphins, which give us happy feelings. One reason we suffer from SAD is that the pineal glands respond to light. When light is low, the pineal glands secrete less serotonin, so you get drowsy in the winter. Acupuncture and herbs helps to regulate the serotonin level.
If a person can structure his or her life to take a vacation in the winter months and stay home in the summers, that makes sense. If not, a lot of people buy full spectrum light baths. You can even buy full spectrum light bulbs and put them in lamps where you sit and read or where you spend a lot of time. And you can buy full spectrum fluorescent tubes. Some people get permission to put them in their office, or they bring in their own lamp. If you can, sit close to a window to be exposed to daylight.
BODY IN BALANCE
Because we are indoors so much in the winter we tend to be less active. Root vegetables are winter foods, but some can cause weight gain. Try celeriac (a kind of celery grown as a root vegetable). Squashes are good for the prevention of cancer and help with hypertension. Chayote is good — you can get it at Spanish and Indian markets. As far as grains, try not to eat too much rice. Instead, eat low-carb grains. Quinoa is a high protein grain rich in iron, B6 and amino acids. Barley helps flush excess water out of the system. It can be used in cereal. Millet helps balance blood sugar levels. Seaweeds are high in trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium. If you’re trying to lose weight, soak them to eliminate salt content. Eat Seaweeds in soups like miso.
People get too complicated with weight loss. Keep it simple. Eat modestly. By age 30, our metabolism starts slowing down and we have to be mindful of how we feed our bodies. We eat because of stress and as a form of entertainment. But as adults, food intake should be adequate to our daily activities. Continue exercising. I promote bicycling, because it’s a low impact sport.
Swimming is another option, but stick to twice a week if you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool to limit exposure to chlorine. If you’re overweight and a brisk walk gets your heart rate up, then walking will help. Vitamin D may be of help if the weight gain results from seasonal mood change.
TO AVOID COLD AND FLU SEASON
To avoid cold and flu season, keep your stress low, take a good multi-vitamin, get enough exercise and enough sleep. Socializing is important too. Another thing that really helps is the Neti pot: it can prevent congestion and head colds. If you already feel the symptoms coming on, put yourself on immune boosting herbs. There are many: Echinacea, golden seal, elderberry.
Drink lots of teas. Fresh ginger is wonderful – put six slices of raw ginger root in a pot and boil it for a long time so the properties are released. Drink astragalus tea on a regular basis throughout the winter for a big boost. Fresh garlic is one of the best medicines in the world. If your stomach can handle it – and your husband/wife or family can handle it – eat a fresh clove every day. At least eat a clove a day at the first sign you're getting sick. Make a soup. There is no exact science for the recipe, but combine chicken or vegetable broth with fresh chopped garlic, sliced ginger root, green onion, lemon juice and some Cayenne pepper. You can drink it as a broth or throw in additional greens and chicken.