It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘SAD’ Category

Drip.

We are having a cool wet spring. It has been 12 days since the last smidgen of sunlight.

I have lost any vestige of ability to be productive unless every possible light is on and the music is up slightly too loud. It’s a real challenge.

I have a friend in San Francisco. She gets a lot of grey weather too. We’re complaining-buddies. SAD buddies. When it’s grey for too long our will to live slowly drips out the bottoms of our feet, a little with each rain drip. Erm, drop. Possibly that’s a little melodramatic. It’s that sort of day. Drama produces it’s own energy.

Full spectrum lights help. If your vitamin D levels are low, certainly fix that immediately. But some people just don’t do as well.

I found this article. I think it’s hilarious.

People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal.

Unhelpful. Yes, a bit.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon, said: “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons.

“The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin.

“Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

So not only does my body hoard calories, apparently we’re also socking away seratonin for…obviously not rainy days. What are we storing it for I wonder?

Sunshine is due to resume briefly on Sunday. I hope.

 

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When food can’t be trusted

With a title like that, the first thought might be dieting and weight loss. I’ve certainly felt like that many, many, oh so very many times in my life. But this is worse than that.

Let’s talk about food allergies.

Food allergies are exhausting.

Have you ever gone to a scrumptious buffet, and left hungry, not because of any will power or intentional self sacrifice, but because there was nothing you could safely eat?

How long does it take you to figure out a restaurant to stop at after a busy day?

Once upon a time, when I was young and callous, I knew a woman who ‘claimed’ to have food allergies, and she was allergic to a great many basic staples. And I thought she was making it up. Or at least fussing over No Big Deal. We took to calling her “one of those people who doesn’t eat food.”

And now, of course, I am one of those people, and I want to go back and give my young self a talking too. She didn’t mean to be unkind, exactly, but it was so far outside her experience that it didn’t seem real.

Perhaps you are one of those people. If you are, please give me a minute to explain.

Have you ever traveled to a place where it wasn’t safe to drink the water? And you not only had to find bottled water everywhere, you had to remember to always have a bottle in your hotel room so you could brush your teeth? And you had to remember to only eat vegetables that had a peel, because greens and things like that are washed in the local unsafe water?

It’s a little like that.

Any time you eat out, especially at a new place, it’s like spinning a roulette wheel. Especially when your allergy is something ubiquitous like gluten, or something deadly, like shellfish or peanuts. You can order carefully. You can tell the server to ask the kitchen. You can hope that the server will actually ask, and the kitchen will both know and answer honestly. And it’s still giving the wheel a big old spin.

The more allergies you have, the likelier you are to have a problem with something.

I have a lot. My options are limited. I have a very short list of local restaurants that I’ve vetted, taking the risk of feeling awful for a full week to see if it’s safe. My poor husband supports me in my quest for safe food, but I know he loves business trips where he can just go eat without having to study the menu, call the manager, and pray.

I usually just eat at home from my short list of reliable, sensible food. Which means an awful lot of cooking from scratch. No convenience foods.

I’m a better than average cook, but there are so many times when I really, really can’t face my own cooking, but there aren’t really any better options either.

I suppose this can be classed as a first world problem. Much like dieting, it’s about being faced with food you can’t eat, instead of the much harsher problem of there being actually no food. I’m not confused about that.

But since we (I at least) live in first world environments with computers and internet and ridiculous amounts of food, it’s a very real problem.

It makes me tired.

What if depression isn’t in your head?

This morning I came across a fascinating article from The Guardian discussing a new theory about depression. What if depression is a side effect of inflammation?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

There are a number of experiences in my own life that make me really, really want to see more research on this possibility.

In my early 20’s I had a horribly stressful job with a crazy boss. I spent several years on anti-depressants.

I have always had a tendency towards depression. At some level, I was able to manage this without additional medication by watching my diet and supplementing regularly with Vit B6 and Vit D both of which are known for an anti-inflammatory effect.

Everything got much, much better once I got my thyroid properly treated, and inflammation is both a cause and an affect of low thyroid.

Food allergies and possibly one of the biggest and most misunderstood and undertreated causes of inflammation in my opinion. I only have to go a little overboard on dairy to start sniffling and wheezing again, and asthma is a leukotrine inflammation response, among other things.

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky gave an amazing lecture on depression which is available on YouTube in which he discusses a lot of diseases that cause or are associated with depression. A quick review shows that many of those conditions are also associated with inflammation.

Obviously it’s too soon to say anything for certain, but I can say that this one rat is going to spend the rest of the dreary dark season experimenting with increased use of turmeric and staying carefully on top of my vitamins.

 

That special something.

I have described myself as solar powered. I mean that. When the sun shines I have a ton of energy, I’m optimistic, and I’m usually happy. It’s very consistent, like I’m a junky or something.

When you hear about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the literature, everyone starts with ‘keep your vitamin D levels up’. Which I definitely do. Good quality, well researched supplement, taken with food and plenty of magnesium. I’m sure it makes a difference. At this point, it’s really a habit for me.

The next thing to come up is the light levels, and the recommendation is for a light box or some good natural light lightbulbs. Which I have. In every room I spend time in. Several hundred watts worth. I also have an Ott light, originally purchased for beading, which requires careful color matching and good directed bright light. And I spend quality time with that.

And still.

My batteries are so low.

A few days ago we had some nice bright sun, but it was so cold. I got some nice sunlight through the window in the one room in my house where the light actually comes in directly, but that’s a really limited time. Too cold to sit out side for long. And yet even with that, I felt so much more energized and relaxed.

So, if it isn’t just the vitamin D and it isn’t just the light levels, what else is it that I’m missing? I’ve done some searching, but nothing else really comes up. I know some people do well with tanning, but frankly I’ve always been concerned that I wouldn’t fit, and/or that I would burn, which I do fairly easily.

What ever it is, I need it. I miss the sunshine so much I can hardly stand it.

Do you remember those old Mervyns commercials where a slightly crazed woman waiting for their sale would stand at the door with her hands clawed tapping at the windows chanting ‘open open open’? That’s how I feel about sunshine right now.

Back to conditioning again.

Last spring I asked this question:

My question is, why are we always so inclined to believe that we are at fault? That we aren’t trying hard enough, doing enough, believing enough. Why are we so mean to ourselves and always inclined to believe we’re slackers first, and fight back later, if ever? How did we get conditioned to behave this way.

It seems that I am here asking it again.

I haven’t been making the progress in my life, particularly in my business, that I’d like. I have house projects I’d like to be getting on top of, I have business ideas that I want to put out there and see what they can be, I still haven’t built as much of a social circle as I’d like. I haven’t really had the energy for it.

I’ve been trying very hard not to beat myself up about it. I’ve been doing what I feel that I can, not missing networking events, setting a certain lists of tasks to be done each day or week. I usually manage something I can live with. But there has been a lingering sense of disappointment in myself that I’m not as excited and busy as I think I could be.

Which brings me back to the question, why is my first thought that I’m a slacker, rather than any of the many other possibilities? Why am I willing to believe that I’m a slacker, when it’s patently obvious in many aspects of my life that I am NOT?

I got more test results from my latest doctor. The one I really like.

My vitamin D levels are low. Not dangerously so, but low vitamin D is definitely associated with both depression and inflammatory conditions.

My testosterone levels, as I already reported, were so low as to come in at <3, when 8 is the lowest the scale goes. Testosterone in women “…gives us motivation, assertiveness, a sense of power, feeling of well being and enhanced sex drive.”

The other one I just got back is DHEA. Which is 6.6 where 340 is the ideal range. Basically, another non-existent hormone. DHEA is another adrenal hormone which “…provides vitality and energy, sharpens the mind, and helps maintain normal sleep patterns.”

And this is all on top of the underactive thyroid, which is now being treated.

Why is it that I never had any of these tests before? Oh, because they test your TSH, decide that it is ‘normal’ and then decide you are either depressed or eating badly. I’m pretty sure it’s only my endless searching for the ‘right’ doctor has kept me off anti-depressants. As I suspected, it isn’t my brain that has the problem!

So the next time I have a stray thought about things I think I should be getting done (have I written about should-ing? I really…must) I’m going to try to stop and remind myself that, really, given the state of my hormones, it’s a miracle that I’m getting anything done at all.

Which brings me back to my original question. Why is it that the first thought is that I’m not up to snuff. Who taught me that? Why is that the default?

What is your default statement? Is it positive or negative? If it’s negative, are you working to overwrite it?

Let’s talk D.

Vitamin D that is.

When I was a kid, we learned that Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Now we know that just about every type of tissue in your body has receptors for Vitamin D. Which isn’t so much a vitamin as a hormone with many, many jobs.

Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Because of its vast array of benefits, maintaining optimal levels of D is essential for your health

Vitamin D is so important to our bodies that Mother Nature figured out how we could make our own while we were going about our daily business of hunting and gathering. Under ideal conditions the human body can make 20,000 IU in just 30 minutes! (Valid for Caucasians, differing pigment levels change that time requirement.) With that kind of potential I’m not sure what made researchers set the RDA at a measly 600 IU, but more recent research sets the minimum guidelines at somewhere between 2000 and 8000 per day.

How much exactly you need depends. Your age, your weight, your skin pigmentation, and your personal biochemistry will all effect what you require. If you are older, your kidneys may not convert D as well as they used to. If you are overweight, your body will shuttle D to your fat cells for storage, so it can be hard to keep up with an efficient storage system.

Personally, I’m all for making it naturally, but in our modern world it’s more complicated than you’d think. For one thing, it’s currently frowned upon to run around naked. Vitamin D production requires sun on bare skin. It also matters a lot where you live. There are some complicated factors that basically say if you live north of DC then you can’t possibly get the right kind of sun for Vit. D production from September to March. You also don’t make D if you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen.

Now I’m very fair skinned. My mother and some of her sisters are natural red heads. I used to burn almost instantly. That changed when my nutrition got better. I’m not sure what caused the shift but I can now be in the sun a reasonable amount of time without burning to a crisp. I used to never leave the house without sunscreen and a hat. Ok, I still keep my silly sun hat in the car so I don’t get caught without. The point is, for years I never went out bare skinned into the sun.

These days, whenever there *is* sun around here, I throw caution to the wind and get naked (ok, take off my shirt and hike up my skirt) outdoors (behind my 8 foot privacy fence) to get the maximum skin exposure I possibly can.

See, I got a call from my doctors office and despite having taken 5k IU of good Vitamin D3 with food most of the winter, my D3 levels are STILL low. So I’ve upped my supplement levels per her instructions and have put ‘getting sun when there is sun’ at the very top of my to-do list.

That impacts my schedule a lot less than you’d think. The number of rainy, hazy, or overcast days here is depressing. (Ha ha, that isn’t just a vitamin D joke).

Have you had your vitamin D levels checked? We’re so worried about the possibility of skin cancer we’re neglecting all the amazing things the vitamin D is supposed to be getting done.

As always, look for a balance.

Happiness is.

I’ve always been a pretty happy person. Smile is my default expression. I like to appreciate the little things, like a sunny day or a silly cat. I like to be silly with my friends, and especially with my husband.

Then for a very long time, that wasn’t…quite me. Smile wasn’t always the default, I had to remember. My default emotion was ‘meh’. Not happy, not sad. And then for a while when life got really crazy, not horribly depressed was  the best I could do. In the last 6 months I’ve been working very hard to get away from depressed back up to ‘meh’. Something neutral where at least I could get things done and plan and look forward. I tried a lot of supplements and various dietary things, green juice, adjusted my otc hormone supplements a little, and I thought I was doing pretty good and would be ok once winter was finally done.

Then this morning I woke up…happy. Cheerful. Ready to be silly with my husband, bouncing on the bed, or maybe even tickling!!!

And then I realized that I was me again.

And I was horrified to realize how far from ‘me’ I’d been, and  for how very, very long. But then I went back to being happy, just because horrified couldn’t hold my attention because happy just felt so wonderful.

How did this happen? I don’t know.

It could be some recent diet changes I made, that will be the subject of my next blog.

It could be because the days are finally longer and it’s been sunny and spring is really and truly finally here.

It could be because along with T3 Armor thyroid provides T2 and T1 and they hardly even know the functions of those 2 hormones, but I found some vague references that T1 controls some brain functions and T2 controls your energy levels. And maybe my levels of those have been horrifically low, only we can’t say for certain because they don’t even test for them.

I have no idea which thing it might be, or if it is the combination of all of them. I’ll take it, whatever the trigger.

If I feel this much better now, I can’t wait to see what happens when I pick up my testosterone script tomorrow.

I’m just so very, very glad that once more happiness is.

It doesn’t really have to do anything for me right now. Just be there.