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Winter, Your Mood and the Clock

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The transition from daylight savings time (summer) to standard time (winter) has recently been associated with an increase in depression.[1] We are entering a period where we are losing the long summer days of sunlight. Until winter solstice, the light will wane. A literature review strongly suggests that waning light availability causes fluctuations in brain serotonin levels, which has been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or what we commonly call winter blues. In fact, bright light therapy is the least invasive and one of the most researched treatments for SAD. It can induce remission in patients with winter depression.[2]

A further look at the literature shows that rapid tryptophan depletion in the diet can reverse the antidepressant effect of bright light therapy in patients with SAD.[3] Tryptophan depletion studies are a mechanism by which a researcher can lower serotonin content in the brain to study its effects. This underscores the idea that the therapeutic effect of bright light in SAD likely involves serotonin. Light is known to maintain higher serotonin levels, but we are losing the optimal amount of light with the time change looming. Why not approach setting back our clocks by heading off moodiness with a 5-HTP supplement? We can build “inner sunshine” by increasing our serotonin with 5-HTP!

[1] Hansen BTSønderskov KMHageman I, et al. (2016). Daylight savings time transitions and the incidence rate of unipolar depressive episodes. Epidemiology. Oct 20. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1097/EDE.0000000000000580

[2] Neumeister A, Praschak-Rieder N, Besselmann B, et al. (1997). Effects of tryptophan depletion on drug-free patients with seasonal affective disorder during a stable response to bright light therapy. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Feb;54(2):133-8.

[3] Lam RW, Zis AP, Grewal A, et al. (1996). Effects of rapid tryptophan depletion in patients with seasonal affective disorder in remission after light therapy. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996 Jan;53(1):41-4.

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard graduated with honors from the University of California with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She also holds a Standard Designated Teaching Credential from the State of California, is a California state-certified Nutrition Consultant and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Ramona has participated in nutrition education in both public and private venues, including high school and college presentations, radio and public speaking for the past 20 years. She is the owner of Radiance, a nutrition consulting company, the Director of Education for Sanesco International, and a medical technical writer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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