SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder - How Chinese Medicine can help *
The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine is a classical text from over 5000 years ago, it states, “People and nature are inseparable. In nature the cyclical movement of the heavenly bodies produces atmospheric influences that exert control over the rhythms of the seasons and is responsible for change to the myriad living and nonliving things…warmth of the spring gives rise to birth, the fire of the summer fuels rapid growth and development, the coolness of autumn matures all and provides harvest, and the coldness of winter forces inactivity and storing”.
This is so accurate. Suffering from SAD is SO SO SO common and Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and herbs, can balance out your body. As fall turns into winter, many people are prone to a mild state of depression which then lifts in the springtime when the weather is warming and it is become a more uplifting environment. Along with a depressed mood, one can experience irritability, headaches, extreme fatigue and lethargy, increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, an inability to concentrate, and decreased libido. These symptoms form a condition commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder affects over ten million people in the United States each year, two-thirds of which are female. While the true cause is not known according to western medicine, it is thought that decreased melatonin levels arising from the limited exposure to sunlight in the winter are involved. Other factors that may contribute to SAD include genetics, hormones, and stress.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, everything has a yin and yang aspect: opposing forces that also complement one another and form part of a greater whole. Yang is positive in sign and relates to masculinity, activity, warmth, and brightness. It also refers to qualities such as increasing, lifting and dispersing. Yin on the other hand, is negative in sign and relates to femininity, nourishment, passiveness, cold, and darkness. Yin also refers to the decreasing, descending and contracting aspects of nature.
In terms of the seasons, the start of the yin cycle begins in autumn when the amount of daylight gradually decreases, and continues until the spring equinox when the days and nights are of the same duration. Since the autumn months mark the beginning of the yin cycle, there is a tendency towards isolation, sadness, and grieving. For those people whose constitution (due to gender, genetics, environment, and lifestyle) is more yin in nature, these feelings may be even more heightened. Hormonal changes in both men and women can influence mood. Based on TCM, the winter months are associated with the Kidney system, the root of our vital Qi (energy). It is natural to crave those foods that provide a quick source of energy and that are high in calories since extra energy can be stored as fat in the body to help keep the body warm. Since our body must already use a lot of energy in the winter to fend off the wind and cold, it is also natural to feel more lethargic and emotionally and physically sensitive to our surroundings at this time. Undue physical, mental, or emotional stress, a lack of sleep, and poor nutrition will only deplete the body’s energy further and increase the chances of experiencing not only depressed mood, but depressed immunity.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapies
Acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina (Chinese massage therapy), exercise (tai chi and qigong), and diet therapy to regulate energy flow and restore balance in the body. In TCM, energetic imbalances are closely associated with chemical, mental, emotional, and physical disturbances within the body. While research in TCM continues to grow exponentially, acupuncture itself, has been accepted by the World Health Organization as a useful therapy for many conditions. Although it is already well known for its effects on pain control, acupuncture is also helpful in treating several neurological, immunological, and hormonal disorders and preliminary studies have given promising results for its treatment of depression. From a western medical perspective, these studies have shown that acupuncture releases serotonin and noradrenaline-norepinephrine, common stimulants used in the treatment of depressive disorders. The benefit of this is that acupuncture carries no extra side effects.
From a TCM perspective, the body must be viewed as a whole that is part of a greater whole. Each person is unique and therefore, specific signs and symptoms relating to a person’s physical, mental and emotional state as well as their lifestyle, diet, and environment must be taken into account. Since the diagnosis and treatment are holistic in nature, it is possible to discover the underlying cause as well as any contributing factors of the condition. For a condition such as seasonal affective disorder, Traditional Chinese medicine considers it essential to look at the whole body and its surrounding environment and treat according to the particular pattern (excess/deficient, hot/cold, wet/dry, etc.) associated with the disorder. An imbalance of either yin or yang qualities eventually leads to illness and must therefore be treated accordingly so that the body’s homeostatic ability to heal itself on many levels.
To manage your symptoms at home:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy foods.
- Take vitamins the right way. Ask your health care provider how to manage side effects.
- Try to exercise more often.
- Do activities that make you happy.
- Use a SAD Light Therapy Lamp.
* Do not use alcohol and illegal drugs. These can make depression worse.
If this affects you please come see me and let's rebalance your yin and yang ~