Healthy Beginnings

Mood helpers for winter: Solutions to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Beeswax candle gazing can be an effective way to add more light to your life.

SAD syndrome — known as Seasonal Affective Disorder — is when we lose the light in winter and people experience an increased incidence of depression. There are a number of helpers to relieve this common problem.

Vitamin D has shown positive benefits against the SAD syndrome, according to the 2011 edition of “Nutritional Medicine,” a textbook by Dr. Alan Gaby.

We generally like to add K2 to D3, 5,000 iu per day. Some authors recommend taking it before bed to help sleep. Tryptophan 1,000 mg three times per day is also effective, according to Gaby’s research.

Adding tyrosine and cysteine to this therapy is even more helpful. Tryptophan increases the amount of serotonin produced in the brain and works like SSRI antidepressant drugs, but without the side effects.

Melatonin, the pineal hormone, also has scientific support for improving seasonal depression, according to “Nutritional Medicine.”

The doses used for the study were quite small. Taking 3mg to 5mg of melatonin tablets or 60mg to 180mg of the powder in capsules one to several hours before bed is usually very helpful.

Light box therapy has also been used. I like beeswax candle gazing, as described below, to add extra light.


Don’t forget thyroid, adrenal and progesterone support

Light stimulates the pituitary gland in the head, our master gland. All our hormones retreat in the winter when the light is diminished.

Thus, adding or increasing thyroid hormone support in the winter may be helpful, as is more adrenal support with increasing the amounts of Vitamin C, B complex, B5, (pantothenic acid), DHEA and adrenal glandular capsules.

We also increase cortisol support when needed and provide our old standby adrenal complex injections with B12 and folic acid used since the 1950s. Progesterone is a mother hormone for the adrenal gland and improves stress tolerance, calmness and sleep.


Stay on your good diet

If your mood is off, please don’t aggravate the situation by eating everything Grandma puts in front of you. Candy, cakes, pies, soda, lots of bread, too much alcohol and foods that you know are allergic for you may seriously aggravate a funky mood by killing your blood sugar levels.

Some comfort food can make you uncomfortable. Take your magnesium and sleeping amino acids with you when you travel. Insomnia can make everything worse.


Candle meditation

With the seasons changing and our sun exposure decreasing, it is a great time to learn an old Indian tradition that has been used by yogis for over 10,000 years to fill us with light and keep our moods strong.

It is called Tratak and involves candle gazing to stimulate our sixth chakra, or brow chakra, according to the 1974 book, “Dhanwantari; how ancient teachings can give you a healthier, happier, more joyous life,” by Harish Johari.

Chakras are energy areas in the body identified by yogis millennia ago. In our modern translation of these energy areas, the sixth chakra corresponds to the pineal gland in the middle of the head.

The pineal gland, the third eye, is sensitive to light and regulates all our hormones by releasing melatonin at night, which turns down our hormones to let us sleep. It also gives us serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical, when exposed to light.


Beeswax candles

Beeswax candles have a similar light spectrum to sunlight, making them ideal for Tratak. Most candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, whose light spectrum is red colored and not for gazing.

Morning is the best time for the mood-enhancing effect of Tratak. It is good to first do your morning cleansing (BM) and wear some loose clothing before sitting down.

The candle should be placed one outstretched handbreadth in front of your eyes. Smiling is good, allowing you to imagine the light filling your heart.

Gaze at the candle with little or no blinking for five minutes or until you tear, and then close your eyes, meditating on the afterimage of the flame for another five minutes.

Look at something green, like a plant or grass, afterward. When the eyes are open, serotonin — the happy brain chemical — is stimulated; when the eyes are closed, melatonin is secreted, creating more calming.

Imagining inspirational images and thoughts, saying prayers or mantra can also enhance the experience.

Michael Gerber, M.D., H.M.D. is a Practitioner of Homeopathic Medicine at Gerber Medical Group in Reno. Visit or call 775-826-1900 to learn more.