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Gesundheit! Seasonal Allergies and Asthma: Histamine Part 2

Allergies Asthma Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Gesundheit! Seasonal Allergies and Asthma: Histamine Part 2

 

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

 

With spring (hopefully) around the corner, warmer weather is a cause for celebration. However, for the 20-25% of Canadians suffering from seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (aka seasonal allergies) the thought of going outside in the spring, summer, and fall months causes significant stress. Sniffling, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, and rashes are all common symptoms of seasonal allergies. In order to feel better, allergy sufferers typically reach for diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl) and other over the counter antihistamines like Claritin, Aerius, Allegra, etc. Benadryl acts on H1 (histamine) receptors and can reduce sneezing, itchy eyes, and itchy runny nose(1). While antihistamines directly blunt the effects of histamine in the body, they do not stop mast cells from releasing histamine (1). Thus, both Benadryl and the newer class of antihistamines have little effect on nasal congestion, and cause significant drowsiness(1). Antihistamines can be effective in the short term, but it is possible to build a tolerance to them, which is why many doctors recommend that patients cycle between different brands. Another option for allergy sufferers is to get “allergy shots”; subcutaneous injections of allergens in increasing amounts over a period of months to years. These shots are given to discourage the immune system from activating mast cells, and an ensuing allergic response, by producing different antibodies.

 

So, what can be done if you either do not want to take antihistamine medications and “allergy shots”, or find that these therapies do little to quell your sniffles?

To understand what your body needs to deter an allergic response, first you need to take a look at the cascade of reactions that cause it. When an allergen is inhaled, your body relies on IgE antibodies to capture them and signal mast cells or basophils to release histamine and other inflammatory intermediates. These other inflammatory intermediates include free radicals and are therefore susceptible to being quenched by antioxidants. A “mediterranean” diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats (fish, chicken), nuts, seeds, and low in refined carbohydrates, has been associated with lower rates of childhood asthma and allergy (2,4). In a 2005 study, Mao et al. demonstrated that daily consumption of a spirulina supplement reduced inflammatory intermediates in allergic rhinitis patients by as much as 32% (3). Quercetin is an antioxidant found in onions, broccoli, asparagus, green peppers, tomatoes, red leaf lettuce, black & oolong teas, grapes, apples, berries, and wine (5). Known for scavenging free radicals during an allergic reaction, quercetin also: promotes a healthy immune response, has antiviral activity, and stops histamine release from mast cells (5). In 2004, a 21 day study conducted by Takano et al. established that the use of rosemary extract in patients with mild seasonal allergies improved symptoms of itchy nose, and itchy watery eyes(6).

 

In my last blog post about Histamine Intolerance (HIT), I discussed some of the health consequences and what you can do to help your body with an increased histamine burden. Histamine release is increased by your body when you are dehydrated, hypoglycemic, and stressed. So to properly manage your response to seasonal allergens this spring, make sure to stay hydrated. If you rely on sugary snacks and coffee to get you through your day, then you may notice blood sugar crashes make you groggy. Blood sugar crashes can worsen your response to histamine release, so pair your snacks and meals with a handful of nuts, some avocado, or a serving of protein to promote stable blood sugar. Finally, if you are having trouble managing the stressful factors in your life, consider seeing a Naturopathic Doctor. NDs have an excellent knack for stress management and can get you back on the right track. Gesundheit.

 

References:

 

  1. Guilliams TG. “Allergies: the natural approach.” The Standard. May 1998; 1(2): 1-8.
  2. Ulugbek Nurmatov, Graham Devereux, Aziz Sheikh. “Nutrients and foods for the primary prevention of asthma and allergy: systematic review and meta-analysis”. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. March 2011; 127(3): 724-733.
  3. T.K. Mao, J. Van de Water, and M.E. Gershwin. “Effects of a spirulina based dietary supplement on cytokine production from allergic rhinitis patients.” Journal of Medicinal Food. April 2005; 8(1): 27-30.
  4. Chatzi L, Apostolaki G, Bibakis I, et al. “Protective effect of fruits, vegetables and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete.” Thorax 2007; 62:677-683.
  5. Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. “Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response.” Molecules 2016; 21(5): 623-638.
  6. Takano H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, Yanagisawa R, Inoue K, Yasuda A, Natsume M, Baba S, Ichiishi E, Yoshikawa T. “Extract of perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans.” Society for experimental biology and medicine. March 2004; 229(3).

 

Histamine Intolerance: More Than Just Seasonal Allergies

histamine intolerance Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic medicine Ottawa

Histamine Intolerance: More Than Just Seasonal Allergies

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

 

Histamine is an important inflammatory molecule used by your immune system. Seasonal allergies and asthma are both affected by histamine release in your body, but did you know that gut issues and pain are also affected? In a healthy gut, histamine is produced in large amounts, but your gut cells also do a great job of producing diamine oxidase (DAO) to breakdown histamine. If your gut is inflamed from a chronic digestive issue, your gut cells–called enterocytes–have a limited ability to produce DAO. When the production of histamine outpaces your body’s ability to break it down, histamine can spread from the gut to other parts of your body. Flushing, headaches, rashes, diarrhea and abdominal pain can all result from an imbalance in the breakdown of histamine; this is called histamine intolerance (HIT). HIT has been implicated in anxiety, depression, chronic pain, estrogen dominance, interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infections, IBS, and IBD. Certain medications can also affect HIT.

Children with a history of chronic abdominal pain may benefit from a diet low in the amino acid histidine, and foods that free histamine in your body. Histidine is converted to histamine through a series of steps in your gut. Aged cheeses, red wine, yeast products, and cured meats have all been identified as ‘histamine-rich’ foods; those that can add more histamine to your system. Citrus fruits, while not histamine-rich, have been implicated as a histamine liberator. If DAO is not being produced in sufficient quantities, both histamine-rich foods and histamine liberators can worsen HIT.

Your doctor may be able to test for blood levels of DAO, but unfortunately low DAO blood levels are not always a reliable way to predict HIT. If avoidance of histamine-rich foods improves your symptoms, chances are good that HIT is the culprit. Working with your doctor to strengthen your digestion, immunity, and response to stressors is what will ultimately provide meaningful change in HIT.

 

Osteoarthritis: How to manage your pain and have a better quality of life

osteoarthritis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Osteoarthritis: How to manage your pain and have a better quality of life

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

 

An estimated 10% of Canadians over the age of 15 live with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis [OA] (1). 70% of these Canadians experience the majority of their arthritic symptoms in their hips and knees (1). Unfortunately, among Canadians with a diagnosis of arthritis, the average time between onset of their symptoms and an accurate diagnosis can be up to 7.7 years (1). This period of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis of the disease could be spent making dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce pain and improve quality of life. By 2036 an estimated 7.5 million Canadian adults will have a diagnosis of OA.

 

So what are the symptoms of OA? Increased stress and aging of our joints leads to breakdown of joint tissue known as cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones of our joints, and without it bones begin to rub against each other. When cartilage is sufficiently worn down, joints are left with bone-on-bone contact; limiting range of motion. As a result, people with OA experience pain, stiffness, and swelling in their affected joints (2).

 

Lifestyle treatments for OA aim to reduce further injury, relieve pain, and improve joint function. Some of these treatments are as simple as self-management; avoiding repetitive stress on the affected joints. For example, musicians and dancers place repetitive stress on their joints, and they may be at higher risk of developing OA. Obese Canadians are also at risk for OA, and adhering to a lifestyle plan of healthy eating and weight management will help to reduce the pain and damage of OA. Deep breathing and massage therapy can help to relax tense muscles around an inflamed and stiff joint (2). In some cases, joint replacement surgery is required to limit the damage of OA and provide a better quality of life.

 

So how can naturopathic medicine help with the prognosis of OA?

 

Naturopathic doctors are able to provide acupuncture, which has been shown to help with the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion observed in OA.

 

Curcumin, a strong anti-inflammatory component of the spice turmeric, may help to reduce the pain and stiffness of OA (3,4). Curcumin has also been shown to be an effective remedy to alleviate symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis.

 

Fish oil also has great evidence for use as a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in OA (5).

 

Certain people also benefit from a hypoallergenic diet; cutting out potentially aggravating foods that may be contributing to pain and dysfunction.

 

Finally, for topical pain relief, boswellia serrata AKA frankincense oil mixed with your favourite carrier oil (think sweet almond, olive, coconut, etc) and applied to your affected joints daily may help reduce inflammation and pain (6). In one study of 30 patients with OA of the knee, 8 weeks of boswellia extract significantly improved knee pain, swelling, range of motion, and walking distance compared to placebo (7).

 

If you are interested in learning more about how naturopathic medicine can benefit your arthritis, please book a visit with your local naturopathic doctor.

 

References:

 

  1. MacDonald KV, et al. Symptom onset, diagnosis and management of osteoarthritis. Stats Can Sept 2014.
  2. https://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/osteoarthritis accessed Sept 5, 2017.
  3. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010:15(4):337-344.
  4. Nakagawa Y, Mukai S, Yamada S, et al. Short-term effects of highly bioavailable curcumin for treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective study. J Orthop Sci. 2014;19(6):933-939.
  5. Chen Y, Huang YC, Lu WW. Low-dose versus high-dose fish oil for pain reduction and function improvement in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2016;75(1):e7.
  6. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R: Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee—a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2003, 10:3–7.
  7. Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, Khiyani R. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis on knee-a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:3–7.

NAC: A Helpful Nutrient for Smoking Cessation, COPD, PCOS, Addiction, and Obsessive Rituals

N-acetylcysteine Addiction Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

 

N-Acetylcysteine: A Helpful Nutrient for Smoking Cessation, COPD, PCOS, Addiction, and Obsessive Rituals

 

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

 

Cysteine is a sulfurous amino acid found in garlic, broccoli, brussel sprouts, oats, lentils, eggs and meat. Interestingly, sheep require cysteine in order to produce larger quantities of wool. Just like sheep, humans need dietary sources of cysteine because we can’t make it on our own. Cysteine can combine with glycine and glutamate to form glutathione (GSH); one of your body’s key antioxidants. GSH is synthesized in the lungs, and by its main reservoir, in the liver.1 Damage from free radicals, peroxides, and heavy metals is severely limited by adequate levels of GSH.

 

If these benefits sound appealing, and you’re about to reach for that bottle of reduced GSH, don’t bother. Oral GSH use does not raise the levels of GSH in your bloodstream.2 Instead, SAMe, Vitamin D3, and NAC are nutrients that have been shown to increase levels of GSH in the human body.3,4 This article will focus on NAC’s long use as a safe adjunct to treatments, and as a therapy on its own.

 

NAC, or N-acetylcysteine, is a dietary supplement that was originally created to combat liver toxicity from tylenol/acetaminophen overdose; the most common cause of poisoning worldwide.5 Currently, there is a growing body of evidence favouring the use of NAC as an adjunctive therapy for various addictions, mental illnesses, hormonal & metabolic problems, and cancer-related conditions.6,7

 

In 2002, 37 women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance were treated for 6 weeks with 1800-3000 mg/day of NAC. Researchers noted that women treated with NAC had increased insulin sensitivity compared to controls 8 ; their bodily tissues more readily responded to insulin and pulled sugars out of their bloodstream. In addition, NAC induced a significant reduction in testosterone levels. High levels of testosterone are implicated in the worsening of PCOS symptoms.  

 

NAC restores glutamate concentrations which then stimulates group II mGluR receptors. Glutamate transmission is inhibited and reduces the perceived reward of nicotine.9 In a 2011 3.5 day-long double-blind pilot study, smokers were given 3600 mg/day of NAC or placebo.The group smoked an average of 17.5 cigarettes per day, but they refrained from smoking during the study. When participants were given a cigarette after the trial concluded, those that received NAC reported less satisfaction from smoking that cigarette than individuals in the placebo group.9 Moreover, the NAC group reported less withdrawal symptoms than the placebo group.9 It is important to consider that no addiction therapy is truly successful in the long-term without the help of counselling. Cigarette cravings were not reduced in the NAC group compared to placebo.

 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common complication from a history of tobacco use. COPD patients given 600-1800 mg/day of NAC for 2 months had improved red blood cell function, and decreased peroxide levels by up to 54%.1 Mucus hypersecretion in the lungs by elastase activity, and severity of cough also decreased. NAC is also a strong mucolytic, meaning it can break down the chemical bonds in mucus, and allow it to be excreted more easily. The mucolytic activity of NAC makes it a promising nutrient in other respiratory concerns like cystic fibrosis, asthma, sinusitis, and seasonal allergies. To cap things off, NAC can protect DNA in the respiratory and digestive tracts from damage; DNA damage is one of the first steps in carcinogenesis.7

 

NAC has also demonstrated promising outcomes in cocaine addiction, and bipolar disorder when combined with counselling and medication.6 After 8 weeks of 1800 mg/day of NAC, 16 of 29 pathological gamblers experienced significant reductions in gambling behaviour.6  Since Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) shares similarities with addiction in terms of brain region activity, NAC may benefit obsessive rituals. Only one case report exists of NAC use in OCD. The patient initially only partially responded to antidepressant medication. With the addition of 3000 mg/day of NAC for 13 weeks, the patient showed improvements in control of compulsive washing and obsessional triggers.6  Trichotillomania (TTM), a grooming disorder where patients obsessively remove body hair, may also benefit from NAC supplementation. 45 women and 5 men with TTM were given 1200 mg/day of NAC, or placebo, for 6 weeks. In the second 6 week period, the dosage was increased to 2400 mg/day of NAC. The participants also received psychotherapy and were medicated. At week 9, and until the end of the study, symptoms of TTM decreased in the NAC group compared to placebo.6

 

NAC is a nutrient with a long history of safety and efficacy. For more information on the benefits of NAC, and to find out if it is right for you, consult your Naturopathic Doctor.

 

References:

  1. Dekhuijzen PNR. Antioxidant properties of n-acetylcysteine: their relevance in relation to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Eur Respir J 2004; 23: 629-636.
  2. Allen J, Bradley RD. Effects of oral glutathione supplementation on systemic oxidative stress biomarkers in human volunteers. J Altern Complement Med 2011; 17(9): 827-833.
  3. Garcion E, et al. New clues about vitamin D functions in the nervous system. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 2002; 13(3): 100-105.
  4. Lieber CS. S-adenosyl-L-methionine: its role in the treatment of liver disorders. The Amer J Clin Nutr 2002; 76(5): 1183-1187.
  5. Gunnell D, et al. Use of paracetamol (acetaminophen) for suicide and nonfatal poisoning: worldwide patterns of use and misuse. Suicide & Life Threatening Behaviour 2000; 30(4): 313-326.
  6. Dean O, et al. N-acetylcysteine in psychiatry: current therapeutic evidence and potential mechanisms of action. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2011; 36(2): 78-86.
  7. De Flora S, et al. Mechanisms of n-acetylcysteine in the prevention of dna damage and cancer, with special reference to smoking-related end-points. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(7): 999-1013.
  8. Fulghesu AM, et al. N-acetyl-cysteine treatment improves insulin sensitivity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility 2002; 77(6): 1128-1135.
  9. Lianne S, et al. Efficacy of n-acetylcysteine in the treatment of nicotine dependence: a double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study. Eur Addict Res 2011; 17: 211-216.

 

 

Beat the Colds, Flus, and Blues!

colds flus blues Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Beat the colds, flus, and blues!

 

Dr. Eric Viegas ND

 

Feeling under the weather? Tired, congested, and not feeling like your usual self? Chances are good that your immune system is lacking its true capabilities this winter, and you might be getting a cold!

 

The Nasopharynx–the area where the nose, mouth, and throat meet–is where most colds start because common bugs can travel in through your eyes, mouth, and nose.

 

How do they do this?

 

Well, pathogens that cause the cold transmit through people’s various secretions, ending up on shared surfaces like desks, the water cooler where people congregate to catch up on each other’s lives, and eventually onto your unwashed hands. When you rub your eyes, and nose, the pathogens can travel into your body and take up residence in your nasopharynx. The most common culprits in the development of colds are rhinoviruses. As their name would suggest, rhinoviruses thrive in the conditions and temperature range of your nose. Typical symptoms of a common cold include coughing, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever, and a headache. Many people know that the common cold can affect your nose, but it can also lead to issues in your throat, sinuses, and even rob you of your voice.

 

Sinusitis, another common winter malady, can develop from a history of allergies, colds, anatomical malformations like a deviated nasal septum (the barrier of cartilage that sits between your nostrils), and lifestyle factors like smoking. Typically, people who suffer from sinusitis have pain and swelling over the affected sinuses which can cause a painful headache. Sinusitis is worse in the morning, since mucus in the sinuses finds its way into your throat through post-nasal drip while you sleep. Smokers have an increased risk of sinusitis because smoke can increase thick mucus production and impair your body’s ability to clear it. Even second hand smoke can cause an increased risk of upper and lower respiratory tract infections.

 

Ear infections usually affect children with a cold or flu. Symptoms include ear pain, ear discharge, and fever. Bugs can travel through the eustachian tube–a passageway that links the nasopharynx to the ear in order to equalize pressure on either side of the eardrum. Certain strains of H. influenzae, a bug that waits until the immune system cannot hold them off, can cause ear & eye infections, sinusitis, and pneumonia in children.

 

Last, but not least, influenza! The flu usually manifests with symptoms of fever, eye infection, runny nose, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, fatigue, coughing, and nausea/vomiting. H. influenzae is not the main culprit here, despite the misleading name. Influenza viruses A, B, and C all contribute what we know as ‘the flu’ in both humans and animals. Type A causes all known flu pandemics, the most well known being the Spanish Flu of 1918. Type B only affects humans, but has less potential to mutate than Type A. Type C usually affects children but is less common than Types A and B. Unfortunately for our immune systems, influenza viruses mutate at a rapid rate. What this means is it is very difficult for the Center for Disease Control to predict which strains will appear each year, rendering the vaccine from the previous year ineffective. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the flu vaccine for this year will match the strain that becomes most prevalent. To add to the problem, it’s usually very difficult to tell the difference between an influenza illness and an influenza-like illness.

 

Could it be allergies?

 

Is the mucus from your runny nose watery/clear in color? Usually colds and flus result in yellow/green coloured nasal discharge while an allergic response to airborne allergens results in clear/watery nasal discharge. People who suffer from allergies also tend to have itchy, watery eyes and an itchy skin rash that goes away when no longer exposed to the allergen.

 

What are some situations whereby I should immediately seek the emergency department?

 

If you have a sudden onset of a very painful sore throat, but strangely no or very little coughing, a fever greater than 38C, tonsillar pus, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck chances are good that you might be suffering from Strep throat. Strep throat is caused by a nasty bug called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GAS). Streptococcal infections can be invasive and spread to your blood and organs if left unchecked. GAS is estimated to cause half a million deaths worldwide per year, and the most at risk for developing a GAS infection are those with compromised immune function (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc). Currently there is no vaccine for Streptococcus, but good hand hygiene goes a long way!

 

Another emergent situation I want to discuss is called Epiglottitis. The epiglottis is like a valve that controls the passage between air into your trachea (aka your ‘windpipe’) and food or drink into your esophagus. It stays open while you breathe normally, and closes off the trachea when swallowing foods and drinks. Interestingly, your epiglottis has tastebuds! Epiglottitis, a severe swelling of the epiglottis, is commonly caused by H. influenzae in young children 2-5 years old. Typical symptoms include uncontrollable drooling, inability to swallow, inability to lie down or talk, and restlessness. Epiglottitis is life threatening, and can lead to death from an obstructed airway, so if you suspect epiglottitis in a young child take them to the emergency department immediately.

 

What can I do to cut my risk of getting a cold or flu?

 

Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your face. Hand sanitizers are okay to use if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, but make sure the products you are using contain at least 60%-95% ethanol, since this formulation is most effective in killing those bugs! Unfortunately some commercial grade hand sanitizers, despite bold claims of killing a high percentage of germs, only contain 40%-60% ethanol. As a result, these products simply act to spread bugs around instead of killing them. As a general rule of thumb, the combination of hand sanitizers and regular handwashing is better than using hand sanitizers alone.

 

In 2011, Stebbins et al. conducted a randomized controlled trial of 3360 school children to determine if hand sanitizer use could combat transmission of influenza infections. The study used the slogan “WHACK the Flu!”:

 

  • Wash and sanitize your hands
  • Home when you are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Keep your distance from sick people

 

Researchers found a 52% reduction in influenza A virus infections in children who received this program versus those who did not, and a 26% reduction in flu related absenteeism. Using this simple acronym is a powerful tool in your fight against colds and the flus!

 

What else can I do?

 

Great question! An easy way to strengthen your defenses is to find a fun form of exercise. Exercise can improve your mood, energy, and resilience to stressors; keeping your immune function strong. Getting a good night’s rest also helps your body’s immune system to recharge.

 

Are there any supplements, herbs, or foods that can also help my body fight off a cold?

 

Always consult your doctor before beginning any new supplement or medication to find out if it is a safe option.  That being said, there are a few good remedies sitting in your pantry!

  • Peppermint
    • Peppermint contains the essential oil menthol. Menthol is an excellent anti-spasmodic–meaning it relaxes spasming tissues–and can relax the airways to relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Furthermore, peppermint can ease nausea, gas, and bloating by relaxing the digestive system. It’s important to cover your peppermint tea while it steeps since the essential oils can evaporate!
  • Ginger
    • Ginger is an excellent herb for nausea, and it can strengthen your digestion to combat a loss of appetite and vomiting. Additionally, ginger tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats.
  • Thyme
    • Yes, it’s time for some thyme! The active constituent in thyme, similar to peppermint, is an essential oil called thymol. Thymol can fight colds by relaxing a spasmodic cough and the airways to clear mucus. Thyme also contains carvacrol, an anti-microbial oil that is excellent at killing bugs. Try adding more thyme to soups and stews, as well as on meat.

 

So, you’ve come this far, and your cold or flu is on its way out but you still don’t feel like yourself. You might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD has a host of depressive symptoms that tend to occur at the same time every year, usually during the winter. People with SAD tend to have difficulty waking in the morning, overeating, oversleeping, nausea, withdrawal from friends and family, difficulty concentrating, and decreased sex drive. If you can’t afford to go on vacation and soak up some sun to combat SAD, try gratitude.

What’s so great about gratitude?

 

Gratitude towards others increases activity in the brain’s “social dopamine circuits”, making social interactions more enjoyable. Focusing on positive aspects of your life also boosts the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. If sitting down and making a list of the things you are grateful for seems like too difficult of a task, don’t sweat it! It’s actually the activity of searching for what you’re grateful for that counts. Searching increases emotional intelligence, which in turn makes your brain more efficient at this activity. With higher emotional intelligence, gratefulness takes less and less energy over time. Still having trouble? Don’t dismay! Just label how you’re feeling: Sad? Angry? Anxious? Consciously labeling and validating how you feel reduces the impact your mood has on your daily life. Believe it or not, your brain can recognize the difference between suppressing, or labeling your emotions. To put it a different way, the only bad emotion is the one you don’t express.

 

Remember, there is a lot you can do to take control of your health and fight back against the colds, flus, and blues! Have a safe and happy winter.

 

References:

  1. Stebbins S, Cummings D, Stark J, Vukotich C, Mitruka K, Thompson W, et al. Reduction in the incidence of influenza a but not influenza b associated with use of hand sanitizer and cough hygiene in schools: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2011 Nov; 30(11): 921-926.