WAC Magazine

November/December 2012

Issue link: http://www.wacmagazine.com/i/90851

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" Whether your S.A.D. symptoms are mild, moderate or severe, light therapy can help ease the transition from summer to winter." The first step in determining whether you suffer from S.A.D. is to visit a medical practitioner. If light therapy is advised, the following can help you move forward. A LIGHT DECISION One of the challenges facing those seeking light therapy is which light to buy. Should you get full-spectrum bulbs, light-emitting diodes (L.E.D.) or fluorescents? White light or blue light? Individual bulbs or a light box? Should you spend $100 or $1,000? Allow me to help. The best light boxes emit at least 10,000 lux—a measure of luminance—of white light. The intensity of the light you purchase combined with the time of exposure deter- mine overall effectiveness. Scientific studies show that we respond best to 2,500–10,000 lux. The high end of that scale is about equivalent to being outside on a sunny day. The light doesn't need to be full-spectrum to be effective. L.E.D. bulbs are just as effec- tive as fluorescent. The advantage of L.E.D.s is that they weigh less and are therefore more portable. Also, blue light seems to stimulate the pineal gland most effectively. As of yet, however, there is no good information about possible adverse effects of exposure to focused wavelengths. You should, though, avoid exposure to ultraviolet rays such as those put off by tanning beds, which can cause unwanted changes in your skin cells, including cancer. For lights that put off 2,500 lux, your daily therapeutic exposure time should be about two hours. If your light puts off 10,000 lux, 30 minutes a day should do the trick. Although your open eyes must be exposed to the light, never stare into it. Try to remain about three feet from the light during exposure. Also, light therapy has been shown to be most effective when administered before 10 am. BEYOND THE BULBS For most people, the benefits of light therapy are noticed within two weeks. Clinically, I find that patients who exercise regularly, are mindful about nourishing themselves with a predominantly plant-based whole foods diet, and who manage their stress well, respond most quickly to light therapy. If you don't notice positive effects after a couple of weeks, contact your medical prac- titioner. You may need further support, or you may be experiencing something other than S.A.D. Seasonal affective disorder shares symptoms with other health conditions that should be ruled out before proceeding with more aggressive treatment. Whether your S.A.D. symptoms are mild, moderate or severe, light therapy can help ease the transition from summer to winter. Severe cases can benefit from additional sup- port and recommendations from qualified practitioners. In some instances, the support needed may be more foundational, such as improved nutrition, a successful exercise regi- men, better stress management, or a new practice such as yoga or meditation. In other cases, more aggressive help may be needed. This can include help with hormone balance through supplements, herbs or medication. Regardless of how easy or hard it is for you to move toward winter—or the level of therapeutic support you may require—I encourage you to remember it's only natural to be influenced by seasonal changes. In the words of Henry David Thoreau: Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Paul Dompé is a doctor of naturopathic medicine. He practices part time out of the WAC Wellness Center and can be reached at 206.839.4780 or wellness@wac.net. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2012 | Washington Athletic Club Magazine | 21

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