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Soule Health Care

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Portland OR, 97239


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Newsletter Archive

Seasonal affective disorder sees brighter days

September 29, 2011

“I feel like I'm swimming under water lately, like I'm in slow motion. I'm depressed, tired and unmotivated,” Doreen explained. She had moved here from Arizona 10 years ago, and had never experienced seasonal depression before moving to Portland. “I think I have to leave the state every winter unless I can get help for it.”

Doreen is experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter. Some people are not depressed but may lack energy to perform daily activities. There are various theories about how SAD develops: possibly a lack of serotonin, or melatonin under-production in dim light.

We undertook an aggressive strategy to combat Doreen's SAD. If you have ever experienced symptoms of depression in winter, the following program is known to give a body the best chance possible at balancing the neurotransmitters that support well-being:


One of the best ways to combat depression is by exercising regularly. It is even more important for SAD winters, even though outdoor activities are restricted. The key is to find an exercise you enjoy doing, and do it daily. It could be a good time to explore new forms of exercise by taking classes. Give yourself permission to leave and try a different one if after a few times you feel it doesn't work for you. Try yoga, tai chi, dance, kung fu, swimming, anything. The best kind of exercise is the kind you will DO. Be adventuresome.


Caffeine and sugar might seem like a good idea for a quick fix when you're feeling a little down, but these can make things worse in the long run. It is especially important to eat balanced meals, which include good quality protein and complex carbohydrates in order to balance our insulin levels, as swings in blood sugar levels can contribute to depression. A diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts are best.

The quality of your nutrition plays a big role in the quality of your mental function and mood. Feed your brain by eating well. Take a good quality multivitamin, and 3000 mg. of fish oil per day. We recommend Multigenics and EPA/DHA enteric-coated fish oil.

NeuroFocus Test.

The NeuroFocus test measures the most active neurotransmitters associated with feelings of well-being. It is a urine-collection test which measures the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA, and their precursors. If the test detects a low neurotransmitter, it can be treated by supplementing with amino acids to restore neurotransmitter balance.

Treat any underlying physical conditions.

Certain diseases can contribute to depression, as can the drugs used to treat them. Get yourself tested to rule out thyroid or adrenal insufficiency, hypoglycemia, food allergies, yeast overgrowth, or heavy metal toxicity.

Five Element Acupuncture.

When we are not being true to ourselves or our soul needs, depression can result. Lack of acceptance can trap intense emotions and lead to energy blocks in the body. Five Element acupuncture can help to dissolve the blocks to knowing or honoring ourselves and allow us full access to our vital emotions.

Full-Spectrum Lighting.

SAD is often known to respond to full-spectrum lighting. If you have fluorescent lights in your house or office, change the bulbs to full spectrum. Also, consider investing in a full-spectrum light box specifically designed for SAD sufferers. For the best effect you must sit under or near the light for 30 minutes per day.

Doreen's NeuroFocus test showed she had normal serotonin, but low norepinephrine and low GABA. We supplemented her with an amino acid formula, made diet and exercise changes, and performed a course of four acupuncture treatments. As a result, she had the best winter she had ever experienced in Portland, followed by another successful winter last year where she felt well and optimistic that she didn't need to leave the state after all.

If you suspect you are suffering from SAD, consider evaluation and treatment with Dr. Horan.

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