Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, Low Carbs & Serotonin

May 4, 2014

If you want a surefire way to feel absolutely terrible, I have the perfect formula for you.

1. Quit your job.
2. Stay inside your apt all day, reading books & napping.
3. Live in Chicago during the worst winter in decades
4. Go on a super strict diet
5. Don’t talk to anyone all day

Combine all. Then shoot yourself in the face.

It’s quite by accident that I happened to do all of this. I’ve been experimenting with different things to try to lose weight & be happier.

Luckily I didn’t shoot myself in the face.
And I’ve figured some things out during the worst few months ever in my life.

1. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the real deal
I’ve known about S.A.D for 4yrs but never took it seriously.

This past year, the symptoms of anxiety started in July, got worse month by month. The worst months were Feb-April 2014.

Here are the solutions I’ve figured out:

A. St Johns Wort 300mg 3x a day.
This wasn’t a game changer but seemed to ease some of the harshness of winter. Unfortunately, I didn’t start taking this until March. Can take 5-8wks to take full effect.

B. A lot of bright light
Lightbox is a must.
The recommended 15-30mins time in front of it is not enough for me. I keep it on as much as possible.

Full spectrum light bulbs also a must.
I replaced my yellow bulbs with powerful white bulbs. The brighter the bulb, the better.

According to studies, bright light activates serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin makes us feel good. Lack of it makes us miserable.

The worst times in winter was between 1am and 4am. That’s when tremendous anxiety flooded my body. Every negative feeling enveloped my brain. I thought I was crazy. All hope was lost. Everything became annoying & sad (music, movies, people, etc). But at around 6am, those feelings would fade.

I noticed the pattern and turned on the lights at night, fixed the problem.

Also, if I take a bath in the dark, the negative feelings worsen. With lights on, bath is pleasant.

Go figure.

Full Spectrum Bulbs
Recommended reading: Winter Blues

2. Dieting Reduces Serotonin
Low carb diets lower serotonin in the brain.
So does drinking a lot of coffee.

I’ve been on a low carb lifestyle since October 2013.
Most of that was spent on the strict HCG Diet.
And chugging coffee every day.

So even though I lost weight, my brain was super unhappy. This combined with Winter S.A.D is a recipe for disaster.

Recently I learned that carbs are necessary to transport Tryptophan to the brain, which turns into 5htp, which turns into serotonin. Tryptophan is obtained from protein but carbs are necessary to take it to the brain.

Without serotonin, the world becomes dark & everything starts to suck. Anxiety, mood disorder, depression, lethargy, annoyance at everything, etc. The worst of the worst feelings. I experienced all of that the past few months.

In the book Winter Blues, it is noted that people who have S.A.D process carbs differently than non s.a.d folks in the winter. S.A.D folks are energized by carbs while non s.a.d folks feel more lethargic.

The meaning is that people with S.A.D are so deficient in serotonin in winter, carbs help energize them. Simply: carbs = feel good = overeating of carbs = winter weight gain = feeling guilty = more depression.

5HTP or L Tryptophan or St Johns Wort, and Tyrosine, other amino acids if necessary

I’m currently on 5HTP + St Johns Wort + Tyrosine for the past three days and it’s a huge improvement in mood.

Also taking a baseline support of: good multivitamin/mineral, vitD 5000iu, fish oil 3g epa/dha (when not on hcg diet), probiotics

Recommended reading: The Mood Cure
Optional reads: St Johns Wort and 5HTP

3. HCG Diet Tips

A. Check the spray bottle – is it too tight?

I’m currently on the third round of the diet. This time around, I noticed I was super hungry the first couple of days. Like ridiculously hungry & food obsessions.

This is not supposed to happen.

One morning, as I was spraying, I had a thought to look at the bottle. I noticed that the inner tube was touching the bottom of the bottle. A lightbulb went off in my brain!

I use a camelback water bottle to drink water. Sometimes when the tube touches the bottom of the bottle, it becomes difficult for the water to come out.

Same thing was happening to the HCG nasal spray bottle. I slightly opened the top, allowing for room below the tube. A full spray came out!

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been on three rounds of this diet, since October 2013 and only NOW am I realizing this.

The point is, question everything. Notice everything.

Now I’ve been getting full sprays and feel content. No crazy cravings or hunger.

B. Sea Salt Detox Baths

This is a must on the diet. Reduces toxins, makes you feel better, reduces headaches etc.

This time around, I’m experimenting with baking soda & sea salt.

This is a common recipe:
2cups himalayan pink sea salt (or epsom salt) + 1cup baking soda = detox bath.
Super good.

4. Therapy + Socialization

Miscellaneous things like counseling/therapy and socializing with family/friends kinda help but not as well as the things mentioned above.

The reason is that when your brain is deficient in serotonin, socialization becomes a chore & annoying.

But this is a nice thing to add as a bonus to all the other tools.