Tag Archives: SAD

Bright light therapy requirements changing over time

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times on the site — the exposure length and timing of the bright light therapy I use to control carb cravings, insomnia, low mood, and zombie brain changes over the years. I used to need it only from October to April, for 30 minutes, and it wouldn’t work after 9 am. Then I switched to 60 minutes for quite a while, until it started to make me antsy. Now I’m down to 20 minutes, it won’t work after 7:15 am, and I seem to need it all year. I consider this further proof that some chicks are not meant to live further north than a palm tree.

Here are a few references I’ve used to figure out timing and “dosage.”

Other interesting info:

ANT - light therapy

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Illustration: Remix by MRhea.

Things that still mess up my mood

August 13, 2017: My theories on this subject have changed. Until I can get my act together to update this content, please see this post.

This was adapted from a post on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

I’ve written elsewhere about how I threw off the yoke of my decades-long depression about 15 years ago, but a few things still trip me up. Some are culprits familiar to most sufferers, but some were a bit of a surprise.

Insufficient calorie intake. If I undereat for more than two days in a row, my mood will fall. A day of normal eating corrects it.

Vicodin. I don’t know what I’ll do if, heaven forfend, I’m ever in a long-term pain management situation, because even a modest dose makes me feel lousy the next day. Demerol, however, is lovely.

Dehydration. This happened twice, both times during the summer in my un-air-conditioned sweatbox of an apartment. I finally realized the extent of my cluelessness when my laptop coughed, flashed a blue OVERHEATED message, and died.

Large amounts of antagonists to zinc, B vitamins, or magnesium. If I take a whole lot of something that competes with one of these nutrients — for example, my experiments with intravenous thiamine — I’ll have to take supporting supplements to keep my mood from falling. (Another sign that my B vitamin status is suffering: I start dropping things a lot. Weird but true.)

The wrong contact lens prescription. I once spent about a week in lenses that were, say, five percent too weak and became increasingly unsettled until one night at a pub I discovered I was almost despairing at not being able to see the other pub-goers’ faces clearly. I’ve met plenty of people whose eyesight, corrected or not, is worse than mine, so maybe it’s not the exact 20/20 that’s important but that the prescription is what you’re accustomed to.

Watching television. I stopped watching TV in college, because most of it sucked and the moronic commercials drove me nuts. Fifteen years later, I turned the TV on out of boredom while housesitting and felt miserable the next day. Further experiments indicated that content or time of day were not factors, and that the effect was noticeable after about 25 minutes of watching. A poll of my friends revealed two people who had similar reactions, although they reported anxiety, jitteriness and spaciness, not low mood.

Weirdly, watching the same content on DVD, even for six hours at a time, had no effect. From this I logically concluded that either the commercials themselves, or broadcast television’s specific wavelengths, inject some sort of mind-control energy into our brains, which would jibe with my theories about Disney movies and Kit Kat bars. Eventually I did some more formal research, but the studies I found linking TV watching and depression focused on program content, physical inactivity, or the disruption of our circadian rhythms from the bright screen as causes. That didn’t explain my DVD immunity.

I had more luck finding corroborating studies when I looked at it as a multi-tasking issue, and the commercials as repeated distractions. Perhaps my brain can only be interrupted so many times.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It took me a while to figure this out because in high school in the Midwest my mood was such a constant disaster that I couldn’t discern any patterns in it — like sticking your head in a tornado funnel that’s just sucked up your subdivision and trying to spot your house — and after graduation I went straight to Southern California. Back in the Midwest years later, I thought I’d ironed out the whole depression thing, but the first winter knocked my mood back about 50%. I also ate everything in sight, lay awake all night, and was a zombie all day. I got myself a lightbox, which back then looked like a piece of airport runway equipment, and after a week was back to normal. (A few years ago, though, I noticed that light therapy no longer works if I do it after 8 a.m., whereas for years it worked as long as I did it by 9 a.m.)

Seven fomenters of brain fog

Several factors combined together to cause me years of spaciness and difficulty concentrating. Highlights of this period included giving the wrong last name when called on in class and almost getting my head wedged between two floors of a department store while riding the escalator. Most of the causes were ferreted out after I went gluten-free, and now I can face a big project and a tight deadline without sweating it too much, given enough Pepsi.

The problem is that metabolizing an acre’s worth of high-fructose corn syrup when you’re 25 is one thing; now it’s quite another. I’m still looking for the final pieces to this puzzle.

The main causes were:

1. and 2. High histamine, caused at least in part by low iodine

I discovered this by accident when I was working day and night on a project while playing host to a cold. Out of desperation I started mainlining vitamin C — something like 1,000 mg an hour, all day. After two days of that I realized I was thinking a lot better than normal. After some research I discovered that vitamin C lowers histamine; that in some people histamine is too high all the time, and not always with allergy-like symptoms; and that histamine occurs naturally in food, some much more so than others. Now I finally had part of the answer as to why certain foods had recently started making me spacey: eggs, rice, large amounts of protein, kimchee.

The second part of the question was why I had it now, when I hadn’t before. An uncorrected, and thus steadily worsening, iodine deficiency would explain it. According to some experts, it is rampant now that we avoid (iodized) salt. Insufficient iodine will cause a rise in histidine, which the body converts into histamine.

Another theory is that I’m not making enough of a certain enzyme, amylase, that breaks down carbs. Which with a recovering celiac’s innards wouldn’t be surprising.

3. Leaky gut

A classic celiac legacy. A damaged gut can cause dairy to be only partially broken down, and it so happens that some of those only-partially-broken-down particles happen to be in the form of opioids, as in opium, which then escape into the bloodstream and make you loopy.

4. Iron deficiency

Common enough among all women, never mind celiacs. For various reasons though, it was never possible for me to get my levels up to ideal numbers.

5. Folate deficiency

Folic acid, a type of folate supplement, never did much for me so I never investigated it very far. When I learned that it’s not a very efficient form of folate, I tried the superior form (methylfolate) and discovered that large doses made a noticeable difference in my ability to concentrate. However, at a certain amount — which sadly is also the amount that makes my fingernails look REALLY GOOD — it then raises histamine, which leaves me back where I started it made me really spacey, which felt like elevated histamine. I am not clear on what that was — my understanding is that unmethylated folic acid can raise your histamine if you’re a poor methylator, but that methylfolate would not. I really don’t know.

6. SAD, which is probably vitamin D deficiency

If I don’t use my high-intensity lamp in the fall and winter, I turn into a zombie and eat everything in sight. And stop sleeping. And think thoughts that make me look around for Hank Williams.

7. Insufficient essential fatty acids (EFAs)

These helped for about a year, then made my insomnia worse. Now they give me scary headaches AND total insomnia.

Other suspects I’ve looked at in my brain fog investigation were candida, digestive enzymes, vitamin B12, zinc, and calcium and magnesium. The latter two, once I got levels up to normal, reduced jitteriness and listlessness, which made it easier to concentrate. The rest did not seem to be involved. YMMV.