Natural Ways to Escape the Winter Blues

  • Written by Dr. Apfelbaum

The New Year is here, but why do many people still feel down and depressed in the winter season?  The gray rainy weather can cause us to stay inside for longer periods of time, socialize less, and eat more.  There are some ways to kick-start your brain and body into feeling more energetic and happy this season.

There is such a thing called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in which your mood takes a turn for the worst during the dark winter months.  Our brain produces melatonin (a sleep hormone) in the dark, and without sunlight it has trouble suppressing the production in the morning, causing extra fatigue throughout the day.  Vitamin D3 levels in the Northwest are notorious for being low, since we get almost no sunlight in the winter and spring months.  I definitely recommend having your doctor check Vitamin D levels and supplementing them if needed.  Some people may benefit from “light therapy” in which artificial light from a special lamp helps suppress the melatonin in the morning. 

Diet also greatly effects mood. Sugar and carbohydrates can make the body feel sluggish, as well as increasing serotonin that converts to more melatonin. Overeating carbohydrates and sugar increases blood sugar and insulin levels leading to weight gain and decreased mood.  Instead of choosing food for emotional comfort, try making a warm fire, or taking a hot bath with Epsom salts. Drinking a hot cup of green tea can also suppress hunger and keep you warm.

Loneliness is also a big contributor to mood.  Getting out and being social can really help with feeling lonely by realizing that there are people in the world who care about you.  Joining an indoor gym or taking up a new hobby or a class is a great way to meet more people.   Maybe there is a new restaurant you have wanted to try or a fun coffee place. Other subtle signs of depression include: Lack of motivation, foggy thinking, feeling hopeless, oversleeping, weight-gain etc.  If you are having any of these symptoms, please discuss it right away with your doctor.

A body that is sedentary will feel more sluggish and tired.   Increased weight is another contributor to feeling depressed.  Many people would love to lose 10 or more pounds, but instead each year they keep gaining more weight.  I encourage you to stick to an exercise routine all through the year.  Aim for at least 3 days a week for 20 minutes at a time, be realistic with your goals. People who stick to their goals are extremely happy, believe me the hard work will pay off.

Another important contributing factor for mood is sleep.  When you get good quality sleep, the body is able to heal and restore itself.  Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are able to stay balanced which helps with weight loss and blood sugar.   Shut off bright lights (TV, computer, phones etc) about 40 minutes before bed for better quality sleep.  Avoid caffeine and chocolate after 4pm. Magnesium or melatonin for some people can be helpful, as well as nervines like chamomile tea.  Avoid alcohol at night to prevent anxiety and insomnia, as well as nighttime urination.  Good quality sleep means waking rested, falling asleep well and staying asleep all night. 

Hopefully these tips help lift your gloomy winter mood.  If all else fails, at least consider planning a sunny short vacation for the spring!

Dr. Apfelbaum is a primary care Naturopathic Doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic.  To learn more go to or call 425-408-0040

Fresh & Healthy Eating

  • Written by Guest Column By Dr. Allison Apfelbaum
I hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July, the summer is flying right on by.  This warm weather makes me think of wonderful, healthy meals using fresh ingredients so I’m focusing on that for this column. 
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Keep Moving for your Health

  • Written by By Allison Apfelbaum, ND, LMP
Summer is upon us and it is a great time to enjoy all of the activities available to us in the Pacific Northwest. I encourage you to get outside and exercise to your full potential.  It is always good to talk with a doctor to find out what kind of exercise is safe and healthy for your heart and body. 
The best type of exercise to build up your cardiovascular health is anything that gets the heart pumping.  The heart is a big muscle and the more heart pumping exercise you do, the stronger it will get.  How do you know if you are getting a good cardio workout? Most people cannot carry on a conversation during the efficient cardio workout zone, for example while they are running or biking or doing an exercise class.  Cardiovascular exercise is also good for weight loss, detoxification and it is the number one antioxidant activity activator (think anti-aging to the maximum!).  Running is good for building leg muscles and core strength, but this kind of weight bearing exercise may not be right for people with osteoarthritis in the knees, hips or ankles. Weight bearing exercise like hiking, running and weight lifting is good for people with low bone density, to help rebuild healthy bones.
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What Washingtonians Need to Know About New Medicare Cards

  • Written by By Catherine Field | Humana Medicare President in Washington
What is happening:
To combat identity theft, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be changing the format of all Medicare numbers, which means that every existing Medicare beneficiary will get an updated Medicare Card that lists their new Medicare number.
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Preventing pain before it starts

  • Written by Guest Column by Allison Apfelbaum
Now that the warm weather has returned many of you may be jump starting your exercise routines.  This may trigger aches and pains in your body.  This can be mild, moderate or even severe pain in which the body remains in an activated state for months or even years without significant relief.  Having pain everyday can take a toll on a person’s physical energy and emotional well-being.  Chronic pain can present itself as headaches, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or even elsewhere like the abdomen or pelvis.  Other side effects from constant pain can result in fatigue, lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, anger, or irritability.
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