The Nervous System
The neurotransmitter, or lack thereof, most commonly associated with depression is serotonin.
For a long time researchers have noticed that depression seems to be more common in the winter monthswhen the daylight portion of the day is shorter. Scientists now know that the relationship between depression and the decrease in daylight is no mere coincidence. Our nervous systems are affected by the shorter days and by the decreased exposure to light. Clinicians have even coined a term for this condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Not everyone is affected by SAD. Some people seem to be immune to the malady while others suffer to the point of incapacity. Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
What can be done to prevent SAD? (1) We can use artificial lights to lengthen our "day" by turning on bright lights early in the morning and extending their use into the evening hours after the sun has gone down. "Full-Spectrum" lighting is best. If you are using fluorescent lights choose the "Daylight" bulbs. (2) We can also support our nervous systems with good nutrition during this time of the year, including herbs like St. John's Wort, which will be discussed in detail later in this lesson.
Vitamin D3 may also prove helpful in the battle against SAD. Known as the "sunshine vitamin," D3 is manufactured in the body by the action of sunlight on the cholesterol in the skin. D3 is important for the immune system, which is a major reason why people suffer from conditions like the common cold and flu more during the Winter months when we are exposed to less sunlight. In fact, research has shown that supplementation with Vitamin D3 during the Winter months is more helpful in preventing the flu than the controversial and potentially dangerous flu shot. Vitamin D3 is also helpful in supporting a good mood, so a decrease in the body's production of this important vitamin during the darker months may explain a causative factor in SAD, and supplementing during these months may help combat or in some cases entirely prevent this malady.
ADD and ADHD
There is some controversy among natural health experts as to whether Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are real conditions, or simply conditions created by the drug industry to sell profitable drugs. Part of the problem may also rest with overworked school teachers who have to handle a lot of boisterous children all day, and who find their jobs easier when their "problem" students are drugged into submission. Thousands of children are sent home from school each year with notes for their parents suggesting that they put their children on the drug Ritalin. Parents are even made to feel guilty when they are reluctant to do so, as if they are bad parents if they don't give their children the "medications they need."
Unfortunately, we are drugging our children for a sicknessnot of the childrenbut of a diseased public educational system.
If you want healthy drug-free children, the best solution is to home school them. However, since many parents will not consider this an option, and because helpless children will continue to be given this diagnosis, real or not, I will address these conditions as a real problem, because whether they are social not, they are a real problem for many children and their parents. The medical profession maintains that the cause is unknown, but alternative practitioners know from clinical experience that the problem is both social, and nutritional. Consider the junk foods that children consume todayduring the time of life when the nervous system is growing and developing very rapidlyand there will be little wonder why such functional problems of the nervous systems are so common. Additionally, our children are bombarded with countless toxins, in the form of food additives, as well as environmental assaults, psychological assaults (e.g., television, advertising, propaganda) and now a whole spectrum of electromagnetic pollution (cell phones, wireless communications, electrical currents, etc.) It is a wonder that our children are able to adapt to these onslaughts as well as they have!
It is truly sad that our children have become the dumping grounds for the drug companies, who reap billions of dollars in profits each year with their so called "drugs for everyday living." They would have us believe that disease is essentially a state of drug deficiency, when in actuality it is more likely to be a state of nutritional deficiency. Many of these functional problems of the nervous system respond extremely well to a good nutritional program that feeds the nervous system. We will discuss this later in another section of this lesson.
People can get addicted to many things including alcohol, nicotine (in tobacco), prescription drugs, cocaine, antidepressants, many other drugs, and even chocolate! There appears to be biological as well as social and psychological reasons for addiction. Scientists believe that addictive substances directly stimulate "pleasure pathways" in the brain. Pleasure pathways serve an important biological function, they insure that we will engage in the behaviors that are necessary for survivalbehaviors such eating and sex for example. Unfortunately many drugs can bypass the normal methods of stimulating these areas of the brain and addiction can be the consequence. Addicted laboratory rats have been observed to starve themselves to death, preferring their addictive substance to food and water. Humans can behave the same way to powerfully addictive drugs.
Why Are So Many Drugs Addictive?
We have long known that some people, alcoholics for example, are more likely to get addicted to drugs than others. Scientists have discovered that some people seem to have a genetic predisposition to becoming addicted. Although the mechanism is not clearly understood, it appears that individuals prone to addiction tend to have problems related to the neurotransmitters in their brain. Perhaps certain neurotransmitters are not produced in sufficient quantities, or there are abnormalities in their reuptake. Addictions are also associated with nutritional deficiencies, or more likely, an interplay between such deficiencies and the other factors mentioned above.
Certain nutritional substances can positively effect the body's production and utilization of neurotransmitters helping some people overcome their addictions. It has been clinically observed that addiction treatment centers that incorporate nutrition in their treatment regimens have half the failures of those treatment centers that use only drugs and talk or group therapy. We will discuss this further in the section on Nutritional Support for Alcoholics and Addicts.
Sleep, Melatonin, and Jet Lag
Scientists have discovered that all animals and humans have an internal biological clock that controls cyclic activities such as sleeping, body temperature, and reproductive cycles. These clocks are influenced by external cues such as light and temperature.
The biological clock that controls many of these functions is located in the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland that extends down from the base of the brain. The pineal gland receives signals from other areas of the brain and from the eyes as well. It manufactures a hormone called melatonin which it secretes into the blood stream to effect other areas in the body. Melatonin is secreted when, according to our internal biological clock, it is time for us to sleep.
When we travel across several time zones, like from the East coast of America to the West coast, or from America to Europe, our body's biological clock continues to run for a while on the old time zone. Our body may be telling us that it is time to sleep, for example, while other cues are telling us to stay awake. Thus you may have trouble falling asleep at night, or you might have trouble staying awake during the day. This condition is called jet lag. The symptoms of jet lag are less when you fly West than when you travel East. This is because the body finds it easier to delay or slow down its clock than it does to speed it up. Scientists have discovered that 1 to 3 mg of melatonin, when taken 30 minutes before you wish to sleep, can greatly help the body overcome jet lag in a much shorter period of time. This supplemental melatonin helps reset the body's internal biological clock to the new time zone, and in the meantime it also helps you sleep when you want to.
The hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland to induce sleep is ________.
(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)