Recently there was an article in Rueters talking about a study of acupuncture helping depression. I appreciate the fact that they are trying to do a study. You may not know that many Western medicine type scientists won’t do a study about acupuncture. This is because they want to be able to do a blind study. That is not viable with acupuncture. Just in case you aren’t familiar with what a double blind study is, here is the definition.
- Double-Blind Procedure:
- Double-Blind Procedure (also known as Double Blind Control). This is one type of experimental procedure in which both the patient and the staff are ignorant (blind) as to the condition (or group) that the participant is in. This would make it impossible for the participant or researcher to know if the participant is receiving the treatment or a placebo. This type of design is commonly used in drug evaluation studies. In addition, it prevents the researchers from acting differently to people in one group. And it keeps them from giving the participant any information that could make them act and/or behave unnaturally.
Since we can’t really pretend, or create the placebo piece of a double blind study, then those folks that require a double blind study to “PROVE” something won’t go there.
With that being said, rather than double blind studies, we have hundreds if not thousands of anecdotal situations that we saw happen in our clinic of how acupuncture can help depression. Given the beginning of fall, SAD is particularly significant at this time of year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression, was considered a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.
Portland Acupuncture for Depression
Symptoms of Depression
In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Fall and winter seasonal affective disorder (winter depression)
Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
From a Western Medicine perspective,
According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. It’s likely, as with many mental health conditions, that genetics, age and, perhaps most importantly, your body’s natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing the condition.
Factors that may come into play:
Your biological clock (circadian rhythm)
The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.
A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
From A TCM Perspective
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) which is what we practice at RiverWest Acupuncture in Portland, everything has a yin and yang aspect. Yang is positive in sign and relates to masculinity, activity, warmth, and brightness. Yin on the other hand, is negative in sign and relates to femininity, nourishment, passiveness, cold, and darkness.
In terms of the seasons, the start of the yin cycle begins in autumn when the amount of daylight gradually decreases. Since the autumn months mark the beginning of the yin cycle, there is a tendency towards isolation, sadness, and grieving. Based on TCM, the winter months are associated with the Kidney system, the root of our vital Qi (energy). It is natural to crave those foods that provide a quick source of energy and that are high in calories since extra energy can be stored as fat in the body to help keep the body warm.
Since our body must already use a lot of energy in the winter to fend off the wind and cold, it is also natural to feel more lethargic and emotionally and physically sensitive to our surroundings at this time. Undue physical, mental, or emotional stress, a lack of sleep, and poor nutrition will only deplete the body’s energy further and increase the chances of experiencing not only depressed mood, but depressed immunity.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient art and science based on over three thousand years of clinical experience that incorporates several modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina (Chinese massage therapy), exercise (tai chi and qigong), and diet therapy to regulate energy flow and restore balance in the body. In TCM, energetic imbalances are closely associated with chemical, mental, emotional, and physical disturbances within the body.
Acupuncture and other modalities of TCM, can indeed be helpful for those who suffer from seasonal depression as they can bring the body to a more balanced state. In certain conditions, medication and psychotherapy may be necessary, and the advice of a physician should be heeded. The following are ways in which you can achieve a more harmonious state of existence by following the wisdom of the changing seasons:
- Be physically active without overdoing it.
- Eat well, as in healthy nourishing foods. You may want to limit sugar, dairy and wheat intake.
- Get plenty of rest. Rest in this case is sleep and allowing time to reflect inwardly, i.e. have down time.
- At the same time nourish your personal relationships that feed you and help maintain a healthy, positive outlook on life.
- Have a comfortable living environment
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