Tips for Beating the Winter Blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder

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A Nature Bright SunTouch Therapy Lamp 

As the dreaded end of daylight saving time (Nov. 4) peaks around the corner for those who love their sunlight, it’s time for some tips to combat the winter blues.

Not everyone gets slumped down enough to qualify as having seasonal depression, but you can tell there might be a general drop in energy among your friends and family. School is ramping up during this time. Everyone working seems busy with trying to get projects finished before the Holidays. And a walk around the block becomes suddenly less appealing below 55 degrees.

If you are finding difficulty functioning as well as you used to, you may be a sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Here are some medically-backed, but non-prescription, tips for surviving the winter blues and keeping your energy levels up.

A Therapy Lamp

There are so many options out there for therapy lamps on the Internet, shoppers might be confused as to what qualifies as a therapy lamp and what is the best lamp to purchase. Here are some answers based on experience and science.

Medical Literature recommends at least 10,000 LUX for the brightness. Many therapy lamps around or under the $100 range fit the bill.

NatureBright SunTouch Plus is a top seller which is also the featured picture above. When I bought one a few years ago, they sold for around $75 but now appear to be around $50.

Buy directly from the seller to avoid a fake product.

Note: Do NOT use the ionizer on the SunTouch or any lamp. While companies claim negative ionization is better, people aren’t made to breathe ionized air and its safety hasn’t been established.

The pic above shows the spectrum of light that the lamp provides but this colorful effect is only seen when using a camera. When using the lamp, the light will actually look like a white, bright, more natural light to your eyes.

If you want to go all the way in your light therapy, a friend recommends the $475 Sunsqare+. The cost may be burdensome to some but my friend reports it truly is like having a mini sun of your own in your bedroom:

SubBox SunSquare +

Vitamin D3 Supplements

Vitamin D3 is one of the most important vitamins for mental health and feeling energetic. Get a blood test at your doctor’s to find out your levels during the winter and if it’s a good idea to take a supplement.

Many people take a 1,000 IU D3 supplement in their multivitamin, which is perfectly safe. However, if your blood levels are low, your doctor may recommend up to 50,000 IU once a week.

Taking too much Vitamin D3 can cause excess calcium in your blood. Many vitamins are safe to take at high levels, but because D3 can cause hypercalcemia, a blood test is recommended to figure out how much of the vitamin should be taken.

Exercise – Either Cardio or Strength Training

There’s a debate whether cardio or strength training and weight lifting is best for depression. Honestly it doesn’t matter much as long as you’re doing it. Whatever you enjoy the most and are the most likely to continue performing is best.

Doctors might recommend cardio over strength training, but there is growing evidence for adding strength training or just doing strength training alone. The recommended time for exercise is at least 30 minutes a day, three days a week.

Many gyms such as Planet Fitness and Crunch offer monthly rates as low at $10 a month. With gyms being cheaper than ever, there’s no excuse not to join one if you don’t already have a weekly workout routine.

Hot Baths

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Hot baths can actually have a great benefit for relieving depression symptoms. There’s many inflammation theories of depression and so a warm to hot bath can have a relaxing effect on your body and lower stress hormones that may throw off your sleep cycle.

Bomb baths and fancy perfumed products can dry your skin. But you can add a teaspoon of an essential oil such as lavender with an unscented gel body wash and create your own aromatherapy bath.

Go Outside and Don’t Live in Alaska

Going outside during the day can pretty much cover all the above suggestions—a winter sport especially will get the blood pumping. The only area you might need help is for the Vitamin D. There’s a maximum amount of Vitamin D your body can produce with sunlight. Many people aren’t getting enough even if they do go outside. So get that blood work done!

Alaska and other northern and southern latitudes have Seasonal Affective Disorder rates at almost 10x higher than other parts of the world. This list may especially useful for people living in these low-light areas.

They have nice tax incentives to move to Alaska. But, if you are a person who loves your sunlight, don’t live there. Just don’t live in Alaska. There’s not much in Alaska anyway besides the Aurora Borealis.

These have been tips that work for me and I can cite references if anyone has questions.

Hopefully I’ll go on vacation to tropical island and get some sun and warm weather come December. Vacation is never a bad idea if you need a mental health break.

Be well this winter!

 

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UriTest 10 Parameter Strips for UTIs: Independent Testing and Product Review

Full Disclosure: I got an email from the Amazon seller asking me to leave a positive review on Amazon if I was happy with the product. I was happy with the product.

All photos unedited for accuracy.

My partner has been having recurring Urinary Tract Infections recently. Don’t worry. He’s fine. It’s just an unusually mysterious medical problem for a male for which he is seeing a specialist.

Considering he has been in and out of the doctor’s office for antibiotics, I wanted to find a convenient way to test for UTIs at home. To do this, I researched the most popular urine testing kit on Amazon, and – at only $19.97 as of my purchase date – bought the UriTest 10 Parameter Reagent Test Strips For Urinalysis.

UTIs are a medical problem that affect women more frequently than men, with estimates of around 50% women getting a UTI by age 30 and 10% of men getting a UTI by the same age. Symptoms can include a burning sensation, feeling like having to pee but then having difficulty, and in serious cases, fever.

Considering my partner’s condition and my own statistical likelihood of having a UTI in my lifetime, I have a genuine motivation for making sure the tests are real and accurate.

I did a thorough reading of the Amazon reviews before purchasing to see what other verified customers said about the strips. There was enough dissent to persuade me to buy them and perform testing of my own when I got the strips in the mail.

The Setup

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  • Two identical clean glasses
  • Water
  • My urine (Didn’t want to put it in too early.)
  • Two UriTest Test strips
  • The bottle’s reference guide

The Test

For the two tests, I dipped one stick in my own urine and one stick in tap water at the same time. I didn’t independently check the PH of my tap water, but NYC tap water is some of the most well-tested and high quality tap water in the country. I trust it to be at healthy levels.

I also had a routine physical done a couple weeks ago where I had a urinalysis that was sent to a lab. Everything in the test was normal, except for slightly elevated white blood cells in my urine. That is normal and they do not prescribe antibiotics for that small of an amount unless you’re having symptoms.

Conveniently, white blood cells, or leukocytes are the first test on the strips. For UTI testing, this test is the main test I was looking at today.

My Results

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Left Strip: Urine // Right strip: Tap Water

 

Left Strip: Urine

  • First box slightly purple. Means trace levels of white blood cells.
  • Dark green box means blood in the urine. Which is completely normal because I was on my period during the test. It proves the blood in urine test is working.

Right: Tap Water

  • First box not purple. Negative results.
  • Specific Gravity same as negative bottle color
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Left Strip Tap Water

This matches up exactly with the lab testing I had done two weeks ago.

I took multiple tests throughout the day and on different days to make sure the results were stable. They were stable.

The blood work results from the doctor show that I am not diabetic. I honestly can’t comment on the ketones accuracy as my ketone levels are fine and I’m not on any special diet. However, the glucose appeared different shades of teal at different times of day, which is completely normal for a person who is eating. And the blood in the urine disappeared both before and after my period ended.

Specific Gravity was also different for urine and tap water, which was also an expected result. SG is supposed to change depending on how hydrated you are. Everything was in normal range.

For Diabetics

Diabetes testing is significantly more involved than a quick UTI test. As a former pharmacy technician in an area with significant diabetes type 1 and 2 populations, I would recommend talking to your doctor about their preferred brand of test strips and testing methods.

The Company

Healthywiser.com, the company that sells UriTest 10 Parameter Strips appears to have an emphasis on testing products. They say they have started as a small family business. Their main product advertised today is a Vitamin C beauty serum.

I don’t want to get too off-topic, but I actually have done a little previous research about Vitamin C serums. It is a legitimately helpful ingredient in skin care products that may smooth the skin with long term use. Many skin care products on Amazon use the same wholesaler, and while I don’t know who Healthywiser’s wholesaler is, I know their product is at a competitive price point.

Final Results and Score

I don’t have a giant lab to test every reagent on the strip to confirm that they are real. I also don’t want to say the tests are perfect. Manufacturing mistakes are possible, however getting more unlikely considering the technology available today.

It’s also possibles that the testers leaving negative reviews on Amazon are accidentally contaminating their samples. When I tested, I used clean glassware, free of any soap and thoroughly washed. I put the test in for the recommended 3 seconds and took pictures immediately as the test instructions said they were ready, under the same lighting, for accurate results.

I am happy to confirm that, according to UriTest 10 Parameter Strips and my doctor, I have very healthy pee.

At only $19.97 for 150 test strips, free shipping with Prime, I found UriTest 10 Parameter Urinalysis Test Strips to be extremely helpful and easy on the wallet. Coming around to 13 cents a strip, the price of UriTest is a great deal for test results that used to only available at clinics and medicals offices.

My partner is actually doing much better and will be taking the UriTest preventatively. Next time he is feeling backed up in his bladder, I will go ahead and check if the strip turns purple or not. I bet it will be accurate.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

NYC Allegedly Mishandles 50 Cases of DNA Rape Evidence

Sorry to go to from funny to serious in one post. But, Jesus fuck, this is outrageous.

Via NY1:

City Council Members Demand More Transparency From Medical Examiner’s Office

On top of demanding answers about that particular case, City Council members were looking for more general accountability from the ME following revelations the office mishandled DNA evidence in over 50 rape cases.

This is on top of the picture scandal in the Bronx over a dead body hanging out in a health department truck with household trash bags.

Demand transparency from your state. Demand transparency from your health care professionals.

I’ve spent too much time working in healthcare to know that providers who make mistakes are often not above covering their own tracks.

Sigh.

“Your local pharmacist is not who you think they are.”

Back before my fake freelance writing gig fell through, I tried to maneuver into a niche as a healthcare writer.

One of the articles-for-moms I wrote was about how pharmacists are vastly underutilized as health care providers.  (Tl;dr-Lifehacker edition: If you have a medical question or want a second opinion on meds, you should just go up to the counter at a store pharmacy and ask. Pharmacists have 7 years of medical education and they’re free.)

I found a TedxTalk by a pharmacist that addresses this exact underutilization issue:

Pretty good, although dry to watch if you’re not also a provider.

Pharmacists are important because doctors make mistakes. Doctors make prescribing mistakes at alarmingly high rates. If patients asked more questions and pharmacists spent more time on each individual, it would probably save a lot of lives.

One of the aspects of the profession I noted that the lecturer didn’t address is that the way corporations run retail pharmacies makes the kind of access he idealizes impossible. With immunizations and peripheral paperwork, pharmacists simply don’t have the man-hours to counsel every new patient. Any intern who has done a rotation at a high-volume chain knows this already. But I guess the Talk was already too long to go into a tangent about how for-profit-healthcare is fucking awful.

——–

Footnote on my ventures in my fake freelance writing career:  I was interviewed a few months ago by a health care education group for their company’s blog. They wanted my “expert” opinion on formal education and training for pharmacy technicians.

My answer was, “Don’t go to school because you will be automatically less hireable than precocious college kids willing to work for near-minimum wage.”

They thanked me and then totally did not publish the interview.

Institute of Medicine: Gym Class Tests Like “Sit-And-Reach” Not Worth It

Sarah Kliff from Wonkblog reports:

They find, in a 230-page report out Thursday, that as many a middle school student may have long suspected, there’s barely any evidence that most of these tests predict better health outcomes later in life.

“The committee’s review of the scientific literature revealed that studies on fitness measures for youth often were not designed to answer questions related to understanding the relationships between fitness measures and health across all ages, genders, and racial/ethnic populations.”

The committee came out especially strong against flexibility tests, things like attempting to touch one’s toes while sitting — the dreaded “sit and reach,” that has vexed many inflexible eighth graders. Due to a “lack of evidence for an association between flexibility tests and health outcomes,” it recommends against “including such tests” in any national guidelines for physical fitness testing.

Sit-ups, a measure of “musculoskeletal fitness,” also don’t fit the criteria for actually measuring that form of muscular fitness properly, the Institute reports.

All I remember is that Middle School Gym Class was fucking terrible. And that, by High School, they stopped caring and let us play Badminton all day.