Friday, March 14, 2014

Health Care and Spring Fever

When the flowers start to bloom and the trees begin to bud, the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring is near. Have you ever been so depressed or have feelings of being cooped up like a caged bird as you await the arrival of warmer temperatures and milder weather that you can hardly stand it? You just want to run outside without worrying about freezing to death from all the blustery winds and snow of the colder months. You seem like you are going to burst if you don’t get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors without the fear of frostbite.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Spring fever, that reputed and seemingly infectious malady that strikes when the days lengthen and temperatures begin to climb, has been blamed for feverish bouts of house-cleaning, restless behavior in the classroom, distraction in meetings and love struck dazes. Some scientists think spring fever is more than just a colloquialism -- they think it's a constellation of symptoms brought about by hormonal changes in the body.

In winter, the body secretes high levels of melatonin, a hormone that governs sleep-wake cycles. Come spring, the increasing amount of daylight is registered by light-sensitive tissue in the eye, which signals the brain to stop secreting so much melatonin. As the hormone's levels drop off, greater wakefulness results. On the other hand, levels of another chemical, serotonin, rise in spring. This mood-elevating neurotransmitter may be at the root of the giddiness, energy boost and enthusiasm that characterize spring fever. More information can be found here: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/31/health/he-esoterica31 .

Just as your bare legs are soaking in the sun, your brain is busy processing the bright light as well. The increased sunshine signals the body to produce less melatonin, which plays an important role in sleep, as noted above. There's more daylight, so people have more energy, sleep a little less. Some would argue it's not just hormones at work, but that there's another possible reason people are happier the more time they spend outdoors on a sunny day: It's likely you're logging extra hours exercising.

Although there is little evidence that spring turns people to romance, according to studies done by the UNC School of Medicine. As warm weather returns, “People feel better. They have more energy. That would make them prone to a relationship.”

Several studies have found seasonal variation in sperm counts, with the lowest sperm concentrations occurring during the hot summer months. Other research suggests that in the United States, there is a small peak in births in February and March, indicating conception the previous spring. But more babies are born in August and September, and they would have been conceived in the darkness of winter.

·         Warm weather is a great incentive to exercise outdoors. “Twenty to forty minutes of exercise most days of the week is a terrific baseline.”

·         But as you spend more time outside, make sure to stay well-hydrated. To reduce your exposure to pollen, which can affect people with allergies and asthma, exercise in the early morning. Plants open up and flower as the sun comes up.

·         Resume outdoor exercise gradually to avoid injury.

·         Take steps to avoid too much sun, which can lead to skin cancer. To reduce your risk, try wearing protective clothing and staying indoors during the brightest part of the day.

For some however, spring fever can mean the opposite-a loss of energy with the onset of spring (“spring tiredness”), according to this site: http://www.prlog.org/11793658-understanding-spring-fevers-symptoms.html . Spring fever cannot be classed as a diagnosed illness, rather it is a phenomenon that seems to be caused by a change in the seasons. People usually experience symptoms from mid-March to mid- April.

The most common symptoms are weariness even with enough sleep, a sensitivity to changes in the weather, dizziness, irritability, headaches, and sometimes aching joints. Your hormone balance may play a role in this. Possibly your “happiness hormone”: seratonin which relies on daylight for production depletes over the winter, which allows the “sleep hormone”: melatonin to have more effect. In the spring your hormones readjust with more daylight. Temperature and food can also affect ”spring fever”.

According to Scientific American, clearly, there are marked correlations between moods, behavior and the lengthening days of spring, but the precise cause for our renewed energy remains elusive. The evidence for spring fever remains largely anecdotal. But, just as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has proved sadly real, spring fever edges away from science fiction, even if it is not quite science fact. More info can be found at this site: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/spring-fever-means-lighter-moods-and-more-love/ .

 As the weather gets warmer and sunnier in the spring, the opposite happens: body temperature goes up, blood pressure goes down, and the feel-good hormone serotonin begins to dominate. The problem is that the transitions between these different stages don’t always go smoothly. In any case, hormonal imbalances take place that can cause all sorts of physical and mental responses. Some experts say that spring fever or spring fatigue are a bit like having a “ hangover” after a period of dormancy, perhaps a lighter version of what hibernating animals go through , according to Timi Gustafson R.D., a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun” .

Because your experience of seasonal changes has become so much mitigated through artificial light and heating, your natural reactions may be even less predictable. The effects of seasonal changes on the body’s equilibrium are stress-producing, says Karina Seizinger, a homeopath and yoga teacher who recommends taking a number of measures for the treatment of spring fatigue symptoms. Among them are eating a healthy, balanced diet consisting of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, exercising, exposing the body to sunlight and engaging in calming practices like yoga and meditation. More info on this topic can be found at this site: http://blog.seattlepi.com/timigustafsonrd/2013/04/13/spring-fever-season/ .

So, when you start to feel like you are experiencing the symptoms attributed to Spring fever, then take time to review where you are physically and mentally to adjust. If you are not affected, check your blood pressure.

Until next time.

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