Could light therapy help fight depression in cancer patients

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you know what comes with the territory.

The painful treatments… that sick feeling that never seems to go away… the fatigue…and dealing with all of that day after day can make you more than just a little bit depressed.

It’s no surprise that the fight for your life can be physically AND emotionally draining.

But the latest research may show a light at the end of the tunnel – literally.

A recent clinical trial conducted at Mount Sinai found that cancer patients who’d been exposed to bright white light had significant relief from their depression.

And it took just a half hour a day to work, over the course of four weeks.

An earlier Mount Sinai study showed that the same light therapy could help cancer patients feel more restful, too.

The theory is that those suffering from cancer and enduring the painful and sickening cancer treatments are actually light deprived, which negatively impacts their circadian rhythms.

The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that responds to light and dark. In theory, if you stay in the dark literally, and you remain in the dark emotionally.

We already know how lack of light exposure in the winter months, when the days are shorter, can bring down the moods of those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But some people with SAD have experienced the mood-elevating benefits of setting up specialized lights in their dark homes and offices as well.

Unfortunately, you can’t just turn on any lamp in your living room to get the benefits – and you won’t sleep any better because of the blue light coming off your flat screen TV or iPad. But you can purchase these special white lights for a reasonable price from your local home or office supply store.

Be sure to check the units of illumination to get the right type of light for maximum therapeutic benefits. As opposed to a typical light that only emits 200 lux, you’ll need to get special ones that emit 10,000 lux – more or less the equivalent of outdoor light, but with the harmful UV rays filtered out.

But if you’re feeling really down – and no one would blame you if you were – the worst thing you could do is keep it to yourself.

Your depression could be compounded by other health issues like seasonal allergies, digestive problems, or even a vitamin deficiency, so talk to a naturopathic doctor who won’t try to prescribe harmful antidepressants. There are plenty of supplements that can help improve your mood – including curcumin, vitamin D, and B12.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing

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A Simple Tool to Ease Cancer’s Side Effects,

Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet,

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Understanding a light box,

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