Medical News Today: What are the options for natural hair regrowth?

When it comes to preventing hair loss or improving the hair that someone already has, there are plenty of natural methods that help.

There are a variety of home remedies that people use to try and regrow their hair. However, it is important to remember that research to support such methods is not always extensive.

There are many common myths about lifestyle approaches or remedies that can help hair regrow, and it is often difficult to determine the fact from the fiction.

Here we will explore what works and what doesn’t work.

Lifestyle techniques and methods

There are a range of remedies and techniques that people can try. Including:

Hair care

Man touching his hair.
Hair dye and vigorous brushing may cause hair loss, while washing hair frequently and using styling products will not.

There are some misconceptions about whether hair care does contribute to hair loss and regrowth.

For example, washing hair too often does not cause hair loss. Blow-drying hair can cause hair loss because it can damage, burn, or dry out the hair — however, this hair will grow back.

Hair dye is another cause of temporary hair loss — most hair-coloring treatments contain chemicals that can damage the hair and make it fall out.

Overly vigorous brushing can cause injury, which can lead to hair loss and some hairstyles, such as tight plaits, ponytails, or cornrows, can cause hair loss because there is too much tension on the hair.

Hair care products, such as gel, mousse, or hairspray, do not cause hair loss, though.


A study conducted in Japan showed that scalp massage could increase hair thickness. The men involved in the study had regular massages over a 24-week period, and while hair growth rate did not improve, thickness improved significantly.

Researchers believe that this could be to do with increased blood flow and direct stimulation of the cells.

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While hair loss can be affected by nutrient deficiency, the exact links between diet and hair loss are complicated:

  • Iron: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and is a known cause of hair loss. Women experiencing perimenopause and menopause are at risk of iron deficiency, as are vegans, vegetarians, and people with certain conditions, such as celiac disease. In a study on mice, the reversal of iron deficiency also leads to the restoration of hair growth.
  • Zinc: Zinc deficiency has a direct link with brittle hair, and increasing zinc levels also leads to the regrowth of hair. However, researchers do not know whether zinc supplementation would help those without diagnosed zinc deficiency.
  • Fatty acids: A deficiency in essential fatty acids can lead to hair loss on the scalp and eyebrows.

It is important to remember that there is a lack of research on the role of supplementation. Researchers do not know whether supplements will prevent hair loss in people that do not have nutrient deficiencies.

In fact, the over supplementation of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium, can lead to hair loss.


There appears to be a direct link between stress and hair loss. Likewise, a shock to the system, be that through physical or emotional trauma, can also act as a shock to the hair follicles and they can stop growing.

Home remedies

Red ginseng

Red ginseng with ginseng supplements.
Red ginseng is a popular supplement for promoting hair regrowth.

In some cases, the use of red ginseng, which can be taken as a supplement, has been shown to promote hair growth.

Exactly why this happens is unclear, although researchers think it could be because of indirect stimulation of the hair follicles.

Before taking any supplements, it is important to ensure that they won’t interact with any medication or existing conditions.

Fatty acid

The omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid has been shown to promote hair growth by helping to speed up the production of the follicles.

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This natural hair growth supplement was shown to promote hair growth in women experiencing temporary thinning. However, a further study also showed its ability to decrease hair loss.

Geranium oil

The use of geranium oil as a treatment significantly promotes hair growth and can prevent hair loss. People can apply it by mixing a few drops into a shampoo or conditioner.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is widely used to treat damaged hair of various types. It significantly reduces the protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair as it can penetrate the hair shaft.

Coconut oil can be used as a pre-wash and a post-wash wash hair product.

Aloe vera

The use of aloe vera as a treatment for a variety of different things has been traced back as far as 6,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt.

One such treatment is for hair loss, and evidence has shown it has a soothing effect on the skin that can help alleviate certain conditions.

Rosemary oil

Using rosemary oil for at least 6 months has been shown in a study to increase hair count. However, many of the group experienced scalp itching as a side effect.

Facts and myths

Woman experiencing hair thinning and hair loss.
Women can experience hair loss and hair thinning as well as men, although the causes may be different.

Here are some commonly told mistruths and also some genuine reasons behind hair loss.

Only men experience hair loss

FALSE: Women also lose their hair, but this tends to be hormone related.

Some women experience hair loss after pregnancy, as a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, or if they have problems with their thyroid gland.

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Hair loss is hereditary

TRUE: Although it is not limited to either side of the family. The hair loss gene can be passed from either the father or the mother.

Masturbation will cause hair loss

FALSE: There is no known link between masturbation or having sex that can cause hair loss.

Aging leads to hair loss

TRUE: As both men and women age, the number of follicles on the scalp reduces, which means the hair will gradually become thinner and sparser.

Wearing a hat causes hair loss

FALSE: Unless the hat is too tight and causes tension on the hair, wearing a hat has no link to hair loss whatsoever.

The sun causes hair loss

FALSE: Hair loss occurs at the follicle, meaning at the base of the hair. The sun cannot reach the follicle because the hair acts as a shield against it.

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Medical News Today: What to know about double pneumonia

Double pneumonia is an infection of both lungs. A virus, bacteria or fungus causes the tiny sacs of the lungs, called alveoli, to become inflamed and fill with fluid or pus, causing a range of symptoms, including breathing difficulties.

Doctors sometimes refer to double pneumonia as bilateral pneumonia. Pneumonia is the leading cause of infectious death worldwide among children under the age of 5.

What is double pneumonia?

Man in bed coughing, experiencing pneumonia.
Double pneumonia infects both of the lungs, and may cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a worsening cough, and a high temperature.

When both lungs are affected, the condition is called double pneumonia. Like pneumonia, double pneumonia is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

People who have the flu (influenza virus infection), some types of streptococcal bacterial infections, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and some other infections can develop double pneumonia.

Because double pneumonia affects both lungs, a person may find it extremely difficult to breathe.


It is impossible to tell if a person has pneumonia or double pneumonia based on symptoms alone. Anybody who thinks they may have pneumonia must see a doctor as soon as possible.

Pneumonia often develops after or alongside another respiratory illness. Some people also get pneumonia after exposure to breathing in dust or certain gases, or after getting fluid in their lungs. These situations make it easier for a germ to sneak into a person’s body and cause infection.

People who have these risk factors should look out for symptoms of pneumonia. These symptoms include:

  • A high fever, chills, or shaking. Rarely, some people develop an unusually low temperature.
  • A cough that gets worse.
  • Coughing up thick mucus or phlegm.
  • Shortness of breath during activities that do not typically induce shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain when coughing or breathing.
  • Feeling very sick after an acute viral illness, such as the flu or another type of respiratory infection.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, along with respiratory symptoms.


As pneumonia progresses, it can cause serious complications — particularly in people with weakened immune systems due to age, illness, or debilitating diseases, such as HIV or AIDS.

Complications of pneumonia include:

  • Sepsis, an infection that causes systemic inflammation in the body. It is a serious illness that can be fatal.
  • Lung abscesses.
  • Pleural effusions. The pleurae are two membranes that line the outside of the lungs within the chest cavity. Usually, a small amount of pleural fluid fills the gap between the membranes, but pneumonia may cause an accumulation of this fluid. If there is a buildup of fluid, or it becomes infected, a pleural effusion can cause death.
  • Pleurisy. This can occur with pneumonia and happens when the pleural layers become inflamed and rub together. Pleurisy causes pain in the chest when a person takes a deep breathe or coughs.
  • Kidney failure or respiratory failure.

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What causes double pneumonia?

Senior woman using bronchodilator inhaler during asthma attack
Factors that increase the risk of developing double pneumonia include being over the age of 65, having asthma, and experiencing a viral infection.

Infections from viruses or bacteria that get inside of the lungs are the most common cause of pneumonia. Less frequently, people may develop pneumonia from inhaling certain fungi.

Double pneumonia occurs when an infecting microbe causes pneumonia in both lungs. Potential causes of pneumonia and double pneumonia include:

  • Bacteria: Bacterial pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults in the United States is Streptococcus pneumonia.
  • Virus: The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. RSV is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in very young children. Viral pneumonia increases a person’s risk of having a secondary bacterial pneumonia.
  • Fungus: This is a less common cause of pneumonia. Someone with a compromised immune system is typically at a higher risk for fungal pneumonia compared to someone with healthy immune system function.

Some people are more vulnerable to pneumonia. Risk factors for double pneumonia include:

  • Being over the age of 65.
  • Being very young.
  • Malnourishment.
  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Having a lung disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis.
  • Having a chronic illness, such as congestive heart failure.
  • Having a weak immune system due to illnesses such as HIV, AIDS, and autoimmune disease.
  • Taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
  • Having difficulties swallowing.
  • Recently having a viral infection that affected the upper respiratory tract.

When to seek treatment

Double pneumonia is a serious infection that can become life-threatening. However, it is also treatable. So it is essential to seek treatment early before the infection establishes itself.

Anyone that has difficulty breathing and a high fever should treat it as a medical emergency.

People with risk factors for pneumonia, such as those who have another serious chronic illness, should seek prompt medical care if they experience symptoms of pneumonia.

A doctor can diagnose pneumonia with the assistance of a chest X-ray, blood tests, and a physical exam.

Treatment options

Treatment for double pneumonia depends on what caused it and how it has affected the body:

  • People who have bacterial pneumonia will need antibiotic therapy.
  • People with severe infections related to pneumonia, such as infectious pleural effusion or sepsis, will need intravenous antimicrobial therapy. Other types of treatment may also be required.
  • People with viral pneumonia will not respond to antibiotics, which do not work to treat viral infection.

Other treatments for pneumonia focus on preventing further damage to the lungs and ensuring a person can breathe. Some people may require supplemental oxygen or monitoring in a hospital setting. Rest and remaining hydrated may also help.

While coughing can be unpleasant, coughing helps the body rid itself of the infection.

People who have double pneumonia should not take a cough suppressant medicine unless a doctor recommends doing so.

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Recovery and outlook

Woman resting while suffering from flu or cold, with lemon tea and medicines.
Resting, and following a prescribed course of treatment, will promote a steady recovery.

With prompt treatment, most healthy people recover from pneumonia. However, pneumonia may not fully resolve if a person rushes the treatment and recovery process.

Take all medication as prescribed and avoid work or any physically taxing tasks for as long as the doctor advises.

People with weak immune systems or other health problems are more likely to have a form of pneumonia that is harder to clear up, recurs, or causes serious complications and death.

Some people develop double pneumonia as a complication of being severely immunocompromised.

It is crucial to tell a doctor about all health conditions and to be honest about lifestyle choices, such as tobacco smoking.

People who are very ill may need to be hospitalized.

If pneumonia symptoms deteriorate, fever gets higher, or a person finds it difficult to breathe, they must contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.


The microbes that get into the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia in some people but not in others. This depends on the individual risk factors of each person as well as the type of germ present.

Some other strategies for preventing pneumonia include:

  • Avoiding people who have respiratory infections: This is particularly true for people who are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Avoiding places where sick, infected people may be, particularly during cold and flu season: People should not go to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Those with weak immune systems may also want to avoid enclosed, poorly ventilated places, such as airplanes.
  • Managing chronic medical conditions, such as emphysema or congestive heart failure: Follow the doctor’s instructions on keeping chronic diseases under control.
  • Practicing regular handwashing: Regularly washing and rubbing hands together using warm soap and water will help lower the risk of contracting germs.
  • Getting vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia: Older people and other specific populations are at a higher risk than average of developing this form of bacterial pneumonia.
  • Getting a flu shot: This may help prevent viral pneumonia due to the influenza virus.


Double pneumonia is more than just a bad cold. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition that needs urgent medical treatment. With proper medical care, recovery is possible.

People who have a weak immune system or other risk factors for pneumonia should talk to their doctor about options for minimizing their risk of developing it in future.

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Medical News Today: What you need to know about occipital neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is the term for a headache that starts in the upper neck or back of the head and spreads or radiates behind the eyes, forehead, and up to the scalp.

Headaches are one the world’s most common health problems, with 80-90 percent of Americans experiencing a “tension headache” at some point in their lives.

More painful migraine, cluster, and other headaches are a leading cause of doctor or emergency room visits.

Although headaches are a common health problem, occipital neuralgia is a specific type of headache. According to the American Migraine Foundation, it is also rare, affecting only 3.2 people out of every 100,000 a year.

How is it different from other headaches?

man holding the back of his neck
Occipital neuralgia is a headache that begins in the upper neck or back of head.

Headaches due to occipital neuralgia are frequently quite painful, starting with a sharp, stabbing pain, but most people with this condition respond well to treatment and most recover.

Occipital neuralgia is different from other types of headaches in two ways:

  1. The cause of the condition.
  2. The specific places where individuals feel pain.

Other headaches have more general causes, which can range from sinus infections to high blood pressure to medications and many other potential triggers.

But occipital neuralgia only develops when the occipital nerves are irritated or injured. These nerves are found at the second and third vertebrae of the neck.

Occipital neuralgia pain will only develop in areas touched by the greater, lesser, and third occipital nerves.

With one on each side of the head, the occipital nerves run from the spine to the scalp, and sensitivity can develop anywhere along this route.

What are the main symptoms?

lady touching side of face whilst lying in bed
The pain from occipital neuralgia may spread to the sides of the head or behind the eyes.

For most people, the pain strikes on only one side of the head. It also tends to spread, usually from where the skull meets the neck, and then traveling up the back of the head and to the sides or behind the eyes.

In many individuals, the scalp can be affected, especially where the occipital nerves connect.

It can feel sore or extremely sensitive.

Light may also irritate the eyes.

Occipital neuralgia is described as coming in bursts of pain that come and go, lasting for a few seconds or minutes. At times, individuals may experience a lingering ache between more extreme bouts of pain.

Small movements can trigger an outburst of pain from occipital neuralgia. These movements include:

  • turning the head to the side
  • putting the head down on a pillow
  • brushing or washing the hair

The pain can be quite intense, which can prompt some individuals with the condition to say it is like a migraine or a cluster headache, even though these are different types and require different treatments.

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What causes it?

Different conditions and circumstances can irritate the occipital nerves, which then give rise to occipital neuralgia.


Injuries to the neck area, such as whiplash from a car accident or some other sort of trauma, can damage the occipital nerves and lead to this condition.

Muscular problems

Tight muscles in the neck and the back of the head can put the squeeze on occipital nerves and pinch or entrap them, which can also lead to occipital neuralgia.

Back issues

Problems with the spine, such as arthritis, degenerating discs, or spondylosis, are possible sources of pressure on the occipital nerves, as are tumors.

Other causes

Other conditions that can play a role in developing occipital neuralgia include:

In many cases, it is not possible for someone to identify a single factor that damaged or irritated the occipital nerves.

How is it diagnosed?

doctor examining women's head and neck
During an examination the doctor may see if pressing on the occipital nerve area causes pain.

A doctor taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam diagnoses occipital neuralgia.

This condition causes extreme tenderness along the occipital nerves. So, during a physical exam, the doctor may press on these areas to see if the pressure generates pain.

It is not always easy to diagnose occipital neuralgia because it has similar characteristics to many other kinds of headaches.

After initial exams, a doctor may order more involved tests.

One way to diagnose occipital neuralgia can also provide relief.

If a nerve block injected between the C2 and C3 vertebrae makes the symptoms go away, it is a strong indication of occipital neuralgia.

Deadening the nerves with anesthetics and corticosteroids helps individuals feel better, although the effects are temporary, only lasting about 12 weeks. However, injections into the vertebrae and numbing nerves are involved procedures, so a doctor will often pursue less invasive treatments first.

Can it be prevented?

For some people, antiepileptic medications and tricyclic antidepressants can prevent bouts of pain due to occipital neuralgia.

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Doctors will usually recommend straightforward treatments when individuals are first diagnosed with occipital neuralgia. These include:

The aim is to provide many people with relief by relaxing and releasing the muscles that are putting pressure on the occipital nerves.

Other medications, such as muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants, can help offset symptoms.

Nerve blockers

Nerve-blocking injections, which are used to diagnose the condition, can also be used to prevent pain.

Pulsed radiofrequency

Pulsed radiofrequency may be employed to stimulate the occipital nerves to keep them from sending pain signals. Although this procedure is more invasive than massage and medication, it does not damage any nerves or nearby tissue.


Surgery is reserved for the most painful and difficult cases. Through a process called microvascular decompression, doctors eliminate pressure on the nerves by moving encroaching blood vessels out of the way.

Home remedies

Home remedies can do a lot to relieve the pain when tight muscles, injury, and stress cause occipital neuralgia.

Rest, massage, and warm compresses can help individuals work out the kinks that are creating pressure in their necks.

Physical therapy can help individuals work through the crisis phase of their occipital neuralgia and provide them with exercises they can do to prevent a recurrence of this painful condition.

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Medical News Today: How do the brains of intelligent people work?

People with a higher-than-average intelligence level have brains that are “wired” in a different way, researchers say. A new study suggests that intelligence is linked with increased connectivity between some regions, and reduced interaction between others.
illustration of intelligent young woman
New research shows that intelligent people have different brain connectivity patterns.

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany have been giving a lot of thought to how the brains of intelligent people function.

In previous studies, Kirsten Hilger, Christian Fiebach, and Ulrike Basten — all from Goethe University Frankfurt’s Department of Psychology — have revealed that there are key differences in brain activation patterns that set intelligent people apart.

In 2015, this team published an article showing that the frontal and parietal regions of the brain are more strongly activated in people with a high IQ.

A more recent study, whose findings were reported earlier this year, added that the brain’s anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex are more actively connected with other regions in the case of intelligent individuals.

At the same time, the researchers noted that high IQ is also associated with a reduced connectivity in the temporoparietal junction, where — as the name suggests — the temporal and parietal lobes connect.

“The different topological embedding of these regions into the brain network could make it easier for smarter persons to differentiate between important and irrelevant information — which would be advantageous for many cognitive challenges,” suggests Basten.

Intrigued by these findings, Hilger and colleagues went further, setting out to explore how patterns of activation and integration in the brain correlate with a higher level of intelligence.

In their new study — the results of which were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports — the researchers noted that smarter people have increased connectivity between some areas of the brain, while interaction is dampened between other regions.

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Distinct brain module connectivity patterns

The team analyzed the brain scans of 309 participants (110 men and 199 women), all of whom were aged between 18 and 60 years. Their scores on the Full Scale Intelligence Quotient were assessed with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence.

Hilger and colleagues based their study on the notion that the human brain is “split” into modules, where regions communicate with each other “preferentially,” so that some areas interact more intensely than others. Basten explains this through an analogy with social networks.

“This is similar to a social network which consists of multiple subnetworks (e.g., families or circles of friends),” she says. “Within these subnetworks or modules, the members of one family are more strongly interconnected than they are with people from other families or circles of friends.”

“Our brain is functionally organized in a very similar way,” Basten explains. “There are subnetworks of brain regions — modules — that are more strongly interconnected among themselves while they have weaker connections to brain regions from other modules.”

In the new study, the researchers found that people with higher IQs have stronger connectivity between certain brain regions. More specifically, the authors noted that clusters of network nodes in the frontal and parietal cortex, and in cortical and subcortical areas, were more strongly interconnected and more intensely active.

At the same time, the team observed that certain brain regions — such as the superior frontal gyrus temporoparietal junction — are “segregated,” meaning that they communicate much less with other brain areas.

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Where does causality lie?

This may suggest that brain module intra- and interconnectivity in more intelligent people are primed to discard irrelevant or distracting information.

“We assume that network properties we have found in more intelligent persons help us to focus mentally and to ignore or suppress irrelevant, potentially distracting inputs,” Basten says.

However, the researchers note that it is hard to say where causation lies in these findings.

It may be, she says, that people with higher IQs are naturally wired differently, yet it may also be that these patterns of connectivity are caused by engaging in habitually demanding intellectual work. This is a conundrum that is due to be solved by future research.

It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favor intelligent behaviors or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks.”

Ulrike Basten

“Given what we currently know about intelligence,” she concludes, “an interplay of both processes seems most likely.”

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Medical News Today: Is being unsociable the secret to creativity?

New research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences examines three different kinds of social withdrawal and finds that one of them correlates with higher creativity.
girl working on her laptop sitting by the window
Being socially withdrawn can hold surprising creative benefits.

When people choose to be alone, they most often do so for one of three reasons: they are shy, they dislike interacting with other people, or they enjoy spending time alone.

Traditionally, psychologists have named these three categories as shyness, avoidance, and unsociability. And new research aims to see whether all of these three categories are associated with negative psychological outcomes.

Many of us tend to think of solitude as something undesirable, and some studies confirm that too much loneliness is detrimental to your health. But the new research — led by Julie Bowker, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Psychology in New York — finds positive associations with one specific form of social withdrawal.

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Not all loneliness is bad, ‘motivation matters’

Speaking about these negative associations with loneliness, Bowker says, “When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective.”

“During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills, and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”

“This may be why there has been such an emphasis on the negative effects of avoiding and withdrawing from peers,” Bowker continues.

Referring to her study, Bowker says, “Motivation matters […] We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits.”

To do so, the team asked 295 participants to fill in a series of questionnaires that asked about their motivation for wanting to be alone, and their creativity, sensitivity to anxiety, predisposition to depression, aggression, and social anhedonia — that is, lacking pleasure in social activities.

The participants were “emerging adults,” aged 19.31 years, on average. Bowker and colleagues also assessed these participants’ so-called behavioral activation systems (BAS) and behavioral inhibition systems (BIS).

BIS and BAS both help to regulate avoidant behaviors. A high score on the BAS scale, for instance, would mean that the participant rated as “very true” an item such as, “When I go after something I use a ‘no hold barred’ approach.”

A high score on the BIS scale would mean that the person considers statements such as, “I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me” as “very true.” The team used the BIS/BAS scales to distinguish between different kinds of social withdrawal.

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Unsociable individuals are more creative

The study found that unsociable individuals were more likely to be highly creative. To the authors’ knowledge, these results offer “the first evidence of a potential benefit” of unsociability.

By contrast, shyness and avoidance were shown to correlate negatively with creativity, meaning that the more shy or avoidant one is, the less likely they are to be creative.

While speculating about the reasons for this negative relation, Bowker says that “shy and avoidant individuals may be unable to use their solitude time happily and productively, maybe because they are distracted by their negative cognitions and fears.”

By contrast, “[U]nsociable youth[s] spend more time alone than with others, [but] we [also] know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial. They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers.”

“Therefore,” Bowker continues, unsociable individuals “may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”

Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal. But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”

Julie Bowker

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Medical News Today: MS hug: What you need to know

For people with multiple sclerosis, an MS hug can be an unwelcome and painful part of their condition.

As with many symptoms of the disease, MS hugs have no clear cause, but medication and self-care can help prevent them, as well as reduce pain and discomfort.

What is an MS hug?

Man with multiple sclerosis hugging his chest in pain.
An MS hug may feel like there is something tightly hugging the torso, causing discomfort and pain.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal column. An MS hug is a less common symptom of the disease.

An MS hug, also known as banding or girdling, is a feeling of pressure around the chest, similar to having something wrapped tightly around the torso. An MS hug is likely to feel different for each person who has it.

MS symptoms stem from a problem with the immune system that causes it to attack healthy nerve fibers and the substance called myelin that coats them. Researchers are still trying to determine the underlying cause of the immune system’s reaction.

MS affects the nerves that are responsible for transmitting information about movement and sensation around the body, so these functions are often impaired in people with MS.

The condition has a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • muscle weakness
  • difficulty walking
  • vision problems
  • chronic pain

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How does an MS hug feel?

While the most common sensation is the feeling of pressure on the torso or around the chest, it can affect hands and feet as well. The sensation may make someone feel as if they are wearing tight shoes or gloves when they are not.

It can also affect the arms, legs, or even the head, and may only be felt on one side of the body.

People with MS have described the sensation in a number of ways, ranging from tickling or squeezing to crushing or burning. For some people, it can be extremely painful, making it difficult to breathe.

This feeling may last for a few seconds or be a constant sensation for many months or years. Because it causes pain and discomfort, an MS hug may affect day-to-day activities, such as exercising or sleeping. For people with mild symptoms, an MS hug can be more irritation or annoyance.


Model of nerve cells.
An MS hug is caused by damaged nerve cells sending confused messages to the brain about the sensations the body is feeling.

MS damages the nerves and affects different body and brain functions. An early MS symptom is a tingling feeling that is not caused by a real trigger, such as pins and needles or a burn.

The medical name for this sensation is dysesthesia, which comes from two Greek words that translate as “abnormal sensation.”

An MS hug is a classic example of dysesthesia because the feeling of pressure does not come from a real band around the body, even though it feels like one. This happens because the nerves sending information to the brain about sensations the body feels are damaged, so they transmit a confused message.

Muscle spasms can also cause an MS hug. The intercostal muscles are small muscles between the ribs that help to move the chest in and out as someone breathes. If there is a muscle spasm or small movement that happens involuntarily, it may cause a stabbing pain or tightening sensation.

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What to do

Unless someone has already been diagnosed with symptoms of MS hugs and knows what they feel like, any new chest pain should be checked by a doctor, as it could be a sign of a medical emergency.

People with MS, experiencing the sensation for the first time, should see a doctor and try to explain how it feels, including:

  • how long it lasted
  • what it felt or feels like, including any pain
  • if it came on suddenly or gradually
  • whether it prevents normal activity or sleep

If an MS hug passes quickly, it may help if a person sits and quietly rests while it is happening. Relaxing may help the feeling pass.

If breathing becomes difficult or painful, or the chest pain is severe and feels like a heart attack, a person should call 911, or their local emergency number, and be sure to tell a doctor about their MS.

Treatment and prevention

An MS hug often goes away without treatment, but medication is available if the feeling is persistent or very painful.

The medication recommended will depend on whether the MS hug is dysesthesia or caused by muscle spasms.

Woman holding a hot water bottle to her abdomen.
A hot water bottle or warm compress may help to ease pain, when held against the affected area.

Medications for dysesthesia include:

  • anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin
  • antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
  • over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol

Medications for muscle spasms include:

  • baclofen, which reduces the messages sent between nerves
  • carbamazepine, which treats the pain associated with muscle spasms
  • tizanidine, which blocks the impulse that causes muscles to tighten

Using a pressure stocking, wearing tight clothing, or tying a scarf around the affected area can trick the brain into feeling the sensation of an MS hug as pressure rather than pain. Some people may find this helpful, although others may not.

A warm compress or hot water bottle with a cover on, pressed against the area, can change the feeling of pain to one of warmth.

MS symptoms often worsen if someone is stressed, tired, unwell, or sensitive to heat. If a person is aware of these triggers, it can help prevent an MS hug.

Trying to relax, rest, get medical treatment for an illness, or cool down as needed are all ways to ease the sensation of an MS hug. For some people, loose clothing can feel better than tight clothes and may help to prevent an MS hug.

MS is a long-term condition with no cure, so the treatment will focus on managing symptoms and preventing a relapse. Most people with MS will experience periods of remission when they have few or no symptoms between flare-ups or relapses.

A doctor will help a person with MS make a plan of medication, treatment, and self-care that works for their individual needs. Regular exercise, a healthful diet, and plenty of rest can prevent a relapse and ease symptoms.

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Although not everyone with MS will experience an MS hug, for some people, they will be an unavoidable part of the condition.

How long their MS hugs last, and the level of pain and discomfort caused, will affect how someone chooses to manage this symptom.

Establishing a good care plan that includes medication can lessen the effects of dysesthesia or spasms. A person can also try to stay rested and reduce their stress, which can help prevent an MS hug and lessen the impact it has if it happens.

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Medical News Today: Causes and treatments for nose scabs

The inside of the nose contains delicate tissue that physical injuries or illnesses can easily damage and inflame. With many blood vessels and nerve endings in this area, bleeding and painful scabs are common issues.

Fortunately, scabs inside the nose are usually harmless and heal on their own with a little care.

Knowing the cause of scabs in the nose and how to care for them is key to helping the nose heal and to preventing future problems.

Home remedies for scabs in the nose

Woman using a Neti pot to clear her nose of congestion.
A Neti pot uses a solution of saline and water to clear the nose of congestion.

For scabs caused by minor problems such as allergies and colds, a person can try:

  • Diffusing essential oils of eucalyptus and peppermint to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Using a Neti pot to clear the nose of mucus and allergens.
  • Doing a steam treatment at home by boiling a pot of clean water, letting it cool slightly, placing a towel over the head to capture the steam, and breathing the steam in through the nose.
  • Drinking plenty of water and non-caffeinated liquids to help the body naturally flush mucus out of the nose.
  • Applying a warm, wet washcloth over the nose several times a day.
  • Using saline nasal spray as needed to help with pain and encourage the scab to heal.

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Causes of scabs in the nose

Scabs in the nose can be caused by a variety of factors, but most are simple issues that heal without complications. Common causes include:


Allergens can cause the inside of the nose to feel itchy, which can lead to rubbing or scratching the nose. This may cause damage to the tissues inside.

This may cause inflammation, bleeding, and the formation of a scab. Even without rubbing or scratching, the ongoing inflammation from allergies can be irritating enough to cause scabs to form.


Certain chemicals can irritate the nose, causing inflammation and scabbing. Common irritants include:

  • fumes from cleaning products
  • industrial chemicals
  • cigarette smoke
  • cigars

Blowing the nose too hard

Blowing the nose is often necessary and helpful. However, blowing too hard can do more harm than good.

Forceful blowing of the nose can not only force the mucus back further into the sinuses, but it can also damage and irritate the inside of the nose.

People who blow their nose too hard and too frequently may notice bleeding and scabbing inside the nose. Repeated forceful blowing can rip the scab off, leading to more bleeding and repeated scabbing.

Trauma or nose-picking

An injury to the nose in an accident or sports can damage the tissue inside, leading to bleeding and scabbing.

Similarly, nose-picking can damage the inside of the nose. Children and adults alike may be guilty of this habit, especially when a cold or allergies lead to a mucus buildup in the nose.

Rhinotillexomania is the medical term for chronic nose-picking. In chronic or compulsive nose-picking, scab formation may prompt the person to blow out or pick the scab, causing more bleeding, scabbing, and an ongoing cycle that does not allow the nose to heal.

Overuse of nasal sprays

Bottle of nasal spray
Overusing nasal spray may irritate the inner lining of the nose, causing scabs to develop.

Some nasal sprays contain a drug known as oxymetazoline, which is designed to shrink the blood vessels in the nose, helping it to feel less congested.

Although it can help the nose feel better initially, using these sprays too often can lead to dryness, irritation, and increased congestion in the nose.

All of these factors increase the risk of scabs inside the nose.

Cold sores (herpes simplex virus)

Although cold sores are most common around the mouth, they can appear in other places, including inside the nose.

Cold sores result from an infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). A cold sore usually starts with a burning and tingling feeling, followed by a sore that scabs over and forms a crust.

Pimples or boils

The inside of the nose contains hair follicles that can become infected with bacteria. As a result, a pus-filled boil or pimple may develop.

Boils and pimples can cause pain and irritation. If they are scratched or popped, bleeding and scabbing may result.

Drug use

Inhaling drugs such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin can do significant damage to the inside of the nose.

Irritation and scabbing in the nose are common with the use of these drugs. They can also tear, or perforate, the septum inside the nose, leading to serious complications, such as necrosis (tissue death) and holes in the nose.

Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer

Cancer in the nasal cavity, or paranasal cancer, can cause a range of symptoms, including ongoing congestion and nosebleeds. This can lead to irritation and scabbing.

Other symptoms of paranasal cancer include changes in a person’s sense of smell, numbness or pain in the face, and changes in vision.

Scabs in the nose and congestion are usually not signs of cancer. If a person is concerned, a doctor can rule out this cause with any needed testing or exams.


man gently blowing his nose because of flu or cold.
A person with scabs in their nose should avoid blowing the nose too hard or too often.

A number of steps can be taken to help prevent scabs in the nose, including:

  • Taking allergy medications as recommended by a doctor.
  • Blowing the nose gently and only when necessary. If no mucus comes out when blowing, a person should not force it or blow harder, but instead, they should moisten the nasal passages with a saline spray.
  • Avoiding inhaling drugs, including illegal drugs.
  • Asking a doctor before using a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline. If recommended, it should not be used more than twice a day or for longer than 3 days.
  • Using a humidifier.
  • Keeping drug-free saline spray on hand to keep the inside of the nose moist. A person should look for sprays that contain only “sodium chloride” as the active ingredient.
  • Not putting fingers or other objects in the nose.
  • Dabbing petroleum jelly inside the nose helps keep moisture in, preventing the nasal tissues from drying out and bleeding.
  • Avoiding picking at scabs or bumps inside the nose.
  • Not smoking and avoiding places where others smoke.
  • Avoiding strong chemical smells from harsh cleaning products whenever possible.
  • Wearing a face mask that covers the nose when dealing with chemicals.
  • Taking medications to prevent cold sores.

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When to see a doctor

Although scabs in the nose often result from minor, harmless conditions such as seasonal allergies, a health professional should examine ongoing scabs or discomfort in the nose.

Usually, a family doctor, an allergist, or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) can examine the inside of the nose with a light and recommend further testing or treatment if needed.

Blood tests may be required if herpes or a bacterial infection is suspected. In many cases, however, scabs due to allergies and trauma can be diagnosed with a visual exam.

Usually, the cause of scabs in the nose is easily treatable with home remedies and time.

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Medical News Today: What is polyarthralgia?

Polyarthralgia is a medical condition where pain occurs in several joints of the body.

It can have several underlying causes, it is more common in older people, and women tend to develop it more frequently than men.

In this article, we take a look at the symptoms and causes of polyarthralgia, as well as the treatment options available for the condition.


Person experiencing joint pain in their knee.
Polyarthralgia may cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in multiple joints.

Polyarthralgia is a non-inflammatory condition that can have several symptoms, including:

  • joint pain
  • joint tenderness
  • stiffness of the joints
  • swelling of the joints
  • limited joint movement
  • weakness
  • fatigue

How painful the joints feel will also depend on the person’s emotional state and pain tolerance.

Differences with other types of arthralgia, arthritis, and polymyalgia

Although sharing some similarities, polyarthralgia differs from other inflammatory and non-inflammatory pain syndromes in the following ways:

  • arthralgia affects one joint instead of several joints
  • arthritis pain is associated with joint inflammation, which is absent in arthralgia and polyarthralgia
  • polyarthritis pain is also associated with joint inflammation and usually affects five or more joints
  • oligoarthritis or oligoarticular disease affects two to four joints
  • osteoarthritis causes pain in the joints of the knee, hips, and hands
  • myalgia refers to muscle pain with no signs of inflammation
  • polymyalgia is muscle pain that affects several muscles

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Causes and risk factors

Woman working on laptop holding her wrist because of repetitive strain injury.
A sedentary lifestyle, performing repetitive actions, and previous joint injuries may all increase the risk of devloping polyarthralgia.

Polyarthralgia can have several causes, which may include the following:

  • injuries and fractures
  • infections caused by a virus
  • certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • bursitis, the swelling and irritation of the fluid-filled cushion between muscles, tendons, and bones
  • tendinitis, which is the swelling or inflammation of tendons
  • excessive use and effort of the joints
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteomyelitis, a bone infection caused by bacteria or other germs
  • septic arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints due to a bacterial or fungal infection

A person may have increased risk for polyarthralgia if they:

  • are overweight
  • have a sedentary, inactive lifestyle
  • have a physically demanding job
  • have a job that involves repetitive actions
  • have had a previous joint injury
  • are female
  • are an older person


The medical diagnosis of polyarthralgia includes an initial evaluation of the person by the doctor. This evaluation usually includes looking at the person’s medical history and a physical examination. It may also include specific tests and imaging techniques.

When looking at the person’s medical history, the doctor may ask questions such as whether the pain appeared after an injury, or whether there is a family history of joint disease.

Physical examination typically includes inspection, feeling the joints, checking their range of motion, and specific tests. The doctor will likely try to work out the exact location of the pain and which joints were affected first.

Laboratory testing may be required to help make a diagnosis. This may include blood tests to check for the following:

  • rheumatoid factor
  • erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • uric acid
  • C-reactive protein
  • antinuclear antibodies

A doctor may perform an arthrocentesis, a procedure to remove fluid from the joints, which will relieve the pain. Analysis of the fluid will also give the doctor a clearer view of the medical condition causing the problem.

Finally, imaging techniques can also be used to help diagnosis. Methods may include radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT) scans.

CT scans may be performed in combination with a dye injection to give a better view of the cartilage, ligaments, and the tissue surrounding the joint.

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Treatment of polyarthralgia can involve medication or medication-free strategies. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, promote healing, and allow the joints to continue to work properly.


A warm bubble bath.
A warm bath may help to relax the joints, and is an alternative treatment method to taking medication.

Several medications are available that can help to control the pain and relieve joint swelling.

In cases of moderate to severe joint pain, doctors frequently prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors.

Studies have shown that both treatments are similarly effective, although COX-2 inhibitors cause fewer side effects in the gut.

Acetaminophen may be used to relieve joint soreness in cases of mild pain.

Medication-free strategies

Several interventions and lifestyle changes are encouraged to protect and strengthen the joint.

Doctors and physical therapists may recommend moderate physical exercises, such as walking, swimming, and stationary cycling. These activities do not place too much weight on the joints and help to reduce stress on them.

Other suggestions include:

  • resting the joints
  • eating a healthful diet to lose or maintain weight
  • taking warm baths
  • having massages
  • doing stretching exercises

Changing simple daily habits, such as adopting a better posture in everyday life, can relieve joint pain and help a person to cope with it.

Keeping the joint still in the short term can be helpful for pain control and protection. However, long periods without moving the joint can lead to joint stiffness and loss of movement. Ideally, try moving the joint gently without applying any weight.

Physical therapists may provide other alternatives and specific techniques to help manage and control pain, including using ultrasound, electrical currents, heat, cold, skin irritants, and electrical nerve stimulation.


Polyarthralgia is a medical condition of painful joints with no evidence of inflammation. It can have several causes, often only lasts for a short time, and does not require immediate treatment.

Several actions can be taken to limit and relieve pain. Depending on its severity, people can take pain medications such as opioids and NSAIDs.

Education and lifestyle changes can also be used to ensure that daily activities are pain-free and to maintain a good quality of life.

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Medical News Today: Malaria drugs could help to combat cancer

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are drugs that are used to treat malaria, but a new review suggests that they may have another purpose: treating cancer.
dividing cancer cells
Two antimalarial medications could also help to treat cancer, a new review suggests.

The research — which reviewed more than 190 studies investigating how chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) affect cancer cells — describes how the malaria drugs may increase tumor sensitivity to existing cancer treatments.

Based on their findings, first study author Ciska Verbaanderd, from the University of Leuven in Belgium, and her colleagues say that the drugs “deserve further clinical investigations in several cancer types.”

The review was recently published in the journal ecancermedicalscience.

While the United States has seen a fall in cancer death rates in recent years, the disease remains a significant burden on public health. Last year, there were more than 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. and more than 595,000 cancer deaths.

Given that cancer is increasingly becoming resistant to existing therapies, there is a desperate need to uncover new ways to fight the disease.

Verbaanderd and colleagues believe that the drugs CQ and HCQ could help in this fight.

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CQ and HCQ as cancer therapies

CQ and HCQ are medications used to prevent and treat malaria. They may also be used in the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. A wealth of research, however, has suggested that these drugs may also have anti-cancer properties.

For their review, Verbaanderd and colleagues analyzed the results of more than 190 animal and human studies that assessed the effects of CQ and HCQ on different types of cancer.

According to the researchers, the aim of their review was “to inform further research and trials on repurposing CQ and HCQ as anti-cancer agents.”

The team uncovered evidence to suggest that CQ and HCQ could be effective for the treatment of a number of cancers, including glioblastoma — which is a deadly brain cancer — lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

“CQ and HCQ have been studied in multiple preclinical cancer models,” write the authors, “and have demonstrated activity on several cancer-supporting pathways and in combination with a broad range of other therapies.”

“[…] The majority of these studies have reported an improved therapeutic efficacy as compared with monotherapy with existing anti-cancer drugs,” they add.

The review also indicates that both drugs are “safe and tolerable” as an anti-cancer therapy, though current evidence suggests that HCQ might pose fewer side effects.

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How can CQ and HCQ fight cancer?

According to the team, their review highlights a number of mechanisms by which CQ and HCQ could help to treat cancer.

Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that the drugs can inhibit autophagy, which is the process whereby cells devour their own damaged or unnecessary components.

“Autophagic properties such as nutrient recycling can support cancer cell survival,” the authors note. “Moreover, key regulators of cell growth can be degraded and the DNA damage response can be suppressed through increased autophagy.”

“Therefore, inhibition of autophagy can be an interesting anti-cancer strategy when cancer cells start depending on autophagy for survival.”

The review also revealed that CQ and HCQ can block the CXCL12/CXCR4 signaling pathway, which previous research has associated with cancer progression.

Additionally, there is evidence that CQ can stabilize a protein called p53, which is a known tumor suppressor, and it may also help to normalize blood vessel dysfunction in tumors.

“The benefits of vessel normalization include a decrease in tumor hypoxia, reduced cancer cell intravasation and metastasis, and an increase in chemotherapeutic drug delivery and response,” the authors explain.

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Drugs could offer ‘significant clinical benefit’

Overall, Verbaanderd and colleagues believe that their study has highlighted the potential benefits of CQ and HCQ as a cancer treatment, as well as the mechanisms behind their anti-cancer properties.

The results from the review lead us to believe that these antimalarial drugs could offer significant clinical benefit for certain cancer patients, especially in combination with standard anti-cancer treatments. This should be confirmed by additional clinical results.”

Ciska Verbaanderd

The team notes that there are 30 clinical trials currently investigating the effects of CQ and HCQ against various cancer types.

Based on their review, the researchers conclude that these trials should focus on the efficacy of these medications, as well as the best doses and methods of administration.

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Medical News Today: How can you cope with seasonal affective disorder?

With just 30 days left until Christmas, stores have started to sell their festive treats and decorations. But amid the general sense of enthusiasm, many of us will experience low moods, often to a debilitating extent. Why is that, and how can we cope?
girl looking out the window at the snow
Does winter bring you down every year? We give you some tips on how to manage seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the four seasons, typically manifesting during the cold autumn and winter months, when the days are shorter, darker, and chillier.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, distance from the equator (since regions farther to the north and south tend to have shorter days and less sunlight in winter), and a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Studies have shown that “[y]oung adults and women are most likely to experience SAD with the reported gender difference ranging from 2:1 to 9:1.”

People with SAD can experience a range of symptoms, but some of the most commonly reported ones include a sense of fatigue paired with oversleeping, chronically low moods, and strong cravings for carbohydrates, which can lead to excessive weight gain.

SAD can seriously impact productivity and day-to-day lifestyle, as the symptoms — if severe — can prevent individuals from going out, seeing other people, and engaging in some of the normal activities that they would otherwise pursue.

So what can you do if the winter months are getting you down? How can you cope with the lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and debilitating fatigue? Here, we give you some tips on how to tackle SAD head-on.

Hunt down that light

Lack of exposure to natural light is one of the apparent reasons behind winter SAD, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that light therapy — also known as “phototherapy” — would be beneficial in keeping the symptoms at bay.

light box for phototherapy
A light box can help to reduce the symptoms of SAD.

Many studies have indicated that light therapy is usually helpful in treating this seasonal disorder, and for this purpose, you can use one of the many dedicated light boxes that are now available on the market.

But to be effective, you should make sure that the light box generates at least 10,000 lux — 100 times stronger than a normal lightbulb, meaning that a regular desk lamp won’t do — and that it has white or blue (not yellow) light.

Also, check that the light box was especially made to treat SAD, depression, and other mood disorders, and that it’s not made for a different purpose (such as treating psoriasis or other skin conditions).

Light boxes for skin treatments are another kettle of fish altogether, as they emit ultraviolet (UV) B, which is not safe for the retina. Instead, dedicated SAD treatment light boxes filter out UVs, so they’re safe to use.

Dr. Norman Ronsenthal — who first described SAD’s symptoms and pushed for it to be recognized as a valid disorder — offers some advice on how to use light therapy in his book, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. He writes:

  1. Obtain a suitable light box.
  2. Set the light box up in a convenient place at home or at work, or both.
  3. Sit in front of the light box […] between 20 and 90 minutes each day.
  4. Try to get as much of your light therapy as early in the morning as possible.
  5. Be sure to sit in such a way that the correct amount of light falls on your eyes. [Dr. Marlynn Wei says it should be placed at eye level or higher, 2 feet away from you.]
  6. Repeat this procedure each day throughout the season of risk.

At the same time, you can add to the beneficial effects of light therapy by making a little extra effort to “hunt down” natural daylight, if possible, and take advantage of it as much as you can.

You could do this by waking up earlier in the morning and going outside where the sunshine is, for as long as it lasts, to allow yourself to feel as though you’re soaking in the light and taking advantage of the whole day.

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Eat well, and watch out for the carbs

Research has shown that individuals with SAD tend to eat more carbohydrate-rich foods, especially sweets and starchy foods. They also have a tendency to overeat during these periods of “seasonal lows,” so it’s important that they look after their diets in order to feel more energized.

vegan suitable food
Cut down on the carbs and pile on the fruit and vegetables to feel better.

Over the winter months, as we get less and less sunlight, vitamin D is insufficiently produced in our bodies. Research has also suggested that ensuring we get enough vitamin D may help to prevent and manage depression.

To make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D during autumn and winter, you could take dietary supplements. Vitamin D is also found in a range of foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily meals.

Salmon, for instance, is naturally rich in D-3, though some studies suggest that wild-caught salmon contains much larger amounts of the vitamin than farmed salmon.

Eggs are a good source of the vitamins D-2 and D-3, and mushrooms also have a high D-2 content, though research suggests that we should stick to wild mushrooms rather than cultivated ones.

Some studies also suggest that people with mood disorders may have an omega-3 fatty acid deficit, and so supplementation of this nutrient may help to keep symptoms in check.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some good food sources of omega-3 include various types of fish (salmon, herring trout, and mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseed, and soybean.

Also, research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health points to fruit and vegetables as the foods of choice when it comes to increasing happiness and well-being.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human [physical] health,” notes study co-author Prof. Andrew Oswald.

The psychological benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption were confirmed by a recent study, from February this year, which focused on the positive effect of a “green” diet on young adults — one of the groups most at risk of SAD.

Make an effort to stay active

Precisely because some of the main symptoms of SAD are fatigue and lethargy, specialists advise that making an effort to stay physically active can offer a boost of energy and improve mood.

A review of existing studies surrounding SAD and the effects of exercise on this disorder suggests that the low moods and other symptoms involved in it may be caused by disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates our sleep, eating, and activity patterns according to day-night cycles.

Review author Benny Peiser — from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moore University in the United Kingdom — explains that taking part in regular physical exercise during the autumn and winter months can help to maintain an appropriate circadian rhythm, thereby keeping SAD symptoms at bay.

A study recently covered by Medical News Today also demonstrates that even low-intensity exercise done for as little as 1 hour per week can effectively counteract depression.

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Don’t give in to reclusiveness

On those dark, cold days, you may be sorely tempted to just stay inside and hide from the weather and world alike. If you have more severe SAD symptoms, going out may seem unachievable, but if you want to keep the low moods and lethargy at bay, then you should do your best to resist these solitary tendencies.

man and woman hanging out in winter
Try not to give up on seeing people and doing things.

Much the same as light exercise, studies show that a leisurely walk in the great outdoors can improve your mood and well-being.

Just taking one moment every day to notice a detail in your natural surroundings, and asking yourself what feelings it elicits, can make you feel happier and more sociable, according to research from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The American Psychological Association advise that you keep in touch with friends and family, go out with them, and speak to trusted people about what you’re experiencing. Enlisting someone else’s help in keeping you active, and helping you get out of your shell during the cold months, may make it easier to cope with the effects of SAD.

Advice regarding how best to cope with SAD from Johns Hopkins Medicine also includes finding a winter-appropriate hobby that will both keep you busy and give you pleasure, such as a DIY project or a winter sport.

Moreover, don’t forget that there is help available for people who experience SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be effective in the treatment of this disorder, and a specialist will be able to recommend antidepressants if you find yourself struggling.

If you experience SAD, let us know what your strategy is for managing the symptoms and making the most of the holiday season.

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