Q & A
and Jo Robinson, Authors of
When Your Body Gets The Blues
moved you to write: WHEN YOUR BODY GETS THE BLUES?
A. We wrote
the book because of the remarkable success of our LEVITY study.
For 8 weeks, 112 women took part in our simple, drug-free program.
At the end of the study, standardized tests showed that the women
felt less anxious, irritable and angry; had fewer food cravings;
and found it easier to cope with stress. What's more, their depression
scores were cut in half, which is similar to the response seen
with state-of-the-art antidepressants.
this unnamed syndrome that you call the 'body blues.' What are
the symptoms or characteristics?
A. The Body
Blues is a user-friendly name for a mood disorder called "vegetative
depressive symptoms." A person with this syndrome is troubled
by three or more of the symptoms listed below:
- Eating too
much and gaining weight
- Low energy
- Sleep difficulties
interest in sex
- Mild anxiety
- Mild depression
sensitivity to rejection or criticism
say this is women's most misdiagnosed and under-treated mood problem.
Why do you think this is so?
A. 1) Most
practitioners have been trained to look for signs of serious depression
such as suicidal thoughts or a loss of all pleasure. The Body
Blues and other mild mood disorders are usually overlooked.
recently, most of the depression research has been conducted by
male researchers. Many of the studies have had male participants
as well, mainly because men do not have so many hormone swings
which can greatly complicate studies. As a result, the symptoms
more common in women have been given much less attention. For
example, depressed men are more likely to lose their appetite,
lose weight, and have an absence of feelings. In sharp contrast,
women are more likely to overeat, gain weight, and have marked
mood swings. Many practitioners do not view these symptoms as
signs of depression, resulting in under diagnosis.
the majority of the screening tools that practitioners use to
test patients for depression focus on symptoms that are more common
in men than women. As a result, many women score artificially
low on the tests and do not get the care they deserve.
until the LEVITY study, antidepressants were the only therapy
proven to relieve the symptoms of the Body Blues. Understandably,
many doctors are reluctant to prescribe medications for people
with mild to moderate mood symptoms. Many women are reluctant
to solve their problems with drugs as well. As a result, women
with the Body Blues have had to choose between drug therapy and
are women at greater risk than men?
the main reason that women are at greater risk for the Body Blues
is that their hormone production is much more volatile. When their
estrogen levels are falling or low, they are more likely to crave
carbohydrates, eat too much in the second half of the day, and
feel tired, stressed, and irritable. Men are spared these cyclical
dips in mood.
and women respond to stress in different ways. In both sexes,
stress depletes serotonin, the brain's feel-good hormone. But
men produce serotonin more quickly, which hastens their recovery.
(A recent survey revealed that men have recovered more quickly
from the stress linked with the horrific events of September 11th.)
in a low-light environment is one of the hidden causes of vegetative
depressive symptoms. As a rule, women get less light than men,
increasing their risk of the Body Blues.
does your program use sunlight to help relieve the Body Blues?
shows that bright light alone can relieve many of the symptoms
of the Body Blues, including overeating, carbohydrate cravings,
fatigue, and low mood. It can even help women lose weight. Sunlight
happens to be our brightest and most economical source of bright
light. Spending an extra hour a day outdoors is as effective at
relieving the Body Blues as sitting in front of a $300 artificial
type of vitamins are needed?
A. Each of the six vitamins and minerals
in the LEVITY formula
has been found to relieve some symptoms of the Body Blues. Together,
they create a comprehensive antidepressant cocktail.
is the LEVITY program and how does this relieve the Body Blues
A. The LEVITY
program is a simple, drug-free program for women that consists
of the following three specific activities:
a more natural lighting environment-brighter during the day and
darker at night.
20-minutes of brisk outdoor exercise five times a week.
- Taking the 6 vitamins and minerals in
the Levity formula
the reason that this simple program works is that it reverses
some of the underlying causes of The Body Blues, including light
deprivation, reduced blood flow to the brain, and low activity
of a number of mood-enhancing substances, including serotonin
and dopamine. All of these factors are explored in depth in the
book. (Scientific references are given in all cases.)
encourage people to keep a LEVITY journal. How does this help?
A. When women
keep track of their program activities in a journal, they are
rewarding themselves for following through with the program. They
are also keeping a permanent record of their successes. Knowing
that they've been faithful to the program in the past makes it
much easier to begin again after a relapse.
always hear exercise is good for us. Is that true for treating
the body blues as well -- and if so, what exercises work best?
A. The ideal
mood-enhancing exercise is moderate-intensity outdoor exercise.
More strenuous exercise can be too taxing, creating what researchers
call "tense arousal" instead of "energetic arousal."
When you exercise outdoors, you get the added benefit of bright
natural light, doubling the antidepressant effect.
the science behind the program?
Your Body Gets the Blues is based on exhaustive scientific
research. When my colleagues and I at the University of Washington
were designing the LEVITY study, we read over 600 scientific papers.
We focused on two main areas of research: 1) New findings about
gender differences in depression, and 2) Alternative therapies
that have been proven to enhance mood in women. The LEVITY program
was the outcome of this extensive investigation.
Also, the effectiveness of the LEVITY
program itself was proven in a randomized, placebo-controlled
study involving 112 moderately
depressed women. Our results were published in the scientific
journal Women and Health in December, 2001.
doctors all too often prescribe therapy and mood-altering drugs
-- rather than treat the problem naturally?
the LEVITY Program, there has been no clinically proven drug-free
therapy for the Body Blues. Wisely, most health care providers
stay away from unproven therapies. It would be irresponsible to
treat patients with an alternative therapy that had not been proven
to be effective. As a result, most women who go to their doctors
complaining of overeating, weight gain, fatigue, sleep problems,
and irritability are given mood-elevating drugs, diet pills, or
those who don't have it, how can they be helpful or understanding
of those who suffer from body blues?
A. A number of men who have read When
Your Body Gets the Blues have said that they feel much more
understanding of women's mood problems. Health care providers
have had a similar response. Once the public at large has a better
sense of the cause and treatment of vegetative depressive symptoms,
women who are plagued with these symptoms will be much more likely
to get the help, support, and understanding they deserve.