Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs in the winter in countries that are far from the equator.

Also known as SAD, it is sometimes referred to as winter depression. As winter approaches, the mornings start later and the evenings begin earlier, so there is less sunlight each day. Experts say SAD is most likely caused by lack of sunlight alone and not by cold temperatures.

Depressive symptoms usually build up slowly as days start getting shorter, and they gradually subside in early spring, as the amount of sunlight rises each day.

Fast facts on SAD:

  • SAD did not receive a clinical name until the early 1980s.
  • The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression.
  • Common symptoms include low mood, lethargy, and social withdrawal.

What is SAD?

SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a common seasonal issue affecting people who don't get enough natural sunlight.

SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a subtype of depression.

SAD was first mentioned in scientific literature in 1845 but the condition did not get a clinical name until the early 1980s.

We know that seasonal variations in sunlight have an impact on animal behavior, for example, hibernation, reproduction, and seeking out a mate. Seasonal changes in sunlight affect our circadian rhythms, which are also referred to as our internal biological clocks.

SAD is thought to affect 4-6 percent of people in the United States and is more common among young adults with onset typically between 20-30 years of age. It is often seen in females more than males, although depression is more common, generally, in females.

It also occurs more in areas that are further north. For example, it is seven times more common in Washington State than in Florida.

Interestingly, people can have SAD during the summer, although this is rare.

Symptoms of SAD

The signs and symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression, but they come on as winter approaches and go away during springtime. In the majority of cases, symptoms come back each year at around the same time.

Symptoms are usually mild as autumn advances, and they worsen as the number of daylight drops. The severity, characteristics, and patterns of SAD can vary considerably from person-to-person.

About four-fifths of people who experience SAD develop unipolar depression, while the rest have bipolar depression. Unipolar means they have persistent depressive symptoms, while bipolar involves swinging from high or manic periods to very low or depressive ones.

The signs and symptoms of SAD include:

  • anxiety
  • feeling guilty and worthless
  • feeling stressed
  • indecision
  • irritability
  • low moods and despair
  • reduced libido
  • crying
  • lethargy, fatigue, hypersomnia
  • increased appetite
  • social withdrawal
  • difficulty concentrating
  • weight gain

Symptoms of spring and summer SAD

Insomnia is a common symptom of spring and summmer SAD.

Insomnia is a common symptom of spring and summer SAD.

Rather than feeling depressed during the winter, some people have symptoms in the spring and summer. This type of SAD is rare, but symptoms can include:

  • insomnia
  • low mood
  • reduced appetite
  • weight loss
  • anxiety
  • agitation

Who has a higher risk of developing SAD?

There are factors that can affect who gets SAD and who is less likely to have the condition.

Sex – females are more likely than males to suffer from SAD, although this may be due to a greater prevalence of depression among women. Males may have more severe symptoms.

Geography – some studies suggest that the further someone lives from the equator, the higher the chances of developing SAD. Put simply, those who live in places where days are considerably shorter in winter are more susceptible.

Genetics – individuals with a close relative who has or had SAD have a greater risk.

Having, or having had depression – people with a history of depression or bipolar depression are more likely to develop SAD than those with no such history.

Causes of SAD

Experts are still unsure of the exact causes of SAD. However, studies have pointed to the following:

  • Circadian rhythm – our body clock. Each of us has an internal body clock that tells us when to be awake and asleep. Less sunlight in the winter is thought to disrupt our circadian rhythm, causing depressive symptoms.
  • Melatonin levels – melatonin is a hormone that influences our sleep patterns and mood. Experts believe that reduced exposure to sunlight through shorter days in winter disrupts our melatonin balance. People with SAD also have decreased serotonin levels during the winter months.
  • The hypothalamus – sunlight is thought to stimulate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls sleep, mood, and appetite, all of which impact on how we feel. Similarly, production of serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, may be affected by low sunlight.

Diagnosis of SAD

The doctor may carry out a physical exam and ask questions covering:

  • How long symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how they affect daily activities.
  • What eating patterns are like.
  • General lifestyle questions.
  • Sleeping patterns and if they have changed.
  • How thoughts and behaviors change with the seasons.
  • Details about family medical history, such as depression, SAD, etc.

As there are several types of depression, diagnosing SAD accurately may take time. There is no medical or laboratory test that can diagnose the condition. The doctor may order some diagnostic tests, including blood tests, to rule out other illnesses or underlying conditions.

The American Psychiatric Association do not class SAD as a separate disorder under the DSM-5 criteria, but a “course specifier.” They refer to it as “depression with a seasonal pattern.”

Treatments for SAD

According to the American Psychiatric Association, people may alleviate SAD symptoms by boosting their exposure to sunlight. For example, going for long walks outdoors when there is still some sunlight could help.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom recommend that SAD treatment should be the same as for other types of depression, involving psychosocial and antidepressant medication.

Bright light therapy

If symptoms are so severe that they affect a person’s daily life, light therapy is sometimes recommended. Bright light therapy, also known as phototherapy, can help restore circadian rhythm.

With this kind of therapy, a person sits in front of a special light for 30-90 minutes each day. It is important to purchase a light box that is designed for treating SAD. UV lamps, full-spectrum lights, and tanning lamps will not do the same job.

In general, light therapy is required from 30 minutes to 2 hours per day, depending on the strength of the light. Doctors say exposure in the mornings tends to give the best results.

A similar treatment is known as dawn simulation when a special light in the bedroom is programmed to get slowly lighter in the mornings, to simulate dawn.

Experts say this type of phototherapy also helps restore brain chemistry balance. Nobody is sure how all this occurs.

Psychotherapy

Although SAD involves a change in a person’s brain chemistry, therapy that focuses on mood and behavior can also help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the premise that it is how a person thinks and reacts to things that cause unhappiness rather than the situation. For example, if the way a person perceives certain situations can be altered, their behavior will change, and their symptoms will be reduced.

CBT usually includes an individual program of self-help, and another for the person and their partner, if appropriate. Sometimes a group program can also be helpful.

Medication

A doctor may prescribe an antidepressant, usually a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which raises serotonin levels.

Antidepressants do not work straight away; they can take from 10 days to 1 month to work well. Experts say antidepressants for SAD are more effective if taken at the beginning of the SAD season before symptoms appear. Usually, they are taken daily until springtime.

People should always follow their doctor’s instruction when taking these drugs.

Self-help

Some people have found that making their environment sunnier and brighter helps alleviate symptoms. Examples include opening blinds and curtains, trimming trees around the house, and sitting closer to the window during daytime.

Even in winter, the sun still comes up, and there is more sunlight outdoors than indoors. So, getting out every day for a long spell in the open air may help.

Similarly, exercise is not only good for the health but alleviates symptoms of anxiety and aids proper sleep. Exercises can also help people nurture a better self-image, which tends to lift their mood.

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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 lightbox 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 lightbox was specially 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).

Lightboxes 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 lightbox.
  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.

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 aciddeficit, 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.

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 a 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.

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.

Resistance Training May Boost Seniors’ Psychological Well-Being

Resistance training may benefit some aspects of psychological well-being in older adults, according to new research from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.
older woman lifting weights

Muscle-strengthening activities could boost psychological well-being among seniors.

The researchers — who reported their findings in the journal Quality of Life Research — came to this conclusion after studying the effect of 9 months of resistance training on psychological functioning in a group of not very active older adults.

Physically active older people tend to live longer and have lower rates of many non-communicable diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart and circulation diseases, and several types of cancer, say the World Health Organization (WHO). Physically active seniors also have higher levels of fitness and a healthier body composition.

To this end, the WHO recommends that healthy people aged 65 and over do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic physical activity, in bouts of at least 10 minutes at a time. They should also, on 2 or more days each week, engage in muscle-strengthening, or resistance training, that involves the major muscle groups.

The new study investigated the effect of 9 months of frequent resistance training — that is, muscle-strengthening exercises that use weights and resistance bands — on psychological as opposed to physical well-being in this age group.

Muscle training and psychological health

“The importance of resistance training for the muscular strength and physical functioning in older adults is well-known,” explains lead study author and doctoral student Tiia Kekäläinen, “but the links to psychological functioning have been studied less.”

The team recruited 106 healthy people aged between 65 and 75 whose level of aerobic physical activity fell below that recommended by the WHO. None of them had received training in muscle-strengthening before.

They randomly assigned the participants to one of four groups: three resistance training groups and a non-training group (the controls). All the training groups underwent familiarization and practice in resistance training twice per week for 3 months.

After the familiarization period, the three training groups continued with progressive resistance training for another 6 months. One group practised this once per week, another twice each week, and the third, three times every week.

The participants completed assessments of psychological functioning three times over the 9-month study: at baseline (month 0), after completion of 3 months of familiarization in resistance training (month 3), and at the end of 6 months of progressive resistance training (month 9).

The subjects also gave information about their levels of aerobic physical activity at these times and underwent assessments of physical strength.

The assessments of psychological functioning included measures of quality of life (using a WHO questionnaire); sense of coherence (using an Antonovsky scale); and symptoms of depression(using a Beck depression inventory).

Health as ‘more than absence of disease’

The quality of life measure that the team used examines how individuals perceive their position in life relative to their expectations, goals, concerns, and standards within the context of their culture and values system.

It captures four quality of life domains: physical, psychological, social, and environmental. “Of these domains,” note the researchers, “especially the physical domain tends to decrease with age.”

Sense of coherence is a concept that was originally proposed by the sociologist Aaron Antonovsky several decades ago. His salutogenesis theory defines health as being more than just the absence of disease. It proposes that health is a position on a spectrum that has “ease” at one end and “dis-ease” at the other.

According to Antonovsky, sense of coherence is a “life orientation” that reflects how people see themselves able to make their lives “meaningful, manageable, and comprehensible.”

The researchers behind the new study suggest that sense of coherence might, therefore “be seen as a health resource because it reveals how people perceive life and use their resources to cope with stressors.”

Improvements in psychological functioning

The results of the study showed that at month 3, environmental quality of life improved in the resistance training groups compared with the control (non-training) group.

The environmental domain in the quality of life questionnaire seeks to measure how satisfied people are with their environment, physical safety, and the ease with which they can “access different services,” such as “leisure activities, health services, and public transport.”

At the end of the 3 months of resistance training, there was also a slight improvement in sense of coherence in the training groups compared with the controls. However, this was not statistically significant.

What was significant was the improvement in sense of coherence after 9 months of resistance training, although this was only seen in the group that trained twice per week.

The team suggests that perhaps a sense of coherence takes longer to develop and for resistance training to have an effect in this domain it needs to be longer than 3 months.

The results suggest that older adults’ ability to manage their environment and life could be improved by resistance training.”

Tiia Kekäläinen

The researchers propose that future studies should examine whether these changes remain over a longer period. They should also look at the extent to which frequency of training — as opposed to continuity — has the biggest effect.

Strength Training

Strength Training May Lower Early Death Risk…

A new study from the University of Sydney in Australia suggests that exercises that promote muscular strength may be just as important for maintaining health as aerobic exercise. In fact, they may help lower the risk of all-cause and cancer-related death.

Strength-building exercises, such as weight lifting, push-ups, and squats, can sometimes seem less attractive than aerobic activities — such as running, swimming, or cycling — because they are more intense and demanding.

Additionally, aerobic exercise has received many accolades over the years, as numerous studies pointed out its various health benefits, including improved executive functioning and cardiovascular fitness.

Recently, however, more researchers are turning their attention to strength-focused workouts, investigating how they relate to health and well-being.

A new study from the University of Sydney, led by Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis —associate professor in the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre — suggests that strength exercises are just as important as aerobics, and they may even be tied to a reduced risk of all-cause and cancer-related death.

The study’s findings were recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Strength training tied to lower death risk

Dr. Stamatakis and colleagues’ study analyzed data sourced from a core population sample of 80,306 adults aged 30 years and over. The information came from the Health Survey for England, as well as the Scottish Health Survey, and it was supplemented with data from the NHS Central Mortality Register.

Although this was an observational study, the researchers ensured that the results would be consistent by adjusting for confounding variables, including age, biological sex, overall health condition, educational levels, and lifestyle-related behaviors.

Participants with a previously diagnosed cardiovascular disease or cancer, as well as participants who died within the first 2 years of the study, were excluded from the analysis.

Dr. Stamatakis and team found that individuals who engaged in strength exercises had a 23 percent lower risk of death from all causes, and a 31 percent lower risk of cancer-related death.

“The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling,” explains Dr. Stamatakis.

It is not yet clear if the relationship is causal, but the researchers think that these findings are enough to warrant more encouragement for people to practice strength workouts.

“[A]ssuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships,” Dr Stamatakis adds, “it [strength training] may be even more vital when it comes to reducing the risk of death from cancer.”

‘Anyone can do classic strength exercises’

According to the lead researchers, public health authorities should put more effort into promoting strength-based exercise. They also point out that the general population is already missing the recommended physical activity target which, in itself, is a cause for concern.

Dr. Stamatakis points to data revealed by the Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, which reports that even engagement in low-intensity (aerobic) training is subpar, with 85 percent of the population exercising below the recommended levels.

The researcher thinks it’s high time we upped our game when it comes to physical activity.

“Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we are encouraging for long-term health and well-being,” he says.

For those of us worried about going to the gym and using specialized equipment, the researchers say there is no cause for concern. Basic strength exercises — such as squats, push-ups, or situps — performed at home should do the trick.

“When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” reassures the lead researcher.

Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits.”

Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis

 

Benefits of Prune Juice: A Powerful Constipation Reliever

You may have heard about prune juice for babies or older adults, but this purple-colored drink is breaking old stereotypes and gaining a whole new following. Don’t be mistaken, the health benefits of prune juice still include constipation relief, but that is not all it can offer. Made from prunes (also known as dried plums), prune juice is packed full of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that can support your health from head to toe.

If you are looking for natural ways to support healthy digestion, bone growth, colon function, heart health, and more, then you need to give prune juice a chance. Below, we will explore all the health benefits of prune juice, who should drink it, and how to make your own organic prune juice at home.

What Are Prunes?

Prunes are dried plums. Today’s prune farmers carefully select different plum varieties based on their unique potential for being dried and juiced. In the United States, there are only a handful of plum varieties that make their way into mass-produced prune juices, the most popular being Prunus domestica, sometimes called the European plum.

In my opinion, prunes should be flying off the shelves. However, they have experienced a popularity crisis over the years as many assume prunes are only for the very young or very old. Sometime around 2001, prune producers started to rebrand their prunes as “dried plums.” While they are the same thing, when selecting the best prune juice you should stick to the ones labeled “prune.” Making this choice helps ensure the distinct color, flavor, and nutrition that prune juice offers. Select certified organic options whenever available.

How Is Prune Juice Made?

Once the plums are harvested and dried, the juicing process begins. First, the prunes are placed in boiling water and soaked until the juice starts to release and the fruit starts to disintegrate. Next, the mixture is separated and filtered. What remains is a delicious juice that is high in dietary fiber and other health-promoting compounds.

What Vitamins & Minerals Are Found in Prune Juice?

There are lots of naturally occurring nutrients found in prune juice. Every glass contains an ample blend of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols that have helped support wellness for centuries. Prunes also contain some lesser-known trace minerals like iodine and boron and provide significant amounts of the nerve-boosting mineral, potassium.

Below is the nutritional breakdown for one cup of prune juice according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database.

Nutrient Value Per 100 g
Protein 0.61 g
Carbohydrates 17.45 g
Fat 0.03 g
Fiber 1.0 g
Sugars 16.45 g
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 1.18 mg
Magnesium 14 mg
Manganese 0.15 mg
Phosphorus 25 mg
Potassium 276 mg
Selenium 0.6 µg
Sodium 4 mg
Zinc 0.21 mg
Vitamin C 4.1 mg
Thiamin 0.016 mg
Riboflavin 0.07 mg
Niacin 0.785 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.218 mg
Vitamin A 3 IU
Vitamin E 0.12 mg
Vitamin K 3.4 µg

The Top 7 Health Benefits of Prune Juice

While some health benefits of prune juice are well-known, others may surprise you. Here are the top seven health benefits of drinking prune juice.

1. Constipation Relief

Yes, prune juice can help you poop—it’s no joke! Prune juice has naturally occurring insoluble and soluble fiber as well as a natural compound called sorbitol. Together, these compounds can help reduce the occurrence and the effects of constipation.

Prunes and prune juice are among the best natural ways to add fiber to your diet. Fiber is critical for those looking to put a stop to constipation. Insoluble fiber in prune juice helps add bulk and weight to your stool, helping it move through your digestive system more quickly.

Sorbitol is found in prunes and many other healthy fruits, including apples, cherries, and peaches. It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, which acts as a sweetener in prune juice. Sorbitol is also an effective laxative. It works by pulling in water to soften the stool, making going to the bathroom much easier for most people.

2. Supports Strong Bones

Bone density and strength is a growing concern among older Americans. Often, someone won’t even know there is an issue until a break or significant bone loss occurs. Luckily, there are some fruits and vegetables anyone can add to their diet to help support their nutrition and normal bone health.

Healthy bones are always in a steady cycle of deterioration and regrowth. However, people with high free radical counts may experience bone loss at a rate that outpaces new growth. This imbalance can lead to painful fractures and breaks. Antioxidant consumption through fruits and vegetables, like prunes, may help keep free radicals in check and encourage healthy bone growth and strength.

Prunes are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are known to support healthy bones, including boron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K.

3. Promotes Colon Health

Thousands of Americans die each year due to complications with their colon. As science looks for preventative solutions, some studies have turned to prunes as a possible answer. While more research is needed, one of these studies did demonstrate that prune juice encouraged healthy growth and function of colon cells, which may help support long-term colon health.

4. Boosts Gut Health

So many health concerns stem from an unhealthy gut. Your best bet for long-term health should focus on promoting proper gut health with the right balance of probiotics. If this is your goal, then prunes can help. Healthy guts rely on a collection of good bacteria that form the gut flora, otherwise known as your microbiota. To thrive, the healthy bacteria in your gut must receive nutrients known as prebiotics. The fiber found in prune juice provides prebiotics and can help contribute to a happy, balanced gut.

5. Helps Maintain Normal Heart Health

Prune juice has the potential to help your body maintain a healthy heart in several different ways. Prunes can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and even plaque buildup.

One study followed participants who consumed prunes every day for a year. Total cholesterol levels were lowered by up to 8% at the end of the experiment. Another study conducted over a much shorter period still showed lowering effects for those with high cholesterol. Participants consumed 12 prunes a day for the eight-week study and significantly lowered their LDL cholesterol—otherwise known as bad cholesterol.

Like cholesterol, blood pressure is a concern for those looking to maintain optimal heart health. Prunes have a long history of use for blood pressure in countries like India and Pakistan, and modern research is confirming some of these potential benefits. Several animal studies have shown that prune extracts contributed to lower blood pressure in mice.

Prunes may also help prevent some common heart concerns such as plaque buildup on arterial walls, and promote long-term heart health through their abundance of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin K.

6. May Support Weight Management

Anyone who has ever tried a new diet knows that snacks play a vital role in the success or failure of your weight loss goals. Some research has shown that prunes may be a good choice for some dieters because they can lower total energy intake. In other words, prunes can help you eat less.

Blood sugar can also be a concern for those looking to manage their weight or who have complications with diabetes. Some studies suggest that eating prunes will not immediately increase your glucose level, while others have used prunes as a way to lower blood sugar levels. More conclusive research is needed to determine exactly how prunes affect blood sugar, but substances in prunes like sorbitol are used in some diabetic-friendly candy as a sugar alternative.

7. Encourages Normal Liver Function

Prunes contain nutrients that may help promote normal liver function. One clinical trial studied the effects of prunes on 166 healthy participants. Each person was given prune juice or whole, dried prunes daily over an eight-week period. Blood samples were taken at the beginning and the end of the study. Researchers concluded prunes may promote a healthy liver and could prevent some liver-related health concerns.

Who Should Drink Prune juice?

Daily consumption of prune juice really could benefit almost anyone. However, those that are more prone to constipation, such as pregnant women, may especially benefit from a daily serving of prune juice. Prune juice has a mild laxative effect and complete lack of serious side effects that have solidified it among the most popular home remedies for children with constipation as well.

Ways to Add Prune Juice to Your Diet

There are a lot of different ways you can start consuming more prune juice. Drinking one to two cups a day should be enough to feel a difference. Many people find it convenient to drink it with their breakfast each morning.

If you don’t care for the juice, then eating the whole, dried prune can be a great alternative. Some parents even like mixing in prunes with nuts and other healthy snacks to make a healthier version of trail mix.

How to Make Organic Prune Juice at Home

If you can’t find organic prune juice at your local supermarket, or you just want an option without any preservatives or additives, then making prune juice at home is a healthy alternative. All you need is some time and two ingredients—prunes and water.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic prunes
  • 5 cups distilled or filtered water

Directions

  1. Make sure all of the pits have been removed from the prunes.
  2. Place the 5 cups of distilled or filtered water into a non-toxic saucepan.
  3. Turn heat to high and bring water to a rolling boil.
  4. While the water is heating, place your cup of pitted prunes in a non-toxic, heat-proof glass container.
  5. Once the water has been at a rolling boil for 2 to 5 minutes, carefully pour the water into your glass jar until the prunes are covered completely. This should be about 1 cup of hot water.
  6. Place the extra water aside for later, and leave the prunes to soak for 24 hours.
  7. After the prunes are properly soaked, blend the prunes and water mixture using a blender or immersion blender. Blend until there is a smooth consistency.
  8. Use a sieve or cheesecloth to filter out any large chunks from the blended mixture.
  9. Combine the remaining water that you set aside earlier with the blended prunes.
  10. Stir until combined, and then chill the juice in the fridge.
  11. If your prune juice is not sweet enough, then there are some organic sweetener options. Try adding some organic pear juice, honey, or some monk fruit to taste for a subtle sweet flavor.

Prune Juice Side Effects & Precautions

Prune juice has no serious recorded side effects. However, some people do have a plum and prune allergy. Parents should be cautious and follow their pediatrician’s advice before giving dried prunes or prune juice to their children. Because prune juice has a mild laxative effect, overconsumption may cause unwanted gas or mild diarrhea. Drinking only one to two cups of prune juice a day should avoid any of these complications in healthy adults. While prune juice is not as acidic as other fruit juices, it does have a low level of acids that may trigger acid reflux for sensitive individuals.

Safe & Natural Colon Cleanser

Constipation can sometimes be a sign of more complicated issues affecting your digestive system. Far too often, these symptoms arise due to toxins in your diet or environment. If you are experiencing occasional constipation, then a colon cleanse may help eliminate the underlying cause. Oxy-Powder® is a scientifically formulated, all-natural oxygen colon cleanser that safely relieves the bloating, irritation, and occasional constipation associated with a toxic colon.