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MOST of us all heave a huge sigh of relief when we finally emerge from the dark cocoon of winter into the warm glow of summer.

It's always a tonic to feel the sun in your face and bask in the long lazy, crazy days of better weather.

And, with all the bare flesh that's on view, it's not surprising that passions can be easily aroused.

The great poet Tennyson reckoned that in spring, a young man's fancy turns to love.

It's as if our emotions are tightly dovetailed to the changing seasons - and in many ways they are. But not everyone sees summer as the ultimate cure-all for life's mercurial mood swings.

In fact, a recently identified condition called Spring Fever can affect all of us in a much more destructive way.

Experts have discovered that, while some of us experience a surge in energy and an increased libido, others suffer depression, tiredness, lethargy and their sex lives go through the floor.

Tennyson may have been right in saying spring is the time for love, because it certainly isn't for lust. The production of the male sex hormone testosterone actually reaches its lowest point in spring - and doesn't peak until autumn. Fewer babies are conceived in May than at any other time of year.

Rates of sick leave are also unaccountably higher in May than in any other month, with the exception of December, when fairly predictably, seasonal over-indulgence is thought to be behind it.

Interestingly, May is also noted for being the peak time for suicides.

The reason for all this hormonal hiatus is that during the onset of summer, our red blood cells undergo their own transformation.

As our bodies heat up, these cells have to work harder by shunting more blood towards the skin to keep us cool.

And to make sure our blood pressure doesn't dip, the amount of blood coursing through our bodies is increased.

The knock-on effect of all this inner-body work is that the volume of red cells in our blood falls and so our muscles and brains receive less oxygen, leaving us tired, lethargic and grumpy.

The idea of Spring Fever was tested by researchers at the University of Chicago, who boosted the temperature of their rooms to a mercury-busting 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to mimic the sudden onset of summer.

Before long, they succumbed to exhaustion, had difficulty concentrating and suffered memory loss as well as frequent lapses of memory and judgement.

It took about 10 days before their bodies had adjusted to the new temperatures by creating enough new red blood cells to carry more oxygen around the body.

So it's not surprising that, especially during the past few balmy days, we might not be firing on all cylinders.

But don't despair. If you want to put some Spring in your step - and make sure your young man's thoughts are focussed on love - here are a few pointers to help you on your way to passion-packed season.

IF you think you are suffering from Spring Fever, there are many ways to overcome it and make sure you're a summertime sensation.

MAKE sure you get enough sleep. This is a time of rest, repair, rejuvenation and regeneration. Sleep allows your body to rest and your muscles and joints to recover from constant use during the day. Cell turnover rate also increases and more red blood cells and immune cells are made. These processes are mainly controlled by the increased nocturnal secretion of growth hormone. Lack of sleep will also increase difficulties concentrating and remembering facts.

INCREASE your iron intake to boost production of haemoglobin, the iron-rich, oxygen-carrying molecule found in red blood cells.

Eat more shellfish, red meats, sardines, wheat germ, wholemeal bread, egg yolk, green vegetables and dried fruit (eg raisins, which make a great, healthy between-meals snack). The form of iron found in red meat (haeme iron) is up to ten times more easily absorbed than that found in vegetables, although uptake of iron from plant sources can be optimised by not over-boiling and by increasing your intakes of vitamin C (found in citrus and berry fruits, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit) which boosts absorption of non-haem iron.

An iron-containing supplement is also a good idea if you suffer from Spring Fever - select an A to Z formula supplying around 14 mg iron, or an iron-rich liquid tonic.

DON'T allow yourself to become overheated - keep cool by changing into lighter clothing, turn off your central heating whenever you can, and have a fan handy to help keep you cool.

INCREASE your level of exercise. Apart from leading to weight gain, lack of exercise can increase the lack of energy, feelings of tiredness and low mood that can accompany Spring Fever. Exercise boosts your metabolism to burn more fat and release more energy for your cells to use.

DRINK plenty of water so you do not become dehydrated as your body fluid levels become redistributed.

EAT little and often to help maintain your blood glucose levels. You'll be surprised how much better you will feel if you eat a healthy, low-fat diet full of wholegrain cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables.

LACK of vitamins and minerals can make Spring Fever worse. The B-group of vitamins are especially important as they are needed to burn glucose and fatty acids to produce energy. Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is also important for memory and concentration.

Folic acid and vitamin B12 are vital for the formation of red blood cells and, when they are in short supply, red blood cells are produced that are larger than normal and which do not function so efficiently.

As lack of folic acid is one of the most widespread vitamin deficiencies, it's a good idea to take a B complex supplement that includes it, and eat more foods that contain it, such as fortified cereals. Look for blue flashes on packs that show which products are good sources.

KEEP caffeine and alcohol intakes to a minimum unless you have recently had a high caffeine intake, in which case reduce your intake slowly so you do not get caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

CONSIDER taking supplements containing Coenzyme Q10, a vitamin-like compound essential for the production of energy in cells. Without CoQ10, cells cannot process oxygen or produce energy.

Cell levels of CoQ10 naturally start to decline from the age of 20 and, when CoQ10 is in short supply, cells cannot use oxygen properly or receive all the energy they need.

FIND time for relaxation. Treat yourself to a massage, a facial, or a soak in an aromatherapy bath. Just sitting down quietly listening to music by candlelight, or finding a quiet spot to read a book will help. Encourage people not to disturb you during your relaxation period.

IF you feel depressed, St John's Wort will help to overcome the low mood associated with Spring Fever. Seek advice from a pharmacist or doctor if you are taking any prescribed medication, however. If your love life needs a boost, herbal supplements containing Muira puama have a good aphrodisiac action for both men and women.

TAKE measures to increase your output of testosterone hormone, small amounts of which are produced in the adrenal glands of both men and women.

You can do this by stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol, reducing stress and possibly through some aphrodisiac supplements, such as Herbal Vy for men and Herbal Vx for women.

AT times of change, it is always a good idea to take an adaptogen - a herbal remedy that supports the function of the adrenal glands, normalises a variety of functions and helps you to adapt.

IF you feel tired and lethargic for longer than two weeks, seek medical advice. Many illnesses start off with tiredness as one of their first symptoms.

While most people who feel tired are unlikely to be seriously ill, it's still worth having a check-up just in case. This is especially important if you have also noticed other symptoms such as weight loss, cough, shortness of breath, urinary problems or thirst.

So don't let Spring Fever get a grip on you. It can be beaten and, with any luck, your fancy might just turn to lust.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 9, 2001
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