Winter Weather and SAD Depression
From Extraordinary Health News- January 2016
With the holiday season behind us, many people can feel a sense of letdown or sadness, but that usually passes quickly and people get on with their lives. That’s not the kind of sadness that usually gets people down.
And let’s face it. The winter months can be challenging for some people due to the cold weather, ice and snow, but for many Americans, it presents another issue: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. And SAD can get people down. In fact, SAD is a form of depression that affects 25 million Americans and typically occurs during the wintertime when there is lack of adequate light, leading to lower levels of serotonin, the “feel good” chemical created by our bodies. Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, and is responsible for maintaining proper mood balance.
Serotonin production increases with exposure to light, which is why the winter months can be troublesome. Often, winter can be quite gloomy and gray, leading to lessened serotonin production. Some symptoms of SAD include depression, long naps, low self-esteem, irritability and feelings of panic. Sleep quality can also be disrupted, since there aren’t adequate amounts of serotonin to be converted to melatonin, which helps with sleep.
Some additional information about the importance of serotonin balance is that serotonin is made in the brain and in the gut. In fact, between 80 to 90 percent of serotonin can be found in the gut. That’s yet another reason why gut health is so important to overall health. Additionally, serotonin is thought to affect many areas outside of mood, including social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory.
Fortunately, serotonin levels can be boosted by exposure to light (light therapy), exercise and proper diet, including what we’ll call “happy” foods—all organic, of course. Some of those foods include healthy, complete proteins—eaten three times a day. Other foods to consume are four cups daily of brightly colored veggies, since vegetables are good carbs that feed your system slowly.
Some other happy organic foods to enjoy are oatmeal (steel-cut oats or rolled oats, not instant), peanut butter, nuts, eggs (and egg whites), low-sugar fruits, free-range turkey and cheeses.
You can also include flaxseed and flaxseed oil; buckwheat; wild fish and other seafood; bananas, sour cherries; organic beef; and dark chocolate. Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, fish and other seafood contain omega-3s, which are thought to help increase brain serotonin levels and to help support a healthy mood.† Turkey, bananas and buckwheat contain tryptophan, an amino acid building block for serotonin. Dark chocolate boosts serotonin, while sour cherries contain melatonin, which is crucial for sleeping well at night.
Eating six smaller meals a day may help, too, to keep a steady flow of nutrition in your system and to avoid hunger pangs or urges for unhealthy carbs or other such foods.
So, keep your serotonin levels where they need to be this winter by eating these happy foods, exercising regularly and embracing other healthy lifestyle habits.
P.S. Don’t forget to get some Light Therapy using a SunBox!