Beat The Winter Blues
By Joanne Aponte, ND • January 27, 2017
Many people suffer from the winter blues or a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight is essential for maintaining a healthy mood, so the darkness of the winter months can take its toll on us. Low mood can become even more severe as the winter goes on, leaving you still feeling depressed when spring arrives. Taking measures in the fall and early winter when the darkness rolls in will help you maintain an optimal mood all winter long. So if you’re experiencing symptoms of SAD this winter, start support in the fall next year.
Here are some suggestions for beating the winter blues.
- Exercise regularly – break a light sweat for 30 minutes 4 times/week. Remember some is better than none!
- Healthy fats
- Include the following healthy fats in your diet – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts/seeds, free-range eggs, organic butter, grass-fed meat. Add the oils to your salads, greens and vegetables. Cook and bake with the oils/butter. Your body needs fat and cholesterol to build the cells of the brain and nervous system. Healthy brain cells translate to happier moods.
- Get lots of sun during the summer months – build up your body’s vitamin D stores with plenty of sunshine during the spring and summer. Adequate sunshine during these months can carry you through the winter.
- Supplement with vitamin D3 and maintain adequate vitamin D levels. During the winter months your need for vitamin D increases because of lack of sun exposure. I recommend having your blood levels checked so that you know how much to supplement with. Ideally your Vit D levels should be around 50 ng/dl.
- Turn on the lights!
- Keep your home or work place brightly lit during the day with lots of full spectrum lights. If you have a fire place, spend plenty of time relaxing in front of a cozy fire in the evening.
- Buy a light therapy lamp
- Bright white lights can be a great substitute for natural sunlight. I recommend a bright white light emitting10,000 lux. Work your way up to 30-45 minutes of exposure at about 1-2 ft from you. Make sure the light hits your eyes (but do not look directly into the light), you can read, write or eat in front of the box for example. Do not wear eye glasses or contacts as the light needs to directly hit your retina. Be sure to use the light box during the daytime when the sun is shining outside (or supposed to be shining!). The morning when the sun comes up is a great time.
- The NatureBright SunTouch Plus Therapy Box is a good and is available on Amazon.com. Use for at least 20 mins every day.
- Support your body’s neurotransmitters
- Consider supplementing with natural supplements to boost your levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is one of the main brain chemicals responsible for a happy, feel good mood. Research has shown that SAD is most likely due to serotonin depletion.
- John’s Wort has been shown to increase serotonin levels. Take at nighttime or in divided doses during the day. St. John’s Wort does interact with some medications including birth control pills, so be sure to check with your doctor before starting supplementation.
- Amino Acids
- Amino acids are the building blocks for the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are responsible for creating “feel good” and “calming” emotions.
- 5-HTP: The amino acid precursor 5-HTP boosts levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Choose a supplement that contains B6 or take an additional B vitamin containing B6. B6 is needed for 5-HTP to be converted to serotonin.
- L-Tyrosine: Some people with SAD may also benefit from boosting another neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Serotonin and Dopamine work together in the brain to maintain a healthy mood. L-tyrosine is the amino acid that helps raise dopamine levels.
If your depressed feelings and low mood persist into the spring months and beyond, read this blog by Dr. Sarah Axtell about ways to maintain a healthy, balanced mood.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.