As the winter months approach, many people find that their mood and energy levels tend to dip. While there are many factors that can contribute to this, diet and supplementation will play a role. In this blog, we will discuss how making simple changes to your diet by focusing on certain types of foods and their nutrient content, and considering the use of certain supplements may help improve mood and boost energy during the winter months. This blog is by no means professional nutritional or medical advice, it is simply meant to be a starter guide for you to reference some different nutrients and supplements that can potentially help to naturally support your body and mind and get through the colder, darker days with more vitality and cheer. Before significantly altering your diet or adding supplements, whether natural ones or synthetic, ALWAYS check with your doctor to make sure that none of these diet changes or supplements will interfere with current medication you may be on, or cause problems due to pre-existing health conditions you may have.
Here’s a list of the nutrients and supplements we will take a look at:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These are essential fats that play a crucial role in brain function. Omega-3s can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as in nuts and seeds. Supplementation with omega-3s has been shown to improve symptoms of depression.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and it also plays a role in brain health. The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but during the winter months, it can be difficult to get enough from sun exposure alone. Vitamin D supplements may be helpful for people with SAD.
- St. John's wort: This herb has been used for centuries to treat depression and anxiety. It is believed to work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, which is involved in mood regulation.
- SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine): This supplement is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression.
- Rhodiola: This herb is believed to help reduce fatigue and improve mood. It is thought to work by balancing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
It's important to note that the information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a serious medical condition that requires proper evaluation and treatment by a qualified healthcare provider.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a crucial role in brain function. They are found in high amounts in fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as in nuts and seeds. Omega-3s are believed to help fight seasonal depression and boost mood and activity levels in several ways:
- Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of depression.
- They play a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation.
- Omega-3s are essential for the proper functioning of the brain and are involved in the development of brain cells. This can help improve brain function and overall cognitive performance.
- Supplementation with omega-3s has been shown to improve symptoms of depression in several studies.
It's important to note that while omega-3s may be helpful for some people, they should not be used as a replacement for professional medical treatment.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and it also plays a role in brain health. It is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and it can also be obtained through certain foods, such as fatty fish and fortified products, or through supplements. During the winter months, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone, which is why vitamin D supplements may be helpful for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Vitamin D is believed to help alleviate depression symptoms and improve mood in several ways:
- It plays a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation.
- Vitamin D is involved in the regulation of the immune system, and low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of depression.
- Supplementation with vitamin D has been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression in some studies. Vitamin D may have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help to reduce the risk of developing depression.
There is an interesting link between inflammation and depression. Inflammation is a normal immune response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation, or long-term low-grade inflammation, has been linked to a number of health conditions, including depression.
Several studies have found that people with depression tend to have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood compared to those without depression. Additionally, treatments that reduce inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to improve symptoms of depression.
It's important to note that while inflammation may be a contributing factor in the development of depression, it is not the sole cause. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. The active ingredients in St. John's wort are thought to be compounds called hypericin and hyperforin. These compounds are believed to affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, which is involved in mood regulation.
St John’s Wort is native to Europe. It is a perennial herb that has yellow flowers and small, oval leaves. The plant gets its name from the fact that it often blooms around the time of the feast day of St. John the Baptist (June 24th). It is most commonly taken in the form of a supplement, which can be found as a capsule, tablet, or liquid extract. It is also available as a tea or topical oil. While St. John's wort is widely used for its potential antidepressant effects, the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed. Some studies have found that it may be effective for mild to moderate depression, while others have not found a significant benefit. It may be worth checking out this link to WebMD, where users of the supplement discuss the effects it had on them, if any.
It’s important to keep in mind that St. John's wort can interact with certain medications and may not be safe for everyone. If you are considering taking St. John's wort, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider to determine if it is appropriate for you and to discuss any potential risks or interactions.
Another supplement that many people find effective is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). (SAMe) is a compound that is found naturally in the body. It is involved in a number of important processes, including the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the production of proteins.
SAMe is produced in the body from the amino acid methionine and ATP, a source of energy. It can also be obtained from dietary sources, such as meats, fish, and some vegetables.
SAMe is available as a dietary supplement and is commonly taken in the form of a capsule or tablet. It is also available as a sublingual tablet, which dissolves under the tongue.
SAMe has been studied for its potential use in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including depression, osteoarthritis, and liver disease. Some research suggests that it may be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and improving joint function in people with osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of SAMe on these and other conditions.
It's important to note that SAMe is not a replacement for evidence-based treatments and should not be used as a sole treatment for any condition. If you are considering taking SAMe or any other dietary supplement, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider to determine if it is appropriate for you and to discuss any potential risks or interactions.
Last we have Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). It’s a perennial plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its various potential health benefits. The active ingredients in Rhodiola are compounds called rosavins and salidrosides. These are believed to have antioxidant and adaptogenic properties which tend to help the body recover from physical and mental stress. Also there is some evidence to suggest that Rhodiola may be effective in reducing symptoms of fatigue, improving cognitive function, and reducing feelings of anxiety.
If you are considering taking rhodiola or any other dietary supplement, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider to determine if it is appropriate for you and to discuss any potential risks or interactions.
Some general nutritional advice for improving your diet during the winter months include:
- Aim to include a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet. These are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that can support overall health.
- Consider incorporating more sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. These can help to support brain health and improve mood.
- Choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes, over simple sugars and refined carbs. These can provide sustained energy and support healthy blood sugar levels.
- Consider including more sources of protein, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and plant-based protein sources, in your diet. Protein can help to support muscle mass and repair and provide sustained energy.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can contribute to feelings of fatigue and low energy.
- Limit your intake of processed and sugary foods, as these can contribute to poor mood and energy levels.
By following a balanced, nutrient-dense diet and incorporating these tips, you can help to support your mood and energy levels during the winter months!