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  • Marianne Andrews

Keeping the winter blues at bay

The nights may be getting slightly lighter but all these gloomy rainy days can still mean a a reduction in serotonin, the hormone which is responsible to making us feel happier. Without sufficient daylight some people find themselves suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) and consequently facing a whole host of problems, including depression, fatigue, weight gain, sleep disturbances and lethargy. However, there are some strategies which you can put in place which may really help how you are feeling.

Maximise your Essential Fats: Omega 3 appears to help maintain levels of vital hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Studies have long linked the deficiency of omega 3 to depression, whilst research suggests that SAD is less common in people who consume plenty of oily fish. Regular consumption (2-3 times per week) may really help to keep your essential fats at an optimum level. Examples of oily fish are haddock, mackerel, salmon, pilchards & sardines. Vegetarian sources of essential fats are ground flaxseeds, walnuts, avocado and pumpkin seeds. A good Omega 3 supplement is recommended if you find it difficult to keep your levels up nutritionally.

Keep up your Vitamin D levels: reduced sunlight can mean that our Vitamin D levels fall, which may have a negative impact upon our mood. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D can improve mental health in some people. The “sunshine vitamin” can be found in eggs, some fish, eg. salmon, tuna steak, sardines, and fortified milk. A Nutritionist can arrange for the testing of vitamin D levels and supplementation if necessary.

Avoid sugars and grains: Foods which quickly raise our blood sugar levels can negatively impact our insulin and serotonin levels. These sorts of foods may give us an energy spike, followed very quickly by an energy low. This can make us very tired, as well as giving our body an extra job to do – trying to regulate our energy levels. Taking out those biscuits, processed foods and white starchy foods can really be beneficial to our overall mood and help us to avoid weight gain through the winter months.

Avoid caffeine: Those espresso’s and latte’s may seem a good way of boosting your energy levels, but the caffeine has a negative effect upon the production of serotonin. So you may be unknowingly sabotaging your feel good hormones as well as disturbing your sleeping patterns. Caffeine can have stimulating effects upon us more than 8 hours after consuming it. Try a herbal tea instead, such as green tea, chamomile or peppermint teas.

Include Protein: it is necessary for the production of serotonin, so it is important to make sure that you include quality protein at each mealtime. Besides the traditional eggs, fish, poultry and red meats, you could also include nuts, seeds, pulses and legumes. For example, almonds, sunflower seeds, lentils, quinoa and chickpeas.

Exercise: physical exercise releases endorphins which are your feel good hormones. 15-20 minutes of brisk walking or dancing to the radio may help to raise endorphins and improve your mood.

Get an early night: our natural circadian rhythm follows the availability of sunlight. It is natural that we might feel sleepy earlier when the nights draw in, and it is wise to take heed of what your body is telling you and get an early night. This may help to prevent disruption of your natural hormone levels.

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