October 28, 2011
Ah, those Winter Blues!
- Exercise! This is one of the most important tools to ward off seasonal affective disorder. While the physical benefits are undeniable, it is also a very powerful anti-depressant with no side effects! When you exercise, powerful chemicals called endorphins are released in the body. These endorphins trigger a positive feeling in your body and improve overall mood. They also act as analgesics, meaning that they diminish the perception of pain. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity into your day and by doing so, you should see an improvement in your mood!
- Consume High Quality Omega 3 Fats! Your brain needs fat to function properly! Limiting healthy fats won’t necessarily make you lose weight but could in all actuality, cause you serious harm. Seeing as your brain is about 60 percent fat, it is crucial that you consume these healthy fats in your diet. Studies suggest that DHA and EPA (both are types of omega 3 fatty acids) help to alleviate depression symptoms and enhance brain function when taken regularily. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in fatty, carnivorous fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel. It is also beneficial to take a high quality fish oil such as Omega 3-6-9 Emulsion in addition to dietary sources.
- Limit Sugar Intake! Unfortunately for those with a sweet tooth, sugar has a very detrimental impact on brain function. This is especially important to remember around this time of year when Halloween candy is still rampant. One reason why sugar is highly detrimental to mental health is because its consumption triggers an avalanche of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation. People often forget that the gut is quite literally a ‘second brain’ and has the ability to significantly alter your mood, mind, and behaviour. Research suggests that chronic inflammation of the gut is a trigger for many mental disorders, including depression. Sugar also leads to excessive insulin release that can eventually lead to hypoglycemia, which causes the brain to secrete glutamate in high levels that can cause anxiety, agitation, depression, and panic attacks.
- Invest in Full Spectrum Lightbulbs! There is literally a ton of research indicating that full spectrum lightbulbs help ease symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder. Sufferers tend to feel a significant increase in energy and improvement in mood with exposure to such lighting. It is important to keep in mind that when I say full spectrum lighting, I mean that the bulbs must contain a full spectrum of colour – this sounds simple but you need to ensure you check for this because sometimes manufacturers will claim to be full spectrum but in actuality, aren’t. The bulbs must also contain both infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths in order to really simulate natural, outdoor lighting. People have come to fearUV rays but in moderation, they are essential for good health.
- Increase your Vitamin D Intake! It can be very beneficial to start taking a vitamin D supplement in winter, if you aren’t already doing so. A recent study suggests that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more likely to be depressed than those with normal levels present in their bodies. One of the reasons for this may be because vitamin D is linked to higher levels of serotonin – a crucial feel good hormone. Since we get much of our vitamin D from exposure to natural sunlight, we obviously do not get nearly as much in the dark winters as we do in the longer summer days. For this reason, I recommend a high quality vitamin D supplement for the vast majority of my patients.