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Are the shorter days and colder weather leaving you feeling blue? Winter is here and with the lack of sunlight comes the winter blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People with SAD can experience a number of symptoms including depression, low energy, oversleeping, difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to overeat, cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in daily activities and decreased sex drive.
The change of season and cold weather is a signal to start making lifestyle changes to support optimal health during the winter season. The following winter health tips can support you in staying healthy all season long.
Consider Vitamin D
Living far from the equator leads to shorter days in the winter. Less sunlight means less vitamin D is produced in your body. Vitamin D is required for a positive mood and supplementation has been shown to improve symptoms of depression. Increased vitamin D can also be obtained from eggs and fish as well as and vitamin D enriched foods like milk products and orange juice.
It can be challenging to obtain enough vitamin D from food sources to support a healthy mood therefore supplementation in the winter is often necessary. Vitamin D is also helpful for boosting your immune system, right in time for cold and flu season. Speak to your health care provider for the appropriate dose of vitamin D required for your individual health situation.
Lift Your Mood with Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your nervous system and mood regulation leading to a positive effect on symptoms of depression. They are commonly found in fish, seafood, and flaxseeds. Therefore including these foods in your diet can be helpful to prevent a deficiency. However, if you do suffer from SAD and other mood disorders a much higher therapeutic dose is required to produce an improvement in your symptoms. Similar to vitamin D it is challenging to obtain the required amount through food. Speak to your naturopathic doctor for the appropriate dose of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation.
Fitness is a Winter, Natural Health Prescription for Happiness
Exercise boosts your mood and increases the amount of endorphins (the happiness hormones) in your body. There are many fun outdoor winter activities to take advantage of such as skating, snowshoeing, cross country or downhill skiing and snowboarding. If these don’t interest you, investigate options for continuing your favourite summer activities indoors. Of course, there is always the gym and an unlimited amount of other indoor exercise options available. Signing up for a class with a friend is a fun, social way to stay active in the winter. Figure out what you enjoy doing, then get out there and move!
Warm Up with a Delicious Meal
According to the traditional Chinese medicine philosophy, it is important to eat with the seasons. As the weather turns colder, it is important to balance the external coldness with warming foods to support your health in the winter. The temperature of food is also important, so having more cooked meals in the form of soups, stews and chilli rather than cold, raw salads is essential to optimizing winter health.
Eat more foods that warm the body: ginger root, cinnamon, cumin, anise, caraway, garlic, onion, fennel, cloves, rosemary, basil, black beans, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, parsnip, sweet potato, squash, leeks, kale, beef and lamb.
Minimize foods that cool the body: peppermint, cilantro, marjoram, cucumber, celery, lettuce, radish, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, zucchini, seaweed, citrus fruits, apple, pear, watermelon, tomato, banana, sprouts, mung beans, wheat products, millet, tofu.
It is important to remember that the symptoms of SAD overlap with the symptoms of other health conditions such as major depressive disorder and hypothyroidism; so, it is always important to see your primary healthcare provider to have your symptoms investigated thoroughly. It is also best to see someone before starting any new supplements to make sure there are no interactions with medications you may be on. Stay warm and happy this winter season!
Ellen Simone is a naturopathic doctor in Ottawa, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Physical Health and Education from the University of Toronto and completed her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She focuses on family wellness and women and children’s health. Visit: www.drellensimone.com