The Link Between Inflammation & Seasonal Affective Disorder

When the temperature drops and the days grow shorter, we often turn our attention to our immune system, and ways to stay healthy from cold and flu. Health however, does not just live in the physical, and it is equally, if not more, important to pay attention to our mental health, and take the steps to ensure our resiliency against common wintertime ailments like Season Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a sub-category of depression that is related to the change of season, often starting in the fall and continuing into the winter months. While dark, dreary weather may have some of us feeling down for a few days, SAD is characterized by low energy, lethargy, social withdrawal, lack of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness or irritability. If you are feeling any of these symptoms it is important to not brush them off as simply the “winter blues” and speak to a health care professional about them. There are steps however, that all of us can take to nourish our minds, increase our resiliency to mental health issues, and help keep us healthy all season long.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that come into play when we are talking about brain health. Decosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is more of our structural fatty acid aiding in cognition, memory, and development. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) however is more hormonal, and a precursor nutrient that is needed to produce a hormone-like, anti-inflammatory signaling molecule known a prostaglandin-3 (PGE-3). More and more we are learning inflammation’s role in mental health issues like depression, and taking 1,000mg of an EPA concentrate fish oil per day, like that found in omega3+ joy has been clinically shown to be effective in helping with symptoms of mild to moderate depression. A full dose of 1,000mg of EPA is not the only unique part about omega3+ joy: EPA to DHA ratio is key for improving mood. Consuming too much DHA at the same time as a high dose of EPA may negate the positive impact, and omega3+ joy has an ideal ratio. Added bonus: PGE-3 has been shown to be effective in helping to relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and making insulin more effective.

Studies have shown best results occur around the 8 week mark, and interestingly do not occur faster with larger doses. This makes the recommended serving of omega3+ joy the perfect amount to take on a daily basis.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is made in our body by exposure to sunlight. During the winter months however, the sun’s rays are simply not strong enough for this reaction to take place. This lack of sun results in approximately 70% of North American’s being vitamin D deficient in the winter months, which is another risk factor believed to be behind SAD. To help ward against vitamin D deficiency it is recommended to take 1,000 IUs of Vitamin D in an oil based capsule, like omega3+ TRIPLE STRENGTH + D3.

If capsules aren’t your thing, you can also find 800IU of vegan vitamin D in one serving of fermented whole body NUTRITION with greens+. Bonus: you’ll also get a serving of Extramel®, which improves stress levels and fatigue. In addition to all those antioxidants, this product will help you kiss your winter blues away.

Heal Your Gut

While the health of your gut may not seem like a contributing factor to your mental health, the gut-brain connection is an extremely important link to your overall health and wellbeing. More and more we are learning about the role of food sensitivities creating inflammation in the gut and increasing our risk for depression. Our gut creates about 80% of our body’s serotonin, which again is something that is hindered when food sensitivities are present. It is important to nourish our gut by identifying any potential food sensitivities, avoiding processed foods, and nourishing our internal microflora (i.e. our healthy bacteria) by including daily dose of fermented foods in our diet. Consuming a wide variety of colourful whole foods that are alkalizing, antioxidant rich, and anti-inflammatory are important for healing your gut and boosting your immune system, but unfortunately don’t grow too plentifully during the winter. Get your immunity all-in-one from fermented whole body NUTRITION with greens+.

“Once I started taking this I noticed such a huge difference. I have so much more energy and I feel so much better. I sleep better and eat better as well. I highly recommend this to anyone who needs that extra healthy boost! I’ve never felt so good.” – Ainslie 

B-Vitamins

If there is one group of vitamins that is vital for mental health it is the B-vitamins. As B-vitamins are water-soluble, they are not stored in our body, but rather rapidly pass through meaning that a steady intake is needed to prevent deficiencies. The role of B-vitamins are vast and complex, however some of their main features include helping us properly metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats (like omega-3s), improve the functioning of neurotransmitters, and in the case of Vitamin B-6 ensure the proper production of serotonin, aka our happy hormone.  As B-vitamins don’t exist in isolation in nature, and work best together, it is important to get a daily does of B-vitamins from whole foods like black beans, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and bananas. If you do choose to supplement be sure to choose a B-complex versus standalone B-vitamins.

Spend Time Outside

One of the theories behind SAD is that the lack of light disrupts our body’s internal clock causing a drop in serotonin. Although those of us in the Northern latitudes don’t have a lot of availability to sunlight, getting outdoors during daylight hours has been shown to be beneficial. Try taking a walk every day at lunch, or choosing outdoor activities like skiing, skating, or snowshoeing on the weekends. If the weather is too bad to go out spend time near windows, or choose a full-spectrum lighting to help increase your light exposure.

Exercise

Physical activity helps to release endorphins, and is considered one of nature’s most potent natural antidepressants. Aim to get some form of physical activity everyday whether it is a full on sweat session or just simply going for a walk, taking the stairs, or shovelling the snow. Bonus points for taking your workout outside and getting a dose of natural light with your fitness.

 

References:

Mayo Clinic. Seasonal Affected Disorder. Accessed Online: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

Holford, P. New Nutrition For The Optimal Mind. Basic Health Publications. 2009.

Weil, A. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Accessed Online: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03384/Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD.html