Top Tips to Avoid the Winter Blues

Top Tips to Avoid the Winter Blues

 For some people the shorter days and colder temperatures of the winter months brings on the winter blues. For some people this is more serious and the shorter days lead to depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This form of depression affects 1 to 2% of the population.

 SAD comes on during the autumn and winter months and usually subsides in the spring. It is thought to be triggered by reduced exposure to daylight. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, irritability, inability to concentrate, and a change in sleeping patterns or appetite.

 If you know you are susceptible it is advisable to pre-empt slipping into the winter blues before symptoms begin. Evidence is growing for the relationship between nutritional deficiencies, diet quality and mental health, and for the use of dietary changes and nutritional supplements to improve mental well being (1).

 

Diet for Mental Health

  •  Eat a Healthy Diet - there is convincing evidence that dietary improvements reduce symptoms of depression. The good news is that highly specialised diets are not necessary. A healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is likely to be helpful for many people (1). Foods that are associated with a lower risk of depression include olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables (2). These foods are also found to be anti-inflammatory; high levels of inflammation are associated with an increased risk of depression (3,4).
  • Antioxidant rich foods - individuals who consume a Mediterranean diet high in antioxidants have lower rates of depression (5). Antioxidants including green tea polyphenols, isoflavonoids from soy, and sesamin from sesame seeds have all been shown to reduce depression and anxiety (6,7). 
  • Low sodium, high potassium – a low sodium, high potassium diet has a positive effect on mood (8). Potassium is found in lentils, beans, peas, vegetables, cider vinegar, apricots and bananas. Processed foods and snack foods are often high in sodium so are best avoided. 
  • Bring on the carbs – while a low carbohydrate diet can aid weight-loss, it may increase the stress hormone cortisol. Skipping meals can also have a negative impact on cortisol in some people. Go for unprocessed carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. 
  • Look after your blood sugar levels – having protein and fibre with each meal helps to keep blood sugar and mood stable.  Tom Oliver’s Diet Protein Powders can be added to meals or snacks to ensure you get adequate protein. They are available as whey powder or vegan formulations. 

The Microbiome and Mental Health

There is increasing evidence for the gut microbiome as a key factor in the link between diet and depression (9). The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of organisms that play a vital role in the immune system as well as breaking down food and toxins. The gut microbiota also have an important influence over brain development, behaviour and mood. Alterations in the organisms in the gut may contribute to depression and depressive states may change the make up of the microbiome (10,11). 

The diversity of the gut microbiome appears to be strongly associated with mood. Eating more than 30 different plant foods each week appears to increase the diversity of bacteria in the gut compared to eating 10 or fewer different plant foods  (12). 

Foods to Avoid 

  • Sweetened drinks, sugary foods, fried foods and processed meats are associated with an increased risk of depression (4). These are best avoided.

Lifestyle Tips to Improve Your Mood 

Exercise – physical activity reduces the risk of depression, even among those who are genetically predisposed to the condition (13). Aim for 30 minutes a day of physical activity 5 times a week

Spend Time in Nature – spending just 2 hours a week in nature has been shown to benefit mood and well being. 

Be Together – loneliness and isolation are major risk factors for depression. Find people to spend time with either by joining a club or hooking up with people you already know. 

Re-set your Body Clock – it may be that an out-of-sync body clock contributes to SAD. Get outside into the morning light whenever possible. Failing this, light therapy using a full spectrum light for 30 minutes a day can help. 

Sleep – a good night’s sleep is vital for brain health. Avoid exposure to bright light and screens in the evenings. Develop a relaxing evening routine and go to bed at a reasonable hour every day. Sleep in the dark in a room that is not too warm. 

Supplements to Improve Mood 

The following nutrients may help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression (14,15,16): 

Vitamin D – evidence suggests an association between vitamin D deficiency and depression (17,18). During the winter supplementation is recommended as the strength of the UV rays from the sun is not sufficient for the manufacture of vitamin D. Take vitamin D3 along with K2 for maximum benefits. 

B Complex - the B vitamins play important roles in brain health, mood and energy production. 

Magnesium Taurate – vital for energy production as well as aiding relaxation and sleep. 

Omega 3 – the omega 3 oils are vital for brain function and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Probiotics – there is increasing evidence that the gut microbiota influence brain function, behaviour and mood (19,20). 

Vitamin C – needs increase during time of stress or illness. 

Caution

If you are taking anticoagulants such as Coumadin or Warfarin check with your health care practitioner before supplementing with vitamin K. 

 

 

References 

  1. Psychosom Med. 2019 Apr;81(3):265-280. The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Firth J, Marx W, et
  2. Int J Health Plann Manage. 2019 Sep 12. Evaluating Mediterranean diet adherence in university student populations: Does this dietary pattern affect students' academic performance and mental health? Antonopolou M, Mantzorou M et al.
  3. Front Psychiatry. 2019 May 15;10:350. What is the Role of Dietary Inflammation in Severe Mental Illness? A review of observational and experimental findings. Firth et al.
  4. Int J Prev Med. 2019 Apr 3;10:42.Nutritional Aspects of Depression in Adolescents - A Systematic Review. Khanna P, Chattu VK et al.
  5. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Sep 5;8(9). pii: E376. Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression. Huang Q, Liu H et al.
  6. J Affect Disord. 2019 Oct 5;261:121-125. Daily dietary isoflavone intake in relation to lowered risk of depressive symptoms among men. Cui Y, Huang C et al.
  7. J Agric Food Chem. 2019 Nov 1.Supplementation of Sesamin Alleviates Stress-Induced Behavioral and Psychological Disorders via Reshaping the Gut Microbiota Structure. Wang Q, Jia M. et al.
  8. Br J Nutr. 2008 Nov;100(5):1038-45. Dietary electrolytes are related to mood. Torres SJ, Nowson CA, Worsley A.
  9. Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2017 Winter;29(1):39-44. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;28(1):1-6.The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Dash S, Clarke G et al.
  10. Microb Cell. 2019 Sep 27;6(10):454-481. Gut microbial metabolites in depression: understanding the biochemical mechanisms. Caspani G, Kennedy S et al.
  11. Rev Neurosci. 2018 Aug 28;29(6):629-643. Gut microbiome and depression: what we know and what we need to know. Winter G, Hart RA et al.
  12. Msystems, 2018; 3 (3): e00031-18. American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. Mcdonald D et al.
  13. Depression and Anxiety, Physical activity offsets genetic risk for incident depression assessed via electronic health records in a biobank cohort study. Choi K et al.
  14. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 15;208:56-61. Vitamin D and depression. Parker GB, Brotchie H, Graham RK.
  15. Pharmacol Rev. 2017 Apr;69(2):80-92. Vitamin D and Depression: Cellular and Regulatory Mechanisms. Berridge MJ
  16. JBI Database System Rev Imp Rep. 2017 Feb;15(2):402-453. The impact of essential fatty acid, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc supplementation on stress levels in women: a systematic review. McCabe D et al.
  17. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 15;208:56-61. Vitamin D and depression. Parker GB, Brotchie H, Graham RK.
  18. Pharmacol Rev. 2017 Apr;69(2):80-92. Vitamin D and Depression: Cellular and Regulatory Mechanisms. Berridge MJ
  19. Microb Cell. 2019 Sep 27;6(10):454-481. Gut microbial metabolites in depression:understanding the biochemical mechanisms. Caspani G, Kennedy S et al.
  20. Rev Neurosci. 2018 Aug 28;29(6):629-643. Gut microbiome and depression: what we know and what we need to know. Winter G, Hart RA et al.

Hinterlassen Sie einen Kommentar

Bitte beachten Sie, dass Kommentare vor der Veröffentlichung freigegeben werden müssen