Nutritional Therapy for the Winter Blues

23/12/2019, Sam Bourne

There is no doubt that seasonal change can affect your well-being and mood starting in the autumn and peaking during the winter months. It is believed that the change in light is the main cause for upsetting the circadian rhythm and disrupting sleep via a change in melatonin (sleep hormone) and serotonin (well-being neurotransmitter). Our physical and energetic selves feel the powerful changes in the weather and the atmosphere, even recently a study has been done to observe the effects of damp weather and low pressure on pain, especially joint pain.

Eating the right foods and using dietary supplements can help you get through the Winter unscathed and come out the other side ready to burst into energy in the Spring.

My recommended Winter health rules:

Nourish not cleanse - Consume nourishing meals that contain healthy Omega oils like fish, flax and olive oil. Adding these oils to seasonal winter vegetables and well-cooked high-quality animal or plant-based protein makes it easier to absorb nutrients. Use spices like turmeric, chilli, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to make you feel like a warm blanket is wrapped around you.

Heat not cool – reduce cold or raw foods as this takes more energy to digest in the winter, but if cold dishes like rice bowls are consumed, warm them up with chilli, ginger, black pepper, and drink a hot herbal tea like steeped ginger.

Look after your microbiome – Lack of sunshine and change in diet and activity can also affect the health and balance of microbes in the gut. The robustness of the beneficial bacteria can directly influence your well-being, consume fibre and probiotic foods and take a high strength probiotic supplement.

Boost Serotonin and Melatonin - tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and melatonin. Consume tryptophan-rich foods like turkey, chicken, fish, butter beans, chickpeas, lentils, tempeh, bananas, oats, natural yoghurt, seeds, cottage cheese.

Balance blood sugar – remove sugary foods. Sugar causes blood sugar spikes which are linked to hormonal and energy ups and downs.

Eat a substantial nourishing breakfast – this will set your energy levels for the day.

Important Nutritional Supplements:

Magnesium – Choose a bioavailable product; helps sleep, energy and muscle tightness, also needed for conversion of tryptophan. Many foods are deficient in magnesium due to over-farming the soil. Organic oats are a good source. That healthy bowl of porridge in the morning will be helping you to sleep and reduce the effects of SAD.

Vitamin D3 –2000iu per day. Intimately linked to your immune and hormone system, as well as gut microbiome and is vital for immunity being responsible for cell apoptosis (programmed cell death if damaged). In the UK we get so much less light during the winter so we are unable to convert Vitamin D3. Make sure you get a good daily top-up in the summer months 15 -20 minutes before using sunscreen to avoid being very deficient for the Winter months.

Buffered Vitamin C –2000mg per day, 500mg taken at different times of the day to keep blood levels high. Buffered forms allow you to take higher doses without causing an upset stomach. Vital for immune function, reducing inflammation, energy, digestion and absorption of iron. Very effective at protecting cells from viral invasion. Low-grade viral infections may only be noticed as fatigue.

Zinc Picolinate 20mg-60mg – Vital for immunity and tissue healing.

Elderberry – powerful antioxidant that supports immune function. Take in the months before Winter these berries can really help set up your health through the winter.

Lastly:

Reduce alcohol intake – there’s no escaping the fact that the party season makes people drink more. Whilst it makes you happy and relaxed at the time, in the days following there is a ‘come down’ period that can cause depression, irritability and lowered resistance to SAD.

Follow the above rules and hopefully, it will help you avoid the worst of the Winter Blues


About The Author


Sam Bourne trained at the CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) in London and has been a registered Nutritional Therapist for 12 years. She is a Vinyasa Flow Yoga instructor, health writer, children’s book author and public speaker, going into companies and schools to educate and provide tools for better health through diet and nutrition, with a specific interest in digestive and microbiome support. Based in London, for more information on her services enquire at www.foodspa.org.uk



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