Tips for beating the cold weather blues naturally | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tips for beating the cold weather blues naturally

Emilie Delworth

Fall is officially upon us. The aspens are glowing with beautiful yellow and orange hues and our yards are becoming inundated with pine needles. Neighbors are scrambling to get their wood supply cut before the snow falls, and many of us have already busted out scarves and autumn boots.

For many, fall is an exciting change of pace. The hot summer sun gives way to cooler temps, and the anticipation of an epic ski season lies ahead. School children everywhere have begun their adventures in a new grade and the holidays are approaching quickly.

While this is a joyous time for many, it is the beginning of wintertime blues for others. Over half a million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of clinical depression that comes on with the colder, darker months.

What does SAD look like?

Symptoms can start as early as September or October, and may last until April; peak months are usually December through February.

Typical Symptoms:

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Difficulty sleeping/oversleeping

Lack of energy

Cravings for sugar and comfort foods

Loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities

Depressive mood

Decreased sex drive

Weight changes

Difficulty concentrating

Feeling worthless

Suicidal thoughts

While no one really knows exactly what causes SAD, it is believed that lowered vitamin D levels and disruption of circadian rhythms due to less sunlight may be a factor. Higher incidences of SAD are seen in those who live farther from the equator.

Tips for Beating the Blues Naturally

It can take years to get a diagnosis as doctors typically wait until a person has presented with symptoms during the appropriate months for three years or more. In the meantime, individuals suffer dangerous and debilitating symptoms.

Whether you have been diagnosed with SAD, or just feel a little less awesome during the cold months, here are some ways you can beat the blues naturally.

Maintain a healthy diet: This can be tough for even the most disciplined among us. Holidays are famous for decadent deserts and binge eating. Fortunately, one can still maintain a healthy gut, proper nutrient levels, and enjoy cookies and pies on occasion. Moderation is key.

Our enteric nervous system (responsible for the functions of the gastrointestinal tract), uses more than 30 neurotransmitters to tell the brain what to do, via the vagus nerve. Roughly 90 percent of the body's serotonin is made by the gut which means that keeping it healthy through a well-balanced, wholefood diet, with minimal processed junk, is one of the most important things we can do for our mental health.

Get sun exposure: The body converts sunlight into vitamin D3. While avoiding sunburn, we're advised to get anywhere between 20-30 minutes of sunlight per day, depending on skin tone. Exposure via hands, neck, and face may be enough, and you can attain this by going for a short walk or running errands. I recommend supplementing with a high quality vitamin D product if you struggle to spend time outdoors.

Take a probiotic: Look for at least 50+ billion CFU's, and/or eating a diversity of fermented foods, to ensure a healthier gut and promote the production of neurotransmitters.

Supplement with a B-complex: B vitamins play a huge role in neurological function. A deficiency in any of these could present as fatigue, depression, moodiness, loss of appetite and more. Some of these vitamins are also important for the health and structure of the GI tract, and the absorption of nutrients.

For some, increasing their dietary intake of B vitamins (meat, grains, nuts, leafy greens) or supplementing with a B-complex is enough to eliminate even the most severe forms of mood disorders, but this does not apply to everyone. It's certainly worth a try though.

Be sure to avoid taking a B-complex later in the day as it could interfere with sleep.

Exercise: For many people in Tahoe, this isn't hard to manage, but if you're not much of a skier or snowboarder, be sure to maintain an exercise schedule. Whether it's snowshoeing, yoga or hitting the gym, exercise will help to keep those feel-good neurotransmitters flowing. If you're outdoors, you get the bonus of sun exposure, fresh air and beautiful views.

Stay connected: Depression of any kind can feel isolating. It's important to maintain relationships with loved ones. Do activities together that you enjoy and talk about what you're experiencing with those you can trust.

Acupuncture: In randomized control studies acupuncture was found to be as effective as antidepressants at reducing SAD symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn't have to dampen your season. Try these tips at home, and if you feel you need some extra help, come and see us at Elevate Wellness Center.

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About the Author

Emilie Delworth is a holistic nutritionist at Elevate Wellness Center. Visit them online at http://www.elevate-wellness.com, in person at 2034 Lake Tahoe Blvd., in South Lake Tahoe, or call 530-541-9355.