If you’re feeling down in the dumps lately, you’re in good company. The winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), hits many folks hard from December through February.
The shorter days can leave you feeling out of sorts. And you’re far more likely to experience anxiety, stress and depression at this time of year.
But the lack of light might not be the only culprit behind your blue mood. Common vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can make you much more likely to feel down too.
And the combo is enough to transform the cheeriest of folks into a Moody Maude or Gloomy Gus.
Do any of these common SAD symptoms sound familiar?
- ongoing low mood
- lack of interest in everyday normal activities
- feeling sleepy during the day
- craving carbs
- gaining weight
- feeling irritable
- finding it tough to get up in the morning
- sleeping longer than usual
If you found yourself nodding your head while reading that list, chances are you too are a victim of the winter blues.
Quick tips to beat the winter blues
But the good news is there are a few tricks you can try, starting today, that many folks find help them bust through those seasonal blues.
- Brave the cold and spend some time outside in the sunlight every day
- Brighten things up inside by turning on ALL the lights and sitting near windows
- Avoid the urge to carb load and eat a balanced diet with plenty of produce
- Commit to getting some exercise every day (a natural mood booster… try walking)
If you’re still feeling out of sorts don’t worry. You may just be running low in some key vitamins or nutrients
3 nutrients to bust through those winter blues
Following are three mood-lifting nutrients that could help you beat those winter blahs once and for all.
1. Vitamin D:
The most obvious culprit for the cold weather blues is vitamin D. Lack of sunshine, and our tendency to stay indoors in the winter means our bodies don’t get enough of the UVB light rays they need to make sufficient vitamin D.
Experts estimate that three out of four American adults and teens is low in this vital vitamin no matter what the time of year. Which means the problem only gets worse when we don’t get enough exposure to sunshine.
Seniors are even more susceptible to vitamin D deficiencies since they often spend more time indoors. Plus our bodies simply become less efficient at producing the vitamin as we age. In fact, the average 70 year old makes four times less vitamin D from sunshine than they did when they were 20.
Your doctor can run a simple blood test to confirm whether, or not, you’re running low on D. And if you find you are you may have found the cause of your case of the winter blues.
You can raise your vitamin D levels naturally by eating more fish (such as salmon, and sardines), beef liver, egg yolks and mushrooms. However, depending on how deficient you are it can sometimes be tough to get enough D through food alone.
The good news is vitamin D is readily available in an affordable supplement. You can find one online or at the local drugstore. Just be sure you choose vitamin D3, the natural version of the vitamin.
Your doctor can help you decide what dosage is right for you. But Healthier Talk contributor Dr. Glenn Rothfeld typically recommends up to 4,000 IUs a day during the winter months.
2. Vitamin B-12:
A vitamin B-12 deficiency can stop your body from making enough red blood cells. And that can leave you feeling worn out and dragging through your days in a funk.
Plus B-12 is essential for proper nerve and neurological function as well. It, along with some of the other B vitamins, plays a critical role in producing some of the brain chemicals that affect your mood
Many folks who experience mood problems or depression are found to be running low in B-12. And experts say restoring your levels can boost your mood, increase your energy levels and in some cases help lift depression.
B-12 rich foods include beef liver, lamb, mackerel, sardines, eggs and cottage cheese.
Other B vitamins, including folate, B-3 and B-6 (niacin), can play a role in depression too. Folate and B-3 help synthesize the “happiness” hormone serotonin. And B-6 is involved in the metabolism of certain hormones.
So you may want to consider an affordable B-complex supplement to cover all your bases. Your doctor can check your vitamin levels and help you decide what’s right for you.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids:
They don’t call fish brain food for nothing. Researchers say there’s plenty of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids, such as you’ll find in cold-water fatty fish, are important for brain health.
Getting enough omega-3s can help improve cognitive function and mood and reduce your risk for depression. And you can start with your diet.
Fatty fish such as herring, salmon and mackerel are rich in EPA and DHA omega-3s. And for plant-based ALA omega-3s, nuts and seeds are a great choice. Walnuts, almonds, flax seeds and chia seeds are all high in this mood-boosting nutrient.
But since it can be tough to raise your omega-3 levels high enough to drive off the winter blues with food alone you might want to consider a supplement too. Fish oil supplements are affordable and easy to find. Read the label to make sure they contain both EPA and DHA too.
If you’re feeling down or out of sorts don’t despair. It’s a common problem this time of year. Try these tricks for turning your mood around.
Remember, if you’re struggling with feelings of sadness or depression, there’s NEVER a wrong time to call your doctor. And if you need someone to talk to, any time day or night, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available, toll-free, 24 hours a day 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.