Winter is here- and with it, the likelihood of Seasonal Affective Disorder- (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. But let’s not get to serious and face it, in the winter months, us happy humans are simply longing for that summer vibe and rays of shine to be back. Here are some ideas to increase your inner shine over the chilly months.
Serotonin is a major regulator of mood and depression risk. These are important, vital roles, to be sure. Your mood describes how you experience and interpret the world. If it’s consistently bad, you’re going to have a rough time. Yet, serotonin is much more than the “feel-good hormone.” It also influences sexual desire and helps us remember. It’s the precursor to melatonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to sleep.
Although we mainly think of serotonin as a neurotransmitter acting on the brain, our guts are the biggest producers of serotonin. About 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut.
Get Your Vitamin D
We synthesize Vitamin D in the skin using cholesterol- oh how we love cholesterol and UVB exposure. This allows the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. So even on a chilly day- if the sun is out, find a spot protected from the wind, and get your bod and exposed as you can- dare I say naked. A quick 15 mins on either side will do wonders.
I recommend getting most of your vitamin D from the sun. It’s better regulated that way, giving you the added benefit of an abundance of ATP production (sunlight gives us energy! As does food). Do you have sufficient amounts of the enzyme which converts sunshine into your Vitamin D? Yes- we can lack enough of the enzymes and not convert our D very well- so even if you are out in the sun, you may still not be getting enough. Supplementation of Vitamin D is strongly recommended, especially given that Vitamin D is actually a hormone. I personally take 5000iu daily- just to give you an idea, and I could take more. Consultation with your Nutritionist or Naturopath will give you the therapeutic dosages you need for individual good health and longevity. Doctors will stick with their standard guidelines within the RDI’s which were set down in the 1950’s. Do yourself a favour- get a natural health care practitioner, not a pharmaceutical health care practitioner. Although in saying that- holistic Drs, they are also great to bounce off for guidance as a second port of call after a visit to the natural health care provider. Remember- a doctor’s method is pharmaceutical medication. When you go to a mainstream doctor, meds is what you will get. Are meds what you want- or even need to bring you back to optimal health? – most often not. Seek a natural health care practitioner- Nutritionist or Naturopath in your area, just as you would seek a doctor in the ‘olden days” before we all started waking up.
Get Plenty of Natural Light
Sunlight is a direct trigger of serotonin synthesis. The brighter the sunlight, the higher the serotonin production. This may explain seasonal affective disorder, where depression spikes during colder, darker months. It may also explain why sun exposure increases cognitive function in both depressed and healthy subjects, or why bright light exposure prevents bad moods after tryptophan depletion. We absorb Vitamin D through our eyes as well, so set off for a walk without your sunnies and enjoy the world around you!
Don’t Drink Coffee
Ok, yes, caffeine has been shown to increase brain serotonin, at least in rats, and yes, it also makes the brain more sensitive to the effects of serotonin. Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker- the negative effects (see my last article on Caffeine) far outweigh this one positive aspect.
Eat Organic or Grass fed Animal Protein
One way we feel better is by the manufacture of serotonin using an amino acid called tryptophan as the precursor. Whether it’s turkey, eggs, dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, or fish, animal protein is a reliable source of tryptophan. Studies show that whey protein and egg protein both acutely increase tryptophan availability in the brain. If you bring your food portions down to palm sized (as a rough guide) alternating beef, lamb, fish, eggs, chicken, kangaroo, emu, bison, pork- whatever you are into, you would be surprised at how affordable grass fed and or organic meats can be- don’t be a guts when it comes to animal flesh!
Under the guidance of your natural health care practitioner; alternate practitioner-only supplements.
This is standard advice from natural health care practitioners for any health issue. Many problems simply disappear- hey presto! when we eat more micro-nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Micro-nutrients are essential to fundamental physiological processes and pathways. It’s a safe bet that all of us are at least mildly deficient in a handful of important nutrients—like B6, which regulates serotonin synthesis, oh- and Magnesium, eeeverybody needs to be on Magnesium! But not any old magnesium, some are just cheap outright lose stool creators. Again, talk to your caring natural health care practitioner.
Not only does seafood provide ample amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, the omega-3 fatty acids found in marine fat increases serotonin production in the brain and improves serotonin transport across neurons.
You might take cod liver oil or eat the actual livers (mmmm organ meats, so nutritious) as that provides both vitamin D (for increased tryptophan conversion) & omega-3s. However, given today’s SAD (standard Australian diet) which is far too high in omega 6 fats, I always recommend a high potency practitioner-only quality daily dose of omega-3 supplementation.
Find your most awesome local Indian take away
Curry! Ok, so your Rendang curry (mmm rendang) probably won’t replace your anti-depressants, but cooking with Turmeric will certainly help regulate normal serotonin levels. Turns out that turmeric (or curcumin, rather) increases brain serotonin levels. Curcumin, is the isolated polyphenol found in turmeric, again always going organic if you are buying turmeric for the home. And if you do suffer with depression, book a consultation to find out about other natural depression busting supplements you can use which have had clinical trials, the same clinical trials prescription medication undergoes, to prove that some natural supplementation can get better results in some participants than drug’s.
Move your butt
Exercise increases serotonin via two pathways. First, the activation of motor neurons increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons, thus boosting the synthesis and release of serotonin. Second, exercise consistently elevates tryptophan levels in the brain, even for hours after the session. Thirdly- it’s the best addiction evaaaaa- sweat, find a way to do it that you love and alternate your ways of doing it. Sweating- learn to love it, great for the skin too as it pushes all those toxins out.
Get a massage- it just feels good!
It is said a massage also raises serotonin by 28%. Honey, warm up your hands!