When the days get shorter and temperatures plummet in the winter months, it’s common to feel your mood, energy and motivation levels hit rock bottom too. New research is revealing the role of inflammation in the regulation of mood and the development of mental illness, including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Here’s what you need to know about the link between inflammation and mood, to help you protect your mental wellbeing this winter.
How the Seasons can Affect Your Mood
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a subcategory of depression that’s related to the change of seasons, often starting in the fall and continuing into the winter months.
SAD is characterized by low energy, lethargy, social withdrawal, lack of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness or irritability. If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, it’s important not to brush them off as just the “winter blues” and speak to a healthcare professional.
While many factors can play a role in the development of depression and mental illness, research shows that inflammation can produce depression in some people by reducing brain serotonin (the “happy hormone”) activity. Inflammation is a natural healing response of the body, but elongated periods of inflammation can be dangerous for overall physical and mental health.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to reduce inflammation in the body to help boost your mood. Here are 4 tips to get started.
Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is key for reducing inflammation and for serotonin synthesis. During the winter, Vitamin D levels tend to be lower because of reduced sunlight and this can lead to problems with mood and mental health.
This is because Vitamin D is made in the body by exposure to sunlight. The sun’s energy converts a chemical in your skin into Vitamin D3, which is then turned into vitamin D by the liver and kidneys.
To protect against Vitamin D deficiency, experts recommend taking 1,000 IUs of Vitamin D daily!
Have More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There’s increasing evidence that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the maintenance of mental health, by moderating the body’s inflammatory response. In humans, deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with increased risk of depression, dementia and other psychiatric and mental health disorders.
When we’re talking about brain health, there are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that come into play:
- Decosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is a structural fatty acid that aids in cognition, memory, and development.
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is an essential fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties and plays a role in the regulation of the immune system.
These two fatty acids are important for the maintenance of good mental health. Studies suggest that EPA supplements can be effective in managing the symptoms of major depression.
Both DHA and EPA can be found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring. You can also take 2,000mg of an EPA concentrate fish oil per day like omega3+ joy, clinically-proven to bring out a more positive mental outlook.
Boost Your B-Vitamins
Research shows that B-vitamins can be effective at combating depression and individuals with a higher intake of B-vitamins have reduced risk of depression. Vitamin B6 in particular has also been shown to lower chronic inflammation in the body.
Because B-vitamins are water-soluble, they’re not stored in the body. This means you need a daily intake of B-vitamins to prevent deficiencies.
For best results, get your daily dose of B-vitamins from whole foods like black beans, sweet potatoes and bananas. If you choose to use a supplement, choose a Vitamin B-complex instead of standalone B-vitamins to maximize the benefits.
Focus on Fermented Foods
Fermented foods will increase the abundance of good bacteria in your gut which can have a direct impact on lowering inflammation in the body. Try including more of them in your diet, such as raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and kefir.
Did you know we’ve created a whole line of fermented proteins to help you fit more fermented foods into your day!?
Look After Your Mental Health
Inflammation and nutritional deficiencies have an important role in maintaining a balanced mood and mental health. This is especially important to remember during the short and cold winter days. This year, make sure to prioritize a balanced diet and take the right supplements, so you can build up a better defense against SAD, winter blues and low moods.