Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. Symptoms typically start and end at about the same times every year, beginning around fall and continuing into the winter months.
While genetics and environment certainly play a role, so does your nutrition! I bet you can guess what’s coming next...it’s time to be proactive.
Here are my top three, tried and true, tips on how you can better enhance your gut brain connection in order to stave off the blues this holiday season:
Fuel the Happy Microbes. The “psychobiome” is real. More and more research is arising that suggests an imbalance of bacteria in the gut can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Hence why you are seeing more probiotics on the market now specifically targeting mood.
Eating a serving or two of fermented foods each day like kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut and kombucha is an amazing start because these foods naturally contain bacterial strains that ward of depression (Lactobacillus helveticus or Lactobacillus acidophilus for example).
However, if you suffer from severe depression or anxiety you may want to consider working with a holistic or functional practitioner who offers gut testing. Testing can provide more precise insight as to what is going on with your gut bacteria. As a result, targeted recommendations can be made regarding a probiotic supplement or special diet based on the findings.
Fuel with Real, Micronutrient Rich Food. Believe it or not, in some situations, depression can simply be the consequence of severe micronutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin D, zinc, B vitamins, and omega 3.
This is usually an easy fix, yet, it’s usually THE LAST thing most health care practitioners are diving into. Keeping these stores up to par can be a complete game changer when it comes to mood and overall brain health.
So what can you do? Start with a food first approach and if you do not see a lift in mood after 3-4 weeks of consistent intake, schedule a visit with a registered dietitian who is skilled in micronutrient testing and supplementation. In some situations, a whole food diet may need to be paired with high quality vitamin and mineral supplements in order to get you where you need to be.
- Best Sources of Omega 3: salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts.
- Best Sources of Vitamin D: egg yolks, oily fish, liver, mushrooms, sunlight.
- Best Sources of Zinc: oysters, beef, chicken, tuna, hemp seeds, lentils, shiitake mushrooms, oatmeal.
- Best Sources of B Vitamins: sustainably raised chicken, turkey, pork, nuts, seeds, legumes dark leafy greens.
Keep a Mood Journal. Start to keep very close tabs on your mood and your food. I promise you, that they connect. On the days that you feel more upbeat and uplifted and also on the days that you feel extremely sad and drained, I want to know three things: What did you eat? How did you sleep? How many milligrams of caffeine did you consume? If you notice that there are certain times of the day when you notice a sudden turn in emotions, what did you eat a few hours before that? Pay close attention to sugar intake as well. Over time, you will likely start to draw a few powerful conclusions.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to question the norm. More research is surfacing regarding commonly eaten food such as wheat/gluten its role in mood dysregulation. Just because something was touted as a superfood in your Jr. High health class does not mean it works for your brain and body today.
Can anyone relate to these suggestions? Have you tried any of these approaches first hand? I would love to hear from you!