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How to Stay Upbeat During the Winter

Dear Dr.Kim,

Do you have some suggestions to help set me up for the winter? I find that my mood slides when the days become darker?

D.G. Victoria

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Dear D.G.

If the shorter, darker days of fall and winter bring your mood down there are several approaches you can take to help improve your outlook. Keep in mind that seasonal mood challenges can be complex and what is effective can be individual. Depending on your level of difficulty it is a good idea to speak with your trusted healthcare provider about your challenges and how you are coping so that you can, together, make a plan.

While nutrition changes take effort there is good research to show that your choices can have a positive or negative impact on mood. Do your best to limit sugar, eat good quality carbohydrates, and obtain adequate protein. Higher sugar intake has been linked to depression while protein provides amino acids, the building blocks of the some of the feel good chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. I mention serotonin as a major class of anti-depressant prescription is designed around preserving serotonin. Aim to have protein at each meal and snack and concentrate on making sure it is included in breakfast. Protein at breakfast will support energy levels and assist you in getting off to the right start. When your carbohydrates are from good sources, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains then you will be better supplied with the Vitamins and Minerals that are an active part of supporting your mental health.

and/or daily good quality yogurt or kefir to your plan. Did you know that the beneficial flora in the digestive tract make serotonin and other neurotransmitters? There is two-way communication between the digestive tract and the brain. Did you ever wonder why you can have a “gut-feeling?” Keeping your digestion happy goes a long way in supporting your total health.

 like those found in ground flaxseed, fish oils and algae to improve and stabilize your mood, and enrich your wellness. Research has shown that many people have an imbalance in fat intake that leaves them Omega 3 deficient. The brain is built on fat and supplying it with adequate Omega 3 fats is necessary for fueling emotional wellbeing. I often say "if you now know that your brain is made of fat, wouldn't you rather it be made of healthy oils then french fry grease??" Look for a good quality Omega 3 product that maximizes the amount of EPA and DHA per dose.

Aim to spend some time each day outdoors … besides the value of fresh air … and the goodness of being in nature … Vitamin D, which, can be acquired from sunlight exposure, supports healthy moods. Living in Canada, you should additionally  as the winter months in Canada can provide too little sunlight to support optimal Vitamin D status. You can have your serum Vitamin D level checked to help individualize your dose.

I hope these suggestions support your good spirit.

“Health from the inside out.”

Dr. Kimberly McQueen BSc, ND is a Naturopathic Physician in Victoria, BC. In addition to her clinic work she has been a consultant to the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, Camosun College, and Rugby Canada. Kim currently works with Rowing Canada, providing Sport Performance Nutrition support. P:778.433.4935 and Kim McQueen is one of the Co-founders of the nourishing Supershake, Rumble.