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Springing out of the Winter Blues: a Lifestyle and Nutrition Approach

By Lara Zakaria — © 3/2019

Most of us are dreaming of the warm, sunny days of Spring and Summer which can’t seem to come fast enough. But for many of us, the “Winter Blues” can hit us particularly hard. 

According to the National Institute for Health (NIH) an average of 5% of Americans suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly referred to as the “winter blues.”  In some areas of the country where winters are particularly long, and daylight hours are particularly short, it can be as high as 10%. Often they’re also associated with life stresses, like family, holidays, finances or work.

Associated with reduced sun exposure and shorter days, most people feel the onset in late Fall and early Winter. However, there are some people who exhibit the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. 

Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Signs and symptoms of the winter blues may include:

  • Having lower energy than usual
  • Losing interest in activities, or feeling unmotivated or sluggish
  • Feeling depressed and/or anxious most of the day, nearly daily
  • Having trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Experiencing increase in appetite an/or weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

Symptoms often start out more mild, progress throughout the season if not addressed. For some they might manifest to clinical depression, panic attacks, and even thoughts of death or suicide.

SAD is thought to be triggered by changes in sunlight affecting our biological clock, known as our circadian rhythm. This may alter two key brain chemicals: serotonin and melatonin, affecting mood, appetite, and sleep.

Vitamin D3: Acontroversial player in SAD

Vitamin D3 has also been considered as a potential role in SAD. However, studies have shown conflicting outcomes of benefit of Vitamin D3 supplementation on mood. It’s interesting to note that often those studies that fail to show a benefit, either use dosage that are too low (less than 1,000 IU of Vitamin D3) so that blood levels where not optimized, or are not looking at a large enough sample. 

Since there are multiple benefits of optimizing Vitamin D3, and many of us aren’t able to get adequate light exposure in the winter to make enough to meet our needs, relying on foods naturally rich in vitamin D3 or taking a supplement, particularly during the winter might be beneficial. 

I recommend foods that are naturally good sources of D3 verse those that are fortified (like dairy). Cod liver oil, salmon, sardines, eggs (look for dark yellow/orange yolks) are all great sources of vitamin D, as well as key amino acid Tryptophan, B vitamins, and Zinc (keep this in mind, we’ll tie back to this a little later). Depending on your laboratory blood levels, you may require additional supplementation of between 1,000 – 5,000 IU per day. Your Functional Medicine trained nutritionist or physician can help guide you on how to optimize your levels.

Give in to your comfort food cravings

The foods I’m about to list are not only warm and satisfying, but are also full of nutrients that work together to support the biochemical pathways that help to boost mood. The added fiber supports healthy gut bacteria which has been shown to support improved cognition and mood. Additionally, the slow and steady boost of complex carbohydrates supports the transport of serotonin to the brain. Furthermore, when combined with protein sources rich in tryptophan and tyrosine, the key nutrients found in these foods including B vitamins (particularly B6, B12, and folate), vitamin C and D, and minerals (especially magnesium and zinc) necessary for neurotransmitter production.  

If you have a slow cooker, winter is a great time to experiment with tasty mood-boosting soups and stews with a variety of colorful and rich complex carbohydrates and fiber. Experiment with using more fall and winter vegetables with savory protein and healthy fats, minimizing cold salads and raw foods like juices and smoothies. 

Soups and stews are a perfect way to utilize more seasonal fiber-rich produce like:

  • Squash – a great source of minerals like magnesium and potassium, 
  • Potatoes are a great source of healthy gut promoting resistant starch, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C.
  • Sweet potatoes, which contain iron, calcium, selenium, and they’re a good source of most of our B vitamins and vitamin C as well as beta carotene. 
  • Beets – support digestion, rich in minerals, and provide slow release of carbohydrates thanks to their fiber content.
  • Celeriac or celery root is a rich source of vitamin C, and several minerals
  • Carrots – aside from being a rich source of immune-boosting vitamin A, is also full of antioxidants and phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lutein, and cyanidins
  • Cruciferous veggies are rich in sulforaphane – a phytochemical associated with anti-depressant activity power, including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, and rutabaga. They’re also high in folate, vitamin C, and several important minerals that further support metal health. 
  • Onion and garlic, similarly to cruciferous veggies, are rich in sulfur compounds that promote improved mood, reduce inflammation, help to detoxify and balance hormones, and let’s face it, add amazing flavor
  • Organic and Pasteur raised eggs. Not only are the yolks rich in vitamin D, but also contain nutrients like choline, B vitamins, and omega 3 fats which support brain health and mood. The whites are a complete protein source, including key amino acids needed for supporting neurotransmitter production. 
  • Healthy fats sources like those found in the Mediterranean diet including olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, are an important addition. Grass-fed ghee (clarified butter), is not only a good fat-source, but contains butyric acid which may also boost gut health. 

In addition to the synergistic power of all those ingredients, don’t shy away from experimenting with spices. Savory flavors like rosemary and sage, and warming spices like curry, ginger and turmeric not only lend marvelous flavor, but are also rich sources of antioxidants, reducing inflammation and supporting neurological health.

Light therapy for SAD

Bright-light therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for SAD, though it seems to be most effective when combined with nutritional interventions and therapy. Light boxes are usually transportable, flat screen devise that produce full-spectrum light. Several companies make versions you can keep at home, but some spas and health clubs offer light-box rooms. For them to be most effective, studies suggest using them daily for 30 to 60 minutes in the morning (before 10 AM).

Winter Hiking in Park City, Utah

Exercise and getting outdoors

Last but not least, many benefit significantly from spending more time outdoors and finding different ways to exercise. If you can invest in warm winter gear and take advantage of milder days outdoors, walk, run, hike, snowshoe, ski, or snowboard. If your usual workouts are interrupted by bad weather or cold, try a new sport that you can do indoors independent of the weather, like swimming, wall climbing, or spinning. Not only will the exercise do you good, but studies show that the focus on learning a new skill or hobby can also boost mood and reduce the Winter Blues.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, if you’re struggling with the Winter Blues, focus on food and lifestyle:

  • Embrace warm comfort foods with high fiber, good sources of protein and essential nutrients to support the production of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.
  • If your vitamin D levels are low, supplement with a high-quality vitamin D3 your dose should be based on your blood work, on average most people need 3,000 IU daily to optimize their levels (but talk to your healthcare provider to optimize your levels based on your lab work).
  • Use light therapy, daily for 20-30 minutes a day in the morning. 
  • Especially if you’re having trouble sleeping, keep a regular routine. Go to sleep at the same time daily and avoid screens (especially the news) 1 hour before bedtime. Minimize alcohol and caffeine, especially in the evening, since it can affect sleep quality.
  • Incorporate exercise and try to find an outdoor activity that you enjoy, even in the winter.

If you need additional support, are feeling hopeless, or this lasts beyond the Winter months, don’t hesitate to seek out professional help from qualified therapist. 

Are blueberries good for weight loss?

(NaturalNews) While the little blue fruit is a delicious addition to muffins and pancakes, blueberries are more than a sweet addition to baked goods. Although they may be small in size, the nutritional punch these little berries carry makes them a great addition to one’s diet.

Abdominal fat is linked to greater health risks

While it is healthy to have a certain amount of body fat to maintain healthy bodily functions, excessive body fat in certain locations, such as the belly or abdominal area, can place an individual at a greater risk for developing certain health conditions. Where body fat is carried appears to be more important than the overall body weight or body fat content, having a large amount of fat accumulated around the abdominal area can lead to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and colorectal cancer.

Blueberries help to reduce abdominal fat deposits

One of the components contained in blueberries has been found to help in the reduction of fat cells within the abdominal area. Catechins, which are found in blueberries, were found to be a valuable addition to a healthy weight loss plan. Studies have shown that consuming foods rich in catechins, such as blueberries, helps to decrease the amount of abdominal fat as well as increase the total amount of weight loss. It is thought that the catechins activate fat-burning genes located in the fat located in the abdominal region, which can help in weight and fat loss.

Blueberries help to fill you up without filling you out

Blueberries contain a high amount of fiber and water and are considered to be a low energy density food. One cup of blueberries provides 3.6 grams of fiber and 125 grams of water all in only 84 calories. Fiber can aid in weight loss goals by slowing the digestion of food, which can help to stave off hunger. When combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, blueberries can be a great addition to the diet and can help to reduce dangerous abdominal fat deposits.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org

http://www.care2.com

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com

About the author:
Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general.

Learn more:  http://www.naturalnews.com/050507_blueberries_abdominal_fat_weight_loss.html#ixzz3gk6UdWXb

Food Bites with Dr. Hyman – Summertime Success

Here is some great advice from Dr. Mark Hayman. Enjoy!

Dakota C asks: Do you have any tips for staying successful on Dr. Hyman’s programs during the summertime?  Please help me navigate the best ways to stay on track!

Dear Dakota,

No matter where you live, summer can be a bittersweet time of year. For most, summertime means a relaxed lifestyle filled with longer days, warmer weather, and time off from school and work to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully some vacation time.

Along with the warmer weather and outdoor activities comes the pressure (both internal and external) to get your body “beach ready.”  This leads us to worry about sticking to our diets despite the abundance of treats – ice cream, burgers on the grill, and s’mores.  This is a great question to kick off the summer season; read on for tips to eating a healthy diet, exercising, and enjoying an UltraHealthy summer.

  1. Eat smaller, nutrient-dense meals every 3-4 hours and make sure to include the right mix of carbohydrates. Eating small meals more frequently and including protein with each meal helps to control blood sugars more easily. A typical meal featured in my programs includes calories that come from 15 to 30% carbs, 30 to 40% healthy fat, and 30 to 40% protein.Clearly, keeping insulin down and controlling blood sugars are keys to a healthy diet and lifestyle.    But how do you figure out your ideal range of calories from carbs?  As I always say, there is no one-size fits all approach in Functional Medicine, which is why I always invite readers to experiment with the ideal combination of fat, protein, and carbs that works best for their individual biological needs.If all this talk about blood sugar, insulin, and carbs leaves you curious about what your ideal intake is, follow this general two-step rule:

STEP 1: Get to know YOU!  Learn what is going on beneath the surface in your body and you will be better able to feed yourself properly and achieve your ideal weight, ward off cravings, and cool off the inflammation that is making you sick, tired, and fat.  You need to think about your entire body as an ecosystem – each part dependent upon the whole to thrive.  While conventional medicine typically breaks the body into separate parts (such as skin vs.  gut vs. thyroid), Functional Medicine looks at how each of these systems impacts the other to determine our final health outcomes.

I suggest you take the self-assessment quiz that I use with my own patients to learn how your specific symptoms impact your total health and understand how to properly nourish yourself.  Remember, there are several triggers for a single condition which means that the reason you may require a certain diet might be completely different from the reason why someone else needs that same exact diet!

STEP 2Determine your ideal carbohydrate intake Click here to view a chart that will help you determine your carb intake needs based on your personal health status.

Remember:  food is information that communicates messages of health or sickness with each bite.  So make each meal a conscious choice to best nourish your body!

  1. Fast track your exercise routine with interval training. If exercise were a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster drug of all time. Not only is exercise beneficial for your bones but studies show it enhances mood, increases energy levels, helps combat chronic disease by raising HDL, manages weight, and leads to healthier sleep patterns.  Knowing this is one thing; acting on it is another.I always say make exercise fun by weaving it into your summer plans.  Play Frisbee at the beach, ride bikes at the park, walk to the farmer’s market, hike to a beautiful destination before napping under a shady tree, or rent a kayak for date night instead of heading to your favorite restaurant. As important as it is to have fun, ensuring you exercise smarter, not harder, is critical to making the most of your exercise routine.  Use interval training to help maximize your time while relaxing with friends, not logging hours at the gym! Interval training relies on bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate to its max, followed by a brief cooling down activity before you begin the next interval cycle of high intensity aerobic activity.  Whether you swim, walk, run, dance, hike, or bike, switch up the intensity and it will help to achieve better results.
  2. Make this summer one where you smile a lot! Experiment with the following to invite more relaxation, well being, and joy:
  • Get more rest – take a 20 minute nap, read a book, watch a funny movie, get a massage, or sit quietly journaling
  • Stay hydrated – drink lots of water; switch it up by adding fresh lemon or lime or blending in fresh watermelon with mint – not only does this make a delicious, refreshing thirst quencher, it also adds important electrolytes back into your diet
  • Make meditation a priority – find an app like Headspace or Insight Timer to help incorporate meditation every day – even if only for 5 minutes
  • Eat your sunscreen – antioxidants naturally project your body’s skin cells from the inside out; eat more brightly colored vegetables and fruits like blueberries, watermelon and cherries
  • Shop locally and eat fresh – check out local harvest for your nearest farmer’s market
  • Connect – hang out with your friends and family more and definitely stay connected to our community and of course, me.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD.

Hit Your Farmacy for Abundant Health

This is a great article that I stumbled upon that strongly supports fact that you can eat your way to health.

Skip the Pharmacy and Hit Your Farmacy for Abundant Health

by  – May 9th

The most powerful tool you have to change your brain and your health is your fork. Food is not just calories or energy. Food contains information that talks to your genes, turning them on or off and affecting their function moment to moment.

Food is the fastest acting and most powerful medicine you can take to change your life. We call this nutrigenomics. Think of your genes as the software that runs everything in your body. Just like your computer software, your genes only do what you instruct them to do with the stroke of your keyboard.

The foods you eat are the keystrokes that send messages to your genes telling them what to do—creating health or disease.

Imagine what messages you are sending with a double cheeseburger, large fries, and a 48-ounce cola. Then consider what messages you might send instead with deep red wild salmon, braised greens, and brown rice.

The science of nutrigenomics allows us to personalize medicine. Not everyone with the same problems needs the same prescription. Your individual genetic makeup determines what you need to be optimally healthy.

Consider that you only have about 30,000 genes, but those genes contain about three million tiny variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that make up who you are. These variations make your individual needs slightly different from my individual needs.

Put another way, we all have different needs for food, vitamins, rest, exercise, stress tolerance, or ability to handle toxins.

The key, then, becomes personalizing a program based on your strengths and vulnerabilities—your individual needs. By analyzing where you are out of balance and then applying the science of nutrigenomics to help reestablish balance, you can design a treatment matched to your individual needs.

 Personalization, Simplified

Personalizing doesn’t have to be complicated. The first step is to take out the bad stuff, or the things that create imbalance. Those imbalances include a nutrient-poor, processed diet, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress.

Think of it this way. If you have 10 tacks in your foot, you can’t take out one, pop an aspirin, and hope to feel better. You need to find and take out all the tacks; taking out just one of them won’t make you better.

The second step is to add the good stuff, including high-quality whole foods, nutrients, water, oxygen, light, movement, sleep, relaxation, community, connection, love, meaning, and purpose. When you add those good things, the body’s natural intelligence and healing system will take care of the rest.

Using this simple yet comprehensive method – removing the bad things and replacing them with good things – allows me to treat virtually all diseases, whether they are “in the brain” or “in the body.” This strategy works for one simple reason: the body and the brain are one system.

Upgrade Your Genes; Downsize Your Jeans

Allow me to explain how I use nutrigenomics to reverse diabesity, the continuum of abnormal biology that ranges from mild insulin resistance to full-blown diabetes.

As I mentioned before, food is information. If you want to turn off the genes that lead to diabesity and turn on the genes that lead to health, the key becomes the quality and type of food you eat, not necessarily the number of calories you consume or the ratio of protein to fat to carbohydrate in your diet. You need to put your genes on a diet.

As David Ludwig, one of the leading obesity researchers at Harvard Medical School, said, “Molecular pathways involved in hormone action [like insulin resistance] have been the target of a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical research effort. However, many of these pathways may normally be under dietary regulation. The results of the present study [on nutrigenomics] emphasize the age-old wisdom to ‘use food as medicine’—in this case, for the targeted prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.” (1)

Shifting from a nutrient-poor diet to a nutrient-rich diet abundant in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains improves the expression of hundreds of genes that control insulin function and obesity.

To use just one example, the vast array of colors in vegetables represents over 25,000 beneficial chemicals.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate over 800 varieties of plant foods. Today, we don’t even consume a fraction of that amount. We need to make an extra effort to eat many different foods to get the full range of benefits. Remember: eat the rainbow!

An optimal diet to prevent and treat diabesity also includes healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados, and omega-3 fats, along with modest amounts of lean animal protein. This is commonly known as a Mediterranean diet. (2) It is a diet of whole, real, fresh food that has been prepared in a kitchen, not a factory.

This way of eating has been shown to prevent and even reverse diabesity. It has broad-ranging benefits for our health, and beneficially affects our entire physiology, reducing inflammation, boosting detoxification, balancing hormones, and providing powerful antioxidant protection— all things that fix the underlying causes of disease.

Even with a perfect diet, the combination of our depleted soils, the storage and transportation of our food, genetic alterations of traditional heirloom species, and the increased stress and nutritional demands resulting from a toxic environment make it impossible for us to get the vitamins and minerals we need solely from the foods we eat.  (8) The evidence shows that we cannot get away from the need for nutritional supplements. (9)

That’s why you need a full complement of vitamins and minerals, and you may need to individually correct specific deficiencies, including deficiencies in chromium, biotin, vitamin D, (3) magnesium, (4) zinc, alpha lipoic acid, (5) and omega-3 fats. (6, 7)

You can find all these nutrients in individual supplements, but I recommend a blood sugar-balancing formulation as well as fish oil soft gels to simplify your nutrient intake.

Fiber is a great blood sugar stabilizer to reverse diabesity, but unfortunately most of us do not eat enough high-fiber plant foods. That’s why I also recommend glucomannan, a soluble fiber derived from an Asian potato-like tuber.

Also called Konjac fiber, glucomannan is much more viscous than usual fibers, retaining up to 17 times its weight in water. Expanding in the stomach, small and large intestine, it absorbs fat, accelerates elimination, reduces cholesterol, blunts sugar absorption, and facilitates weight loss, in part by increasing feelings of satiety.

Combine these foods and nutrients with quality sleepcontrolling stress, and finding joy and meaning in life, and you have the perfect formula to stay lean, happy, and healthy.

9 Ways to Make Your Grocery Store a “Farmacy”

I hope I have demonstrated that what you put at the end of your fork is a more powerful medicine than anything you will find at the bottom of a pill bottle. Food is the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease, which will account for over 50 million deaths and cost the global economy $47 trillion by 2030. (10) That’s why we must change our perspective about food.

All you need to do is eat your medicine and think of your grocery store as your pharmacy. Here are 9 ways to do that. 

  1. Skip the labels. Whenever possible, do not buy foods with labels. Avoid foods in a box, package, or can.
  2. Keep it simple. If the food does have a label, it should have fewer than five ingredients. Beware of food with “health claims” on the label. Cola is “fat free.” That doesn’t make it healthy.
  3. Steer clear of the white menaces. Stay away from white sugar and white flour, which acts like sugar in your body. Learn the numerous disguises for sugar and get rid of any food that contains them.
  4. Dump this lethal sugar. Throw out any food with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on the label. You already know it is not good for you, but just in case you need reminding, read this blog for the five reasons HFCS will kill you.
  5. Avoid this bad fat. Eliminate any food with the word “hydrogenated” on the label, which translates into trans fats.
  6. Stick to healthy oils. Throw out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn oil and soy oil. Choose olive oil and coconut oil instead.
  7. Recognize your ingredients. Throw out any food with ingredients you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce.
  8. Watch for these red flags. Toss foods with preservatives, additives, coloring, dyes, or “natural flavorings” like MSG.
  9. Ditch artificial sweeteners. Remember that food is information, not just calories. Diet sodas and other foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners are almost always calorie free, but they will still make you fat.

 When in Doubt, Stick with this One Rule

If it came from the earth or a farmer’s field and not a food chemist’s lab, then it is safe to eat. Like Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules says, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” It is really that simple.

 

For More: Visit: http://drhyman.com