Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to Fight Winter Blues with Raw Food

Winter blues! Many people living in the Northern hemisphere could write books about it. It usually begins in November when the days are getting shorter and darker, and seem to be filled only with work and sleep. By the time we finish our regular workday, the day is almost over. It is dark and cold outside and our moods may swing a bit. And while some people seem to be emotionally resistant to the changes in the outside world or even enjoy the season, others may get affected and feel sullen most of the time.

Kale in Snow

Winter depression, also known as the Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is a disorder that affects normally mentally healthy people during the winter months. It typically occurs in the Northern hemisphere and women are more often affected than men. The serious mood changes that set in with the change of seasons are recurrent and usually last from November until March or April. Most sufferers have a weakened immune system and are more susceptible to winter infections. The SAD symptoms include: 
  • mood swings
  • depressed mood
  • lack of energy
  • lethargy
  • decreased concentration and memory function
  • withdrawal
  • cravings for sweet and starchy foods that might eventually result in weight gain
  • increased need for sleep and difficulty to wake up in the morning and start the day
  • decreased libido
  • irritability
  • in some severe cases, suicidal tendencies. 

These symptoms are very much the same as the symptoms of clinical depression and some people with SAD may even require hospitalization.

Typical treatment for SAD normally includes bright light therapy, medication with antidepressants, supplementation with melatonin and Vitamin D, and behavioral therapy.

The reasons for SAD are still widely disputed. Some researchers postulate the serotonin connection. Serotonin which is considered to be the mood neurotransmitter, reaches its lowest levels in the brain during the winter months and women are more affected by its fluctuation than men. Serotonin affects sleep pattern, appetite, and metabolism. The imbalances of serotonin can be easily corrected with nutrition and nutritional supplements. Serotonin is synthesized in the body from the essential amino acid tryptophan. Diet rich in tryptophan helps to maintain high levels of serotonin. People on raw food should add more bananas and wheatgerm to their diet. These foods are rich in tryptophan and should be consumed on daily basis. One can also supplement daily diet with L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP which is a precursor to tryptophan. It is important to remember, however, that 5-HTP should not be taken together with Vitamin B6 supplements as it might convert into serotonin before it crosses the blood-brain barrier. There should be about six hours time interval between ingestion of these two supplements. 5-HTP is best taken on empty stomach about 30 minutes before bedtime.

Most people normally tend to eat more fruits and vegetables during summer, but there is no reason why one should not eat them during the winter. On the contrary. Putting more fresh raw fruits and vegetables on your plate will help you maintain high energy levels and deliver vitamins and minerals that your body need to function optimally. The cold season offers a multitude of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try adding more beets, cabbages, pumpkin, pomegranate, persimmons, and citrus. The colorful food on your plate brings light and joy to the dark season.

Include raw nuts in your diet, especially walnuts and almonds. If necessary, supplement with high quality multivitamin to make sure that you are getting enough vitamins of the B group. Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Cyanocobalamin (B12), and Folate (B9) are all very important when you want to enhance your mood. Additional supplementation with Vitamin C does not only strengthen the immune system, but it may also help balance the mood. Studies demonstrated that low levels of Vitamin C in the cerebrospinal fluid adversely affect brain function and mood.

Researchers agree almost unilaterally that Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA in particular, might actually be more effective against depression than traditionally prescribed antidepressants. This nutrient is abundant in sea food and cold water and people on raw vegan diet may become deficient. Foods such as leafy greens, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed contain ALA fatty acids which the body can convert to the vital EPA and DHA. In severe cases of winter blues supplementation with a whole spectrum of Omega-3 fatty may be necessary.

Chocolate is considered to be a pleasure-giving food. It contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA). Phenylethylamine is chemically related to amphetamine. It tends to rise the blood pressure and increase the secretion of endorphins. This gives a feeling of alertness and contentment. Research demonstrated that phenylethylamine acts as fast as amphetamine. The dose, however, does not have to be increased continually as it does not produce tolerance. Phenylethylamine helps to elevate mood and brings relief to even very depressed people. Additionally, the pleasant smell, taste, and texture of chocolate may help release additional endorphins in the brain. When buying chocolate, choose the one with the highest level of raw cocoa and very little or no sugar. There are wonderful products on the market made of organic raw cocoa with addition of different health-supporting superfoods. Some of them may contain as much as 85 - 99 per cent cocoa. Remember that chocolate also contains the stimulating caffeine which may cause agitation.

If you suffer from SAD or mood swings, or know someone who does, remember that it is vital to keep blood sugar levels well balanced. Do not skip meals and avoid stimulants such as coffee and other caffeine containing drinks. Eliminate as much sugar from your diet as you possibly can. To curb the sugar craving add cinnamon to your diet and take chromium supplements.

Whenever possible, spend some active time outdoors and enjoy the occasional sunny day. Exercise regularly and take time to relax and pamper yourself. And no matter what, keep in mind that next Spring is only a few months away.

In radiant health - passionately raw - Dominique

Dominique Allmon©2015


*Information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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