Escaping the Winter Blues

Simple Ways to Overcome the Annual Winter Blues

winter blues

High energy levels come at a premium for new moms. Sleepless nights tending to young children for various ailments leave mothers feeling exhausted throughout the day and gravitating frequently to the coffee pot and the pantry for the pick-me-up they need to get through the day.

The winter months are the worst. Dark mornings and grey, cloudy skies leave everyone feeling listless and dreary. We all know it as the Winter Blues – an inevitable feeling of lethargy, lack of motivation, and in some cases, depression. Doctors aptly call it Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Yet there’s a lot we can do to escape those feelings with no more effort than a trip to the local grocery store or pharmacy for some natural remedies.

The reason we feel so down in the dumps is a lack of exposure to bright light, which disrupts what’s known as our serotonin metabolism — the process that helps us feel sleepy at night and alert during the day. Without consistent exposure to the bright light so prevalent during the sunny summer months, our bodies begin to generate a higher-than-normal presence of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and insufficient levels of serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical with anti-depressant properties.

Orthomolecular practitioners, who help individuals relieve numerous illnesses by balancing the body’s biochemical composition, have a way for us to beat the winter blues through simple dietary regimens that give moms more energy to get through the day-to-day of child rearing.

First, head to good health food store or quality vitamin shop and pick up some 5-hydydroxytrypophan or 5-HTP. This amino acid derived from an African plant can help increase serotonin levels. While you’re there, pick up some Vitamin D-3 to help combat mood disturbances and some Vitamin B5 to quell feelings of fatigue. Finally, a boost of magnesium will help alleviate anxiety, headaches, insomnia, light-headedness, nervous fits and other physical symptoms.

So you've gone to the health food store to pick up vitamins to help beat those winter blues. Add to this several weekly helpings of fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring and sardines, as well as some fish oil — all of which contain omega-3 essential fatty acids that help reduce SAD symptoms — and you’re on your way to feeling better and more energetic.

Don’t forget your minimum five daily servings of fruits and vegetables for that crucial injection of potassium, which is a necessary complement to magnesium intake.

We all scold our kids when we find their hands in the cookie jar, but how often do we dip in there ourselves? Many of us fall into the trap of consuming caffeine, unnatural sugars and carbohydrates to give us that morning jolt, but the reality is doing so is really just short-term gain that leads to long-term pain for our energy levels and waistlines.

Break the cycle by exercising regularly, steering clear of the junk food, and replacing it with vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

For an added energy kick, consider purchasing a light visor or light box that delivers intense, bright, broad-spectrum light. Daily exposure will result in increased energy levels within a week.

If you’re struggling to beat the Winter Blues, talk to an orthomolecular practitioner about a clinical evaluation to develop a dietary regimen customized for your body.

At the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Jonathan Prousky's primary responsibility is the delivery of safe and effective naturopathic medical care in his role as the Chief Naturopathic Medical Officer. He received his ND degree from Bastyr University, and furthered his clinical training by completing a Family Practice Residency sponsored by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine.

He recently obtained a Master of Science degree in International Primary Health Care from the University of London. He teaches the 3rd-year clinical nutrition course and runs a private clinical practice focusing on the evaluation and treatment of mental health disorders with nutrition and botanical (plant-based) medicines.

He has lectured extensively on various mental health topics throughout North America to medical doctors, other health care providers and patients at numerous conferences and health fairs. In April 2006, CCNM Press published his book, Anxiety: Orthomolecular Diagnosis and Treatment.