Thoughts on Better Aging

Why Winter Gives You The Blues

January 7th, 2019

Winter can affect your mood and your health

The shorter, darker days of winter leave many people feeling low. For some, these winter blues may be significant enough to qualify as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Trouble sleeping/oversleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cravings for carbs or fatty foods
  • Weight loss/weight gain

Even if your symptoms are not severe enough to totally eclipse your normal personality, chances are you will be affected by the change in season to some degree. Why? Because shorter days and less sunlight during winter affect four key areas of your health:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is hugely important for health. In fact, there are vitamin D receptors present in nearly every tissue in the body. Vitamin D plays a role in immune system function, neurotransmitter synthesis, calcium uptake and bone resorption, and more. While some foods such as fish, eggs, and mushrooms can provide vitamin D, the majority of this nutrient does not come from dietary sources. Instead, most of the vitamin D you need is synthesized in the body in response to sunlight. With winter days being shorter and colder, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunshine. This leaves you prone to illness and poor moods.

Serotonin

Serotonin is one of the most important feel-good neurotransmitters in the body. In addition to helping promote feelings of well-being and happiness, serotonin is vital for the signaling of immune cells and the modulation of inflammation. Serotonin production involves a chain reaction of different enzymes changing one molecule into another—starting with vitamin D. Due to the action of intermediary enzymes, low vitamin D in the brain causes serotonin synthesis to plummet, while low vitamin D in the rest of the body can actually lead to enhanced serotonin production. This is why urine testing can show adequate serotonin when in fact brain serotonin levels are low enough to cause mood changes.

Cortisol

Many processes in the body are meant to run on a daily rhythm that is governed by sunlight. One example is cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is needed in small amounts to keep the body functioning properly. Normally, cortisol levels should increase by 50 percent within 30 minutes of waking up to the light of morning. But when mornings are dark, cortisol production flatlines in certain individuals. This makes it difficult to feel awake and energized in the morning.

Melatonin

The sleep hormone melatonin is also influenced by cycles of light and dark. Melatonin floods the nervous system in response to darkness. This is all well and good most of the year, but during shorter, darker winter days, melatonin production can be prolonged to the point where it causes issues with sleep and wake cycles. Some researchers also believe that high winter melatonin production causes serotonin deficits by stealing tryptophan from the parts of the brain where it should be used for serotonin production.

Need Help Beating the Winter Blues?

At Renew Youth, we offer a variety of treatment options that can help boost vitamin D and better regulate the production of cortisol, serotonin, and melatonin so you can enjoy more energy, brighter moods, better sleep, and better overall health. To learn more, contact us today.

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