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Thursday 30 November 2023

Gut-friendly foods that help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the days drawing in and the mornings and evenings feeling increasingly dark, for those who suffer, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is starting to bite.

Whether you're an annual sufferer or actually embrace the cosy the winter months bring, we can all relate to the dip in energy and mood the end of the year can bring, particularly as the Christmas festivities start to ramp up.

According to the NHS, SAD, more commonly known as the ‘winter blues’, affects an estimated 2 million people in the UK.

It is a seasonal depression that usually occurs during daylight savings, and whilst the exact cause is not fully known, it has been linked to reduced exposure to sunlight.

SAD has been linked to the following symptoms:

Consistent low mood
Feeling unsociable
Tiredness and fatigue, even with a full nights of rest
Hunger, cravings for ‘comfort’ foods – those high in carbohydrates and sugars
Weight gain
Decreased sex drive

While there are many treatments to combat the condition, looking to the foods we eat and our overall gut health can be one of the most effective ways to manage SAD symptoms this winter.

The colder months call for more comfort food, as eating what you crave can reduce stress hormones. Although this can make you feel good, it can have a negative long-term affect if you are not consuming a healthy, balanced diet.

When experiencing SAD, it can be beneficial to consume foods high in the amino acid Tryptophan.

Studies have suggested that there is a direct link between this amino acid and the production of serotonin, the hormone related to happiness, memory, sexual desire and sleep.

Tryptophan-rich foods include salmon, chicken and turkey. Vegetarian and vegan sources include pumpkin seeds, tofu (and other soya-based foods) and spinach.

Your gut biome is also directly linked to the production of serotonin, and poor gut health is linked to depression and hormone imbalances.

It is important to ensure you include enough water, fruits, vegetables, and fibre in your diet to maintain gut health.

Here are five foods that can help combat tiredness and SAD

1. Dark chocolate
This is the one type of chocolate that we can somewhat justify as healthy in very small doses. Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which is the mineral that gives us energy and keeps us from feeling tired.

2. Bananas
Also high in magnesium is "the marmite of fruit", bananas. "Love em’ or hate em’, they’re a great snack for when you’re on the go and their naturally high levels of magnesium mean you’ll be getting the right chemicals to offset the negative impact of SAD and will generally feel less tired. However, bananas are high in carbs, at 20 net carbs per 100 grams, so if you are a diabetic and watching your carb intake blackberries and raspberries may be a better option. More details here and here

3. Red or dark meats
Famously full of iron, eating red and dark meats is a great way to combat tiredness on the day-to-day. It is interesting to note that, in one study vegetarians were three times more likely to suffer from SAD, four more times in another. Therefore, if you don’t eat meat, many recommend taking a decent iron supplement to avoid SAD this winter, but it is always advisable talk to your Doctor/medical team first.

4. Fatty fish
We all know the theory that eating fish improves brain function. This is due, in part, to its high levels of a nutrient called creatine which has been proven to improve memory and cognitive function. However, it also has benefits for combatting tiredness. Creatine can literally improve energy production in the brain. When paired with the naturally high magnesium content in fish, these sea creatures are the perfect antidote to the symptoms of SAD.

Mediterranean-style fish stew
This recipe uses salmon which is known as a brain food because of its high Omega 3 content,
as well as being rich in vitamin D and minerals, recipe details here

5. Avocados and nuts
Not only are avocados and nuts both low in sugar and high in fibre, making them filling and nutritious, they’re also high in magnesium. Both nuts and avocados are often considered ‘superfoods’ due to their many benefits, so it’s no surprise they also promote feeling energised and help offset some of the impact of SAD.

As well as consuming the above gut-friendly foods some also take Vitamin D supplements to deal with SAD, 
but it is always advisable talk to your Doctor/medical team first when considering supplements.

However, if your symptoms go beyond feeling tired or sad, or these feelings are not going away and you’re having serious physical or mental health issues, you should always consult your doctor.
Most words above taken from article here

Please note
Articles / studies within this blog are provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, including medication, you should contact your Doctor/local health care provider.

If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account, and if you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan


Tom said...

...I hate the short daylight.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be difficult to deal with. These food suggestions sound like a really good idea. Dark chocolate is always uplifting for me and so are bananas! Great suggestions. Thanks.

DVArtist said...

Fabulous post. I know so many people who experience SAD. Here where I live you have to be tough with that. We have a very short summer and even then lots of overcast days. Winter is constant rain and dark days.
I personally don't suffer from SAD. I do take precautions to keep myself happy through the winter. I would love that salmon meal. Have a nice evening.

J.P. Alexander said...

Gracias por los consejos. Te mando un beso.

Anonymous said...

The fish stew looks good -Christine

CJ Kennedy said...

I have SAD so this is good to know. I just wish I liked dark chocolate.

peppylady (Dora) said...

Anther thing might help, if possible get the morning sun.
Coffee is on.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. I do love bananas and soy products. Avocado and nuts get a lot of use here too.

Margaret D said...

It's all interesting about less daylight and sun.

Fun60 said...

I never thought that foods might be helpful in combating SAD.

Rustic Pumpkin said...

while I love the longer days, I also love the darker days of Winter when I close the curtains early and snuggle in my armchair by candle light with a stack of books. I am a conundrum, for despite how much I love to hibernate, I have been diagnosed with SAD. I eat a Mediterranean diet as it is.

Jo said...

I dread the darker evenings and the colder months. I don't think I suffer from SAD but I'm definitely a summer girl.

eileeninmd said...

I have never heard of SAD,
Thanks for sharing the foods and info.
I do not like shorter daylight, but dark chocolate always cheers me up!
Take care, have a great day!

roentare said...

serotonin food?

Valerie-Jael said...

Those are food which are really good to eat! Valerie

R's Rue said...

I love avocadoes

Jeanie said...

It's nice to understand these things! Fortunately, I eat a lot (actually all) of the foods in that list. So my fingers are crossed!

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

This is good information I will put to practice. Thank you!

Debbie said...

this is a wonderful bit of information. i did skim but read a lot, very nice of you to share!!

happyone said...

Thankfully I don't have SAD and I don't mind the shorter daylight hours. Before you know it the daylight hours will start to get longer once again. :)

Sandra Cox said...

Thanks, Jan. I enjoyed the article. You do a great job of keeping us on track for healthy living.

Bill said...

Thanks for sharing this good info.

Lowcarb team member said...

roentare who asked...
serotonin food?

Serotonin is linked to mood regulation and is known to be a key factor in overall mental health. Low levels of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health conditions. While many people turn to medication to help regulate their moods, some foods may actually help boost serotonin production in the body.

Here are seven food suggestions that could boost serotonin levels and help improve mood.

Eggs, Cheese, Pineapples, Tofu, Salmon, Nuts and Seeds, Turkey.

More details can be found here

Hope this is helpful.

All the best Jan

Conniecrafter said...

I think I suffer from this, so far I have been ok, but I usually have trouble by January, I will have to see if it will help eating more of these foods

Teresa said...

Un reportaje interesante. Suelo comer de todos esos alimentos. Besos.

Divers and Sundry said...

I like all of these. That'll be helpful as I long for more sunshine 👍