Well this morning when I got up and saw the clouds and looked at the temperature which read 11 degrees, I have to say I was not a happy camper. So I thought that maybe this blog will be a reminder for me and perhaps helpful to others as well who may suffer from SAD or just a low-grade blues syndrome once in a while and need a little midwinter, I am not going anywhere warm anytime soon boost.
Feeling happy can be complicated. It involves a complex interaction between hormones, life circumstances, the right balance of foods, neurotransmitters in the brain, enough sunshine, solid relationships, the right DNA, and the list goes on really….For now lets just look at the brain and the neurotransmitter Serotonin that is responsible in part for our mood and also critical for our general sense of wellbeing, hormone balance, sleep and weight management.
People who take Prozac for example, do so because they want to feel better. Prozac increases the amount of serotonin available to the brain which in theory makes people ‘happier’. As a doctor, yes I have seen this effect but before you go on medication, how about trying a more holistic approach first.
In this case, with serotonin, it is made up of an amino acid called tryptophan. The body cannot make tryptophan on its own so we must get it from our diet. Which food you ask? Flax seeds (you knew that I created those flackers for more than one reason right? www.flackers.com ), lentils, Spirulina, soy, spinach, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, watercress, seafood, egg whites, peanuts, pork and turkey are the most common.
If you do not eat enough tryptophan studies have shown that you are more prone to depression, irritability, weight gain, difficulty losing weight,and difficulty sleeping as well. People who are low in tryptophan also tend to crave carbohydrates which only makes things worse.
What to do?
1. Eat foods that are high in tryptophan
2. In order for the tryptophan to be available to the body you must eat these foods with a carbohydrate.So, eat carbohydrates (whole grains, brown rice, quinoa) with tryptophan-containing foods to make this calming amino acid more available to the brain.
3. For better sleep, which will improve your mood, help you to crave less sugar through the day, and also help you then to control your weight try the following; snack on both complex carbohydrates and protein, and perhaps some calcium in the evening. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.
4. Get some sunshine if you can, frolicking on sunny warm beach never hurts when it comes to making me feel better and yet if you cannot get away make sure at least that you take some Vitamin D, and if you are deficient, alot of it, like 1,000-4,000 IU daily.
Also, make sure you take a b complex vitamin and get plenty of omega 3 fatty acids which also help with mood and hormone regulation and bathe the brain in important nutrients that help to relieve SAD and mild depression.
I hope this helps you smile today!
for more info on tryptophan in foods: