Seasonal Mood Disorder is more commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters, without any other explanation for the changes in mood and behaviour, indicate the presence of SAD and then follow an annual pattern consistent with the seasons. Insufficient exposure to sunlight has been associated with low levels of melatonin and serotonin, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and sleep disturbance.
A “biological internal clock” in the brain regulates our circadian (daily) rhythms. This biological clock responds to changes in season, partly because of the differences in the length of the day.
When it is dark, the pineal gland produces a substance called melatonin which is responsible for the drowsiness we feel each day after dusk. Light entering the eyes at dawn shuts off the production of melatonin. During the shorter days of winter, when people may rise before dawn or not leave their offices until after sunset, these normal rhythms may become disrupted, producing the symptoms of SAD.
There is also evidence linking SAD to a reduced amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is the feel-good substance. This decrease in serotonin production may be responsible for many of the symptoms of SAD, such as depression and carbohydrate cravings.
The increase in appetite and, in particular, the cravings for simple carbohydrates, may be viewed as a means of instinctual self-medicating. This may be rooted in the instinctive need to increase the body's production of serotonin.
As a direct consequence of changes in appetite associated with SAD, research suggests that an individual may gain between seven to thirty pounds during the fall and winter months.
Symptoms may include:
Change in appetite, in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods
Tendency to oversleep
Avoidance of social situations
Feelings of anxiety and despair
The symptoms of SAD generally disappear when spring arrives. For some people, this happens suddenly with a short time of heightened activity. For others, the effects of SAD gradually dissipate.
Eating a healthy protein-rich breakfast is important, as are measures like drinking plenty of water and reducing both alcohol and caffeine intake. Avoiding processed food, eating oily fish regularly (contains omega-3) and snacking on seeds and nuts (rich in magnesium). Also increasing intake of fruit and vegetables (especially broccoli), eating more protein and choosing complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates.
One of the best snacks is munching on nuts. They are rich in monounsaturated fat and protein, which slows carb absorption and prevent blood sugar surges. This prevents insulin spikes, which in turn causes carbohydrate cravings.
CHECKING THE STRENGTH OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM - Part 2
Last week we assessed the strength of your ARENAL GLAND. The next gland that might be your weakest link and lower your immune system fighting ability is the THYROID GLAND. The thyroid is responsible for body temperature and speed of chemical reactions.
To review, when one of the three glands-adrenal, thyroid or ovaries becomes overtaxed (usually due to stress) the body amps up production of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn depresses the function of the other two glands.
Again, the result is sluggish performance from all three glands and the irritability, tiredness, mental fogginess and weight gain that comes from the over-all out of whack metabolism.
The thyroid produces two key hormones: Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). Both work to convert food and fat into cellular energy, key for stabilizing moods, controlling your weight and building your immune system.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THIS GLAND IS THE WEAKEST?
Simply answer these questions to see if your THYROID GLAND is the weakest link:
You gain weight easily and/or have great difficulty losing weight
You often feel chilly when others don’t
You’re sluggish (slow reflexes, constipation, high cholesterol)
You feel exhausted by day’s end and suffer daily energy crashes
Your skin, hair and nails are excessively dry, cracked, or brittle
You often have a hoarse voice for no apparent reason and have trouble swallowing
One of the best foods to boost thyroid production is munching on nuts. They are rich in monounsaturated fat and protein, which slows carb absorption and prevent blood sugar surges.
This prevents insulin spikes, which is the major thyroid suppressor. This in turn is key to optimal production of T3 and T4.
Iodine is a mineral that is a necessary component of T3 and T4. It combines with the amino acid tyrosine and gets converted into the two thyroid hormones. For this reason, getting sufficient amounts of iodine through fish, seaweed, iodized sea salt, and shellfish is critical for the optimal function of the thyroid.
A low carbohydrate, high protein diet is recommended. This includes adequate food combining at each meal and snack to incorporate protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrate accordingly. In this way, glucose enters the bloodstream gradually which in turn modulates the amount of insulin release. A controlled insulin production means a more efficient use of calories and less opportunity for the body to store calories.
The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25 grams a day. Since fiber slows down the rate at which food, including simple carbohydrate, is digested, getting this quota is important for keeping insulin production in check when incorporating a thyroid-friendly diet into your lifestyle.
High fiber foods include lentils, kidney beans, apples, pears, broccoli cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, including bran and oats, almonds, and flaxseed.
A low Glycemic Index (GI) diet is the easiest thyroid diet to follow. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels.