What is Winter Blues and How to Fight It with Foods Rich in Serotonin

By Erika Guzman, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

 

As winter is in full gear, and still dark and chilly outside. Does the cold, dark weather affect your mood? Do you feel depressed or sad or simply don’t feel like yourself? It’s possible that you’re fighting seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or more commonly known as the “winter blues.”

SAD is actually common in all seasons, but its winter counterpart is more noticeable than summertime. It’s a seasonal depression or funk that people can’t seem to shake off, and it seems to last all season long. According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms include:

 

  • Feeling depressed the majority of the day, nearly every day
  • Having low energy or lethargy
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, and/or worthless
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Having constant thoughts of death or suicide

 

Although the specific causes are unknown, there are factors that may affect people such as your schedule or biological clock, melatonin levels, and a drop in serotonin levels. This also happens to affect young adults rather than older people or the elderly. One way to fix those winter blues is to introduce your body to more daytime light (vitamin D), exercise, and food for that boost of serotonin!

 

Serotonin is an important chemical our bodies make; it’s the most recognized neurotransmitter. It allows us to have a large number of core physical processes such as appetite, aggression, and sleep. It’s a key component in mood, and if the body doesn’t produce much of it, we become depressed. So what can we do to alleviate it? Eating foods high in serotonin production can help. Some foods include:

 

  • chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Pineapple
  • Cheeses

 

 

 

References

Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C.D., Polglaze, K. E., & Betrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of tryptophan

and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients.

8(1):56. Retrieved at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728667/.

Mayo Clinic (2017). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved at

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-tr

eatment/drc-20364722.

Richard, D. M., Dawes, M. A., Mathias, C. W., Acheson, A., Hill-Kapturczak, N., & Dougherty,

  1. M. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic metabolic functions, behavioral research, and

therapeutic indications. International Journal of Tryptophan Research. (2):45-60.

Retrieved at

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908021/#b132-ijtr-2-2009-045.

Wurtman, R.J. & Wurtman, J. J. (1995). Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity, and

depression. Obesity Research. 3 Suppl 4:477S-480S. Retrieved at

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8697046.

Young, S.N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of

Psychiatry & Neuroscience. 32(6): 394-399. Retrieved at

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/.

For more interesting articles be sure to check out the Fill Your Plate blog.

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