Top Tips for Thriving Through Winter

Winter is upon us and whilst snowflakes, mistletoe and bright frosty mornings are full of seasonal beauty, the next few months can play havoc with your moods, energy levels and immune system!

These top tips will help you through till Spring…

  • Low moods & cravings: changes in light levels at this time of year mean your brain can struggle to maintain its uplifting mood hormones.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterised by mood swings, depression, fatigue and cravings.  Your brain is craving sugary foods because insulin (released from your pancreas in response to sugar) helps both sugar utilisation and the delivery of an amino acid called tryptophan into your brain.  Tryptophan is converted into serotonin – a crucial mood elevating hormone – and melatonin which regulates sleep.  Aim to eat regular small meals and snacks containing good quality protein such as nuts, turkey, seeds or oily fish and complex carbohydrates (oats, oatcakes, wholemeal pasta, buckwheat) to give your brain both the building blocks of mood hormones and some slow releasing sugars to gently stimulate insulin release.
  • Dry skin: central heating and freezing winds suck the life out of skin and hair in winter.  Top up with plenty of essential fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish, flax seed oil and walnut oil to help your skin retain its natural moisture.  Antioxidant rich kiwi fruits, pomegranates, cherries and berries provide vitamin C for skin healing and repair.
  • Bloating: very common after a big christmas meal!  Take a digestive enzyme supplement or use bitter herbs to stimulate and support your digestive system.
  • Zero energy: dark cold days leave you feeling drained and exhausted.  Whenever possible get out in the natural sunlight for a brisk walk as exercise oxygenates every cell and stimulates serotonin release which lifts your mood.  Stay hydrated with warm water, fresh fruit juices and herb teas as dehydration causes fatigue.
  • Colds & flu: not what you want during your Christmas holiday!  Take a probiotic supplement and extra vitamin D to keep your immune cells working efficiently and  at the first sign of a cold, use a specific immune booster such as echinacea drops, black elderberry extract, manuka honey or propolis.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Over the past few months I have seen several clients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and each had their own unique symptoms and story to tell about their journey with the condition.  For some, their condition was the end result of a long chain of stresful events that led to burn-out and severe fatigue.  For others, an illness preceeded their symtoms, as if the infection never really left their system and instead mutated into the symptoms of CFS.

The main symtoms they all spoke of was the unrelenting fatigue, always there no matter how much sleep they had.  The fatigue was accompanied by a mixture of:

–      Muscle & joint pains

–      Swollen lymph glands

–      Headaches

–      Insomnia

–      ‘brain fog’ – difficulty in concentrating and memory recall

–      Sensitivity to light, sounds and smells

–      Food intolerances

–      Digestive symptoms similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

–     Low mood & depression

Each client had felt ill for a long time as a diagnosis of CFS is generally made by a process of elimination; once other possibilities such as hypothyroidism, adrenal problems and anaemia are ruled out, CFS may be confirmed.

So, why come for Nutritional Therapy?

What we eat, how we eat and when we eat affects every function in our body.  As soon as disease occurs it is crucial to look at how we are fuelling ourselves and whether foods can be used in a more supportive way, to support energy production, energy stability and mood balance. 

Nutritional therapy can:

–      Investigate potential food sensitivities and intolerances that may be unnecessarily stressing the immune system and causing inflammation

–      Optimise digestive function; we are what we absorb!

–      Reduce nutritional ‘stressors’ – alcohol, caffeine, refined foods and sugar: simple, rapidly absorbed sugars not only mess up blood sugar regulation, they can suppress the activity of our neutrophils (white blood cells forming part of the first line of defence in the immune system) for up to 5 hours! http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract

–      Introduce foods rich in magnesium, B- vitamins, vitamin C, D3, zinc, and essential fatty acids – all crucial for energy production, nervous system support and healthy metabolism

Look out for Part 2 of this article for tips on foods and  techniques to help manage symptoms…