Coffee, anyone? The most common quick fix for the extra fatigue that we are working through. It truly does feel like liquid magic. No wonder people from dark wintery places went crazy to colonize, produce, and trade this amazing elixir. (That’s a whole different blog post though). While coffee certainly does feel like an instant solution, a diet lacking daily nutrient and vitamin consumption combined with an excessive caffeine intake will cause a long term set of problems for your kidneys and health.
Cold crisp air, bare branches against the flat colorless sky, less sunshine, shorter darker days; you may be less likely to get outdoors and engage in activity. It can be hard if not seem impossible to get motivated and lack of exercise results in limited endorphin production. More time in the house may mean more trips to the refrigerator; maybe boredom, or maybe because your body is lacking in vital nutrients and instinctively your brain responds by signaling you to find a solution and find some nutrients! Stuck in the house, working from home, a whole pot of coffee is finished, why not make another? It may seem like a hopeless cycle that we are bound to until the weather breaks. It isn’t often advised to use eating as a remedy for coping with feelings, but what if your body is trying to tell you something? You don’t want to ignore the number one self-care rule which is nourishment.
Eating certain foods will actually boost your mental state and ability to function, with more than just caloric energy. As explained by LMSW and psychotherapist, Athea Thomas-Long, the correlation between diet and mental health has to do with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is the process of identifying thoughts and changing the negative to positive. “The way you eat is a behavior, eating healthy can make a person feel healthier which can in turn affect the way a person thinks, which can ultimately affect the way they behave.” Simply put, developing good eating habits will make you feel better about yourself because you will feel better physically and then you just feel better all around.
Here are a few key vitamins and nutrients with some food suggestions:
- Omega-3 fats: flax seed oil, fish oil, salmon, walnuts, grass fed beef, halibut, and some eggs are enriched.
- B12: clams, salmon, tuna, lamb, eggs, dairy, and cereals that are fortified with B12.
- Folic acid: black-eyed peas, beef liver, kidney beans, lentils, spinach, kale, peanuts and peanut butter, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, oatmeal and blackberries.
- B6: spinach, brown rice, bananas, avocados, kale, potatoes, cauliflower, walnuts, roasted chicken and turkey.
Winter is enough to make some people want to stay indoors and hibernate. This is a normal reaction for human survival instincts: to avoid dangerous life threatening conditions. Since this behavior has led to the survival of the human race we are literally going against everything we have learned now, because arguably, we have adapted to function at full capacity through the winter months. The fact is that human beings need sunshine. Vitamin D is naturally derived from the sun to provide a necessary boost of chemicals released from the brain through a complex process, when tryptophan is converted into serotonin which acts as a natural mood elevator. Vitamin D is activated when amino acids kickstart the conversion into melatonin and serotonin through signals sent from our kidneys to our brains. This all starts with sun to skin contact. These chemicals drive emotions, affect sleep patterns, digestion and behavior; so without sunshine or a supplement of Vitamin D our bodies naturally run the risk of depression through depletion. If you find yourself feeling sad without explanation throughout the winter months, there is one; Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually associated with the months during fall through spring. People who live in places with long winter nights are at a greater risk of SAD. Typical symptoms of depression apply such as pessimism, irritability, excessive sleeping, social withdrawal, sluggishness or inactivity, feeling worthless or inappropriately guilty, loss of energy, and diminished ability to think or concentrate.
The bottom line is: your thoughts matter. We have endured a lot and we are in the midst of one global crisis on top of another that affects everyone. With an overwhelming amount of bad news, it is extra important to maintain essential health which means providing nutrition for your brain and kidney health. By eating foods that provide nutrients known for boosting energy you can give your kidneys a break, your mind a boost, and even help your heart.
A case of the winter blues can be just that and can be managed with a variety of remedies, and lifestyle habits. However, the possibility of it manifesting into something more serious should not be taken lightly, and you may be at risk for developing long-term depression or Bi-polar disorder. Clinical depression requires professional help, not just a healthy diet. For someone struggling with these issues and already taking medication, do not put yourself on a vitamin supplement routine without consulting your physician. Before choosing a vitamin supplement plan for yourself it is important to remember that vitamins need each other to work synergistically within the body, and if they are not absorbed and digested some vitamins can cause a toxic over load. A physician consultation can give you specific insight to what your body needs.