Tips to Help to Fight Off the Winter Blues

With winter around the corner, (I know... I don't want summer to end either!) I thought I would compile a list of some tips to help ease those winters blues...

 Fresh Air

After a long day in the office, getting a breath of fresh air and feeling the warm glow of the sun on your skin can be rejuvenating. What you may not know, is that exposure to sunlight and fresh air actually offers your body a whole host of health benefits. Just sitting outside, even on a cloudy day, your body will still absorb some Vitamin D from the sun. So there's no excuse, get outside and play a sport, go for a walk or just find a nice quiet seat in the park and your body will thank you.

Massage Therapy

Generally, people use massage for either general relaxation and well-being or to address a specific issue, such as pain or limited range of motion. Research suggests that massage therapy may contribute to both goals. Some of the general benefits of massage therapy may include:


  • Physical relaxation
  • Improved circulation, which nourishes cells and improves waste elimination
  • Relief for tight muscles (knots) and other aches and pains
  • Release of nerve compression (carpel tunnel, sciatica)
  • Greater flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhanced energy and vitality
  • Some clinical styles may help heal scar tissue as well as tendon, ligament, and muscle tears

Learn Something New

Learning something new and finding ways to keep your mind mentally sharp and engaged are great ways to improve your mood. Taking a yoga or cooking class, learning a second language, or even reading a book are some good ideas. It’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to mental health to continuously try learning new things that intrigue you. By keeping those brain cells ticking, there is less of a chance that you’ll stagnate or become bored.

Exercise

Of course, this is on the list! Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular exercise. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as "euphoric." That feeling, known as a "runner's high," can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.  Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the notion of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors that endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some common pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.

Regular exercise has been proven to:


  • Reduce stress
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
Exercise also has these added health benefits:
  • It strengthens your heart.
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens and builds bones.
  • It helps reduce body fat.
  • It makes you look fit and healthy.

Just make sure you don't overdo it! Too much exercise and strain on the body can be just as bad as too little. In general, aim for 3-5 sessions of 45-60 minutes per week and make sure to get adequate rest and recovery between each session.

Supplements

Supplementation can and should go alongside a healthy lifestyle to improve your general mood and well-being. With the lack of variety in countless nutrition plans and the “health” of food being so dependent on the ever-diminishing nutrients in the soil, it’s no wonder that we are concerned with nutrient deficiencies. By adding regular bouts of exercise, stress, and medications to the mix, all of a sudden we have a recipe for major nutrient scarcity.

Here are a few supplements I would recommend to help you through this winter:

(*Please contact your doctor to avoid any possible drug interactions)

Vitamin D

Living in Vancouver has a lot of pro's, but also a few cons. One of which, is the lack of sunshine in the winter months. As a result,  we can become seriously deficient in Vitamin D. The human skin can produce large amounts of vitamin D and your body is designed to get what it needs by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight.The most important part of the sun's rays is ultraviolet B (UVB). When your skin is exposed to the sun, it produces vitamin D and sends it to your liver. If you take supplements or eat foods that contain vitamin D, your gut also sends the vitamin D to your liver. From here, your liver changes it to a substance called 25(OH)D. When your doctor talks about your vitamin D levels, he means the amount of 25(OH)D you have in your blood. Doctors are still working to fully understand how vitamin D works within your body and how it affects your overall health. One thing is for certain, we absolutely need it for optimal health!

Recommended Dose

If you can't get outside in the sun 3 times per week for 15 minutes, then the current vitamin D guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend 600 IU’s per day for adults up to 70 years old and 800 IU’s per day for those over 70.

Omega 3's_

Vegans and Vegetarians

Omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseed (as well as in Hemp protein) are found in the form of Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA). Not only is ALA NOT sufficient to supplement on its own, but ALA has to be converted by the body into a usable form and the ratio of conversion from unusable form to usable is rather poor (somewhere in the range of 5-15%). Omega 3 supplements in the form of EPA and DHA are what the body tends to use for many of the benefits associated with Fish Oil.

For vegetarians and vegans, supplementing with DHA from algae can "markedly enhance the DHA status (of serum and platelets)" and "provide for the formation of substantial EPA.” Supplementation of ALA and/or GLA is not enough.

Non-Vegans/Vegetarians_

Fish oil/Krill Oil provides a variety of benefits when supplemented, particularly when the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the body is almost equal (1:1). The average diet (red meat, eggs, and so forth) are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which is why fish oil is recommended (to balance the ratio).

A ratio of roughly 1:1 is associated with healthier blood vessels, a lower lipid count and a reduced risk for plaque buildup. Fish oil can also decrease the risk of diabetes and several forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Fish oil works primarily through eicosanoids, which are signaling molecules. A proper ratio of omega 3:6 fatty acids will influence which eicosanoids are released in response to stress.It should be noted that fish oil can also reduce triglycerides in people with high triglyceride levels. However, it can also increase cholesterol, so care should be taken before supplementing fish oil for this purpose.

Recommended Dose

Vegans/Vegetarians- ALGAE- 1-2 grams per day.

Non-Vegans/Vegetarians- a combined daily total of 500 milligrams (mg) EPA + DHA from either the diet (i.e. oily fish) or fish oil/Krill Oil supplementation._

 

Vitamin B Complex_

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression. Low levels of a vitamin B can result from eating a poor diet or not being able to absorb the vitamins you consume. Older adults, vegetarians, and people with digestive disorders such as celiac disease or Crone's disease may have trouble getting enough B-12. Sometimes a vitamin B-12 deficiency occurs for unknown reasons. Your doctor may order a blood test to check levels of B-12 or other vitamins if a deficiency is suspected. The best way to make sure you're getting enough B-12 and other vitamins is to eat a healthy diet that includes sources of essential nutrients. Vitamin B-12 is plentiful in animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and milk.

Recommended Dose

Generally speaking, most healthy adult men and women should consume approximately 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12, 1.3 mg of vitamin B-6, 400 mcg of folate, 5 mg of pantothenic acid and 30 mcg of biotin.

Men need 16 mg of niacin, 1.2 mg of thiamin and 1.3 mg of riboflavin, while women should have 14 mg of niacin, 1.1 mg of thiamin and 1.1 mg of riboflavin.

Pregnant and nursing women should check with their doctor since they will require more of each nutrient. If in doubt, purchase a B complex from a reputable brand or ask your nearest health food store specialist.

Probiotics

In our gut, good bacteria can displace bad bacteria and influence our overall health, metabolism, digestion, and body composition. Gut bacteria are involved in immunity and help to ensure our immune system stays healthy and at its most efficient.

If you are healthy, aim for 1-2 servings of fermented pro-biotic rich foods such as Kimchi, Yoghurt, Sauerkraut, Kombucha each day. If you’re hoping to prevent or alleviate a medical problem, you may need to increase the dose.

Supplemental doses are typically expressed in billions of live organisms. Between 3 and 5 billion would be a starting dose. This could be increased to 10 billion if you are hoping to alleviate a specific health concern. Take with food/drink and use a reputable brand. And don't forget those prebiotics! Most people who eat a healthy diet containing a variety of foods get enough prebiotics.

Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for Probiotics. Foods that contain prebiotics include bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, cabbage, beans and legumes.

Recommended Dose

Probiotics

 3-10 billion colony forming units per day depending on your goals. If in doubt always start with the lower dose and work your way up over time.

Prebiotics

2-4 grams of FOS per day can help to feed healthy gut bacteria and keep things balanced.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

Can't pronounce it? Me neither. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an amino acid derivative compound that is fat-soluble and found in high amounts in the brain where it contributes to cognitive functioning. Found (in high amounts) in fish, it may improve memory in the elderly and can lower the levels of cortisol in the blood. Phosphatidylserine is still undergoing numerous studies but the results look promising. It is best taken before bed or after a hard training session. I have taken it myself and noticed a better sleep pattern and improved memory. If you are highly stressed or train hard multiple times per week, this may be the supplement for you.

Recommended Dose- 600 mg per day either 30 minutes before bed or split between after training and before bed.

Will Poustchi

  Will Poustchi


    • Precision Nutritionist

    • WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro

    • Extreme Kettlebell Instructor

    • TRX Certified

    • Junior Athletic Conditioning specialist (NASM)

    • Canfit Pro Personaloastal Challenge- 3 mountain marathons over 3 days-2010 Trainer

    • Former Ultra Marathon Runner- Atlantic Coastal Challenge- 3 mountain marathons over 3 days-2010

    • UK Strength and Power Series UK Finalist 2011


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