The leaves are starting to turn. A chill is creeping into the morning air. As we kiss goodbye to summer and look to pumpkin spice lattes and snugly jumpers, we also usher in a darker side of the season.
It’s estimated that around 1 in 15 people in the UK suffer with Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD), which starts to creep in around September, as the days get shorter, and can continue to linger until spring.
The exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood although it’s generally believed that reduced sunlight during these months affects the brain’s production of melatonin and serotonin – hormones responsible for regulating your sleep patterns, appetite and mood.
This makes sense when we look at the common symptoms of the disorder. Difficulty sleeping, apathy and low mood, anxiety, depression and a weakened immune system are all problems that can be experienced by those suffering with SAD.
The link between food and mood
Whilst SAD is generally considered to be a condition related to reduced vitamin D and the general psychological affect of colder, darker days, research also suggests that low mood can also be related to your diet.
Often referred to as our second brain, the gut is a powerhouse of hormones and, when its delicate balance is upset, the impact on mood can be significant.
Ever notice that when you feel anxious your stomach seems to mirror those feelings? As the main production centre for around 90% of the body’s serotonin and having a close nervous connection with the brain, the gut has a large influence on your mood so it makes sense that, if your gut isn’t happy, it’s likely you won’t be either.
Battling the blues. Steps you can take.
If you struggle with seasonal symptoms, there are plenty of things you can do to help improve your mood in the gloomier months.
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for wellbeing. Try to set the same bedtime every night and include a proper wind down routine. Write down your to-do list for the next day so your thoughts don’t keep racing and remember to switch off your screen.
Let there be light.
When the days are shorter, it’s important to get as much sunlight during the day as possible. Make sure you get out for a brisk walk at lunchtime.
As it gets colder and darker, it’s tempting to get stuck into carb-heavy comfort food. Make sure you’re getting a good balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, complex carbohydrates and protein. Don’t be tempted to boost your energy levels with sugary snacks and energy drinks.
Talk to your GP
If your low mood is persisting, make sure you speak to your doctor to rule out other problems. There can be other factors causing your SAD symptoms so it’s best to make sure there isn’t anything more serious underlying.
Tackle your trigger foods
We know that the gut has a big influence on how your mood. So, what if something in your diet is causing you to feel unwell? It’s estimated that around 45% of the population experience food intolerances, causing problems such as bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
Living with frequent tummy traumas as a result of a trigger food can have a negative impact on your mood as the balance of your gut is constantly upset by something in your diet.
A smart and simple test.
If you think something in your diet is getting you down, Smartblood can help. Our quick and easy food intolerance test gives you the results you need in just three days, helping you make the best choices for your diet. Find out more.