Mood and Mental Health This Winter
As winter sets in and the buzz of the holiday season peaks the collective stress levels, many of our Toronto naturopath patients suffer in silence – whether feeling low, anxious, or full-out depression. The relative lack of sunlight, the cold weather and the increase in isolation in the winter make mood a bigger challenge for so many people.
To cope, one common tendency is to turn to comfort foods which boost levels of serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. However, some of these foods are hard to digest, or end up feeding unfriendly intestinal microbes, ultimately contributing to inflammation and digestive disturbance. Sugary foods and refined carbohydrates are the biggest examples.
The Vicious Cycle of Depression and Gut Inflammation
There is significant evidence that gut health and inflammation have a direct impact on mood and brain function. So ironically, when we turn to foods that further inflame us and affect digestion, our mood may actually drop as a result. One of the ways that gut health impacts mood is via the bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the intestines. Their interaction with the immune system and neurotransmitters, as well as the toxins they produce and the way they interact with the foods we eat, all impact mental health directly.
How We Can Help
While there are many causes of mood disturbance and many sources of stress, the body, mind and nervous system are incredibly resilient and work to keep us going. It is often when those mechanisms are overburdened, that we reach the tipping point and spiral into depression and anxiety.
Our Toronto naturopathic doctors both treat, and prevent this, by restoring the health of these systems. One of the keys to this is identifying the weak links hormonally through blood testing, and addressing those through nutritional and herbal treatment as well as lifestyle modification. Essential nutrients for mood and energy are also tested for and optimized as needed through the diet and supplementation.
Another key is reducing inflammation levels by restoring good digestive function. We are digestive experts and detectives, finding effective solutions based on individual patterns. Finally, our Toronto naturopaths will employ the best of natural medicine to directly support mood via the brain and nervous system. While many people have tried various natural health products, our patients find they have more success using such supplements when expertly chosen as part of a plan that addresses the foundations of health and the building blocks of a good mood.