Hello everyone. Today’s article is a guest post from Jennifer Gillan who works for A.Vogel.
During winter, when we’re exposed to less sunlight, our serotonin levels are depleted. Serotonin is what is technically known as a neurotransmitter which in plain English means it helps messages pass down nerves to the muscles or organs they are meant for. Your internal communication network, when fired with plenty of serotonin, will be fully functional and your body will be a generally happier and more efficient place to hang out in. Lack of serotonin is associated with low mood, SAD syndrome and disturbed sleeping patterns. It can also, bizarre as it may sound, affect your weight.
Carbohydrate consumption can boost serotonin levels, so your body may crave more carbohydrates when serotonin levels are low. Your body is always trying to do the best it can for you. It knows that a stable nervous system is very important and if the way to achieve this desirable state of affairs is to prompt you to reach for stodgy snacks, then that is what it will do.
Getting worked up about this just makes the situation worse. When under stress we produce cortisol, a hormone that instructs us to eat and store carbohydrates. This is once more a survival technique on the part of the body. Stress was originally less likely to be caused by emotional angst and more likely to signify some life-threatening danger in which food might be hard to come by and energy desperately needed to power us out of harm’s way by taking to our heels or our fists. So stress hormones instruct us to access energy in its most swiftly available form – carbs.
Knowing that our predilection for pastries and pies, not to mention the more lavishly chocolate-smothered type of cake or biscuit, is triggered by a lack of ‘happy’ chemicals can help us to plan strategies of avoidance such as those listed below:
• Get out into the daylight whenever possible. A 10-minute trot around the block or the building in your lunch break is better than nothing. Ensure that weekends see you out and about, even if the weather is grey and uninviting.
• Try a lightbox if your symptoms are quite bad and daylight is particularly elusive.
• Exercise indoors if the outside world is frozen or drenched. Exercise lifts serotonin levels anyway, whether done in daylight or not.
• Fill up on complex carbohydrates such as dried fruit which contains heaps of useful nutrients as well as providing healthy energy and giving your bowel a fix of fibre. Snack on seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and sesame) for starches that also provide you with beneficial minerals.
• Think about herbs such as Helix for curbing carb cravings and maybe St John’s Wort for supporting your nervous system.