Even if you love cold weather, you might feel your mood shift in the winter months. It’s harder to be productive, and no matter how many cups of coffee you drink, you still feel lethargic. This is commonly known as the “winter blues,” a general feeling of being down when the days get shorter.
The good news about all of this: You don’t have to wait until the spring to get over it! Thanks to the connection between the gut and your moods, you can easily tackle the winter blues with a healthy gut.
How are “winter blues” different from seasonal affective disorder?
If these gloomy feelings interfere with your daily life for more than two weeks, it could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a subtype of depression characterized by symptoms of depression that correlate with the fall and winter months. People who suffer from SAD can experience feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness, a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, sluggishness, trouble concentrating, and more.
Gut bacteria produce neurochemicals that help with learning, memory, and—you guessed it—your mood.
What causes winter blues and seasonal affective disorder?
Both winter blues and seasonal affective disorder can be tied to the reduced sunlight in winter. Shorter days interfere with our internal clocks and circadian rhythms, as well as levels of melatonin and serotonin, hormones that influence our moods.
How can better gut health help with winter blues and seasonal affective disorder?
Sure, you get happy from eating foods that you like, but the connection between the gut and your mood runs much deeper than that. The gut houses the microbiome, a collection of trillions of bacteria that help you digest food, absorb nutrients, and filter out toxins.
These bacteria are also connected to the brain, via what’s referred to as the gut-brain axis. Your gut bacteria and your brain are so in sync that being stressed out can stress out your gut too, having a negative impact on your digestion. Of course, this connection works positively, too: Gut bacteria produce neurochemicals that help with learning, memory, and—you guessed it—your mood.
Your gut produces 95 percent of the serotonin in your body. This is especially important if you suffer from the winter blues or SAD, since a healthy gut can help regulate the serotonin levels that impact your symptoms.
How can I improve my gut health to help with my mood?
Get enough sleep.
Your gut needs to rest, too. Getting a healthy night’s rest every night ensures that your gut has time to replenish its energy to work efficiently.
Water nourishes the lining of mucus in the intestines that supports gut bacteria. It also helps ensure that the good bacteria in the gut outnumber the bad ones.
An easy way to get more soluble fiber in your diet is to take a daily supplement.
Manage your stress.
As we mentioned before, stress has a negative effect on gut function. Keep your stress in check with methods like yoga or meditation in order to prevent it from impacting your gut.
Eat more soluble fiber.
Fiber that is soluble, meaning it can absorb water, acts like fertilizer for gut bacteria, providing nutrients that keep them healthy. You can get more soluble fiber in your diet with most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. This is especially true of Brussels sprouts, black beans, lime beans, and avocados.
An easy way to get more soluble fiber in your diet is to take a daily supplement. Bellway is a soluble fiber supplement made with organic psyllium husk, a natural source of fiber that has been used for centuries because of its gut health benefits—plus, it’s flavored with real fruit, and you can taste the difference. As with any daily supplement, confirm with your doctor that it’s right for you.