Winter health and wellness: low mood and fatigue
Do the winter months leave you feeling a little blue and under the weather?
During the winter months, we are more susceptible to colds and flu; we can suffer from dry skin and hair, we experience more aches and pains, and our moods can darken just like the days. In an attempt to brighten those dark winter days, Medichecks weekly winter health series will be focusing on a particular winter ailment and will be offering advice to try and make those winter blues a little easier. This week we are looking at low mood and fatigue and explaining why the winter months can leave us feeling a little blue.
Why does winter make so many of us feel tired and sluggish?
As the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, our mood can take a hit, and many of us find ourselves feeling rather tired and gloomy, but why is this?
Within the brain, neurotransmitters are chemical messengers which control the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, memory function and appetite control. Low levels of serotonin can lead to low mood and depression. There are many different things that can cause low levels of serotonin including high levels of the hormone cortisol which is produced during times of stress, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, low blood sugar levels and a deficiency in the B vitamins B6 and B12 which are required for the synthesis of serotonin. Food products high in B vitamins include poultry, fish, wholegrain cereals and leafy green vegetables.
A decrease in serotonin levels is thought to play a role in the development of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a mood disorder affecting over 2 million people in the UK that occurs in a seasonal pattern. SAD is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight during the short, dark winter days and symptoms include a persistent low mood, feeling irritable and lethargic, sleeping for long periods of time and a loss of interest in usual day to day activities.
As well as controlling mood, serotonin also plays a role in how tired we feel as it is used to produce melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating the body’s sleep cycle. The body’s internal clock controls the amount of melatonin produced and light, whether that be sunlight or artificial light prevents the production and release of melatonin. Because there is less sunlight during the shorter winter days, the brain produces more melatonin than at any other time in the year which explains why we feel more tired during the winter months.
Vitamin D also aids the production of serotonin, but in the UK during winter, many people are deficient in vitamin D as this vitamin is made by the body when we are exposed to direct sunlight. Because similarly to SAD, those with a vitamin D deficiency can experience low moods and anxiety, often during winter those with a vitamin D deficiency can sometimes be mistakenly diagnosed with SAD.
What can be done to banish the winter blues?
Although unfortunately, we do not have the power to fast-forward to the longer, warmer summer days, this doesn’t mean we have to hide away and wait patiently for the spring to come and lift our spirits. Here at Medichecks, we have created a new range of health checks that have been specially designed to discover the cause of low energy levels. Within our Tiredness and Fatigue Checks, key tests include a full blood count, a full iron status, a thyroid function test as well as tests for vitamin D and B12 which both affect the production and release of many different neurotransmitters including serotonin.
Take control of your health with one of our new health checks to see what is causing your low energy levels. A Medichecks doctor will comment and advise on your results, allowing you to take the necessary steps to lift your spirits just in time for the festive period. Order yours today!