Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January reported to be the most depressing day of the year. This is usually the third Monday of the year and happens to land on Monday, January 16th in the year of 2017. Researchers determined this day based on an equation that takes into account factors such as: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failure of attempt to make a change (i.e. resolution), low motivational level and the need to take action. Are you feeling the effects of Blue Monday this time of year?
The Role of Serotonin
Serotonin is often referred to as our “happy hormone”. It is a neurotransmitter that has a powerful influence over our mood, appetite, sleep, and pain tolerance. It is made in our bodies, however, we are often deficient in the building blocks it needs. Our body makes serotonin by converting tryptophan into 5-HTP and then into serotonin. Low serotonin levels are associated with a range of symptoms and diseases including depression, weight gain, cravings, migraines, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, and fibromyalgia.
5-HTP is a direct precursor to serotonin and is a break down product of tryptophan (amino acid found in turkey), which is what causes that sleepy, satisfied feeling. Because it is one step closer to serotonin than tryptophan, it is more effective at relieving the symptoms associated with low serotonin. 5-HTP boosts serotonin levels without unpleasant side effects, and does not create dependence.
Mood Boost: Depression has been clinically linked to low serotonin levels. Certain antidepressants help keep serotonin circulating in the blood by preventing it from breaking down.
Ample research has shown that 5-HTP is an effective antidepressant agent, even for certain patients who are unresponsive to prescription drugs.
Improved Sleep: Serotonin and melatonin (our sleep hormone) are part of a cycle that relies on the same materials. Therefore, 5-HTP also regulates circadian rhythms and increases REM sleep to improve sleep quality and help relieve insomnia. This allows for natural sleep pattern restoration!
Weight Control: Normal serotonin levels help us feel full and satisfied after eating. Therefore, 5-HTP is an effective weight loss tool as it can help curb appetite and avoid binge eating from carbohydrate cravings. Studies have shown a decrease in caloric intake when taking 5-HTP.
Pain Tolerance: Serotonin also controls neurological pathways responsible for experiencing pain. There is evidence that the body’s serotonin pathway does not work in those with fibromyalgia. Therefore, 5-HTP can help relieve chronic pain and fatigue associated with this condition. Also, low serotonin levels are associated with migraines. By boosting serotonin, 5-HTP has been shown to help prevent recurrence and reduce symptoms.
Other Factors - Gut Health, Blood Sugar Management & Proper Nutrition
The brain and the gut are on a two-way street of constant communication. According to naturopathic doctor, Karen Jensen, “New research shows that gut bacteria communicate with and influence brain function…The gut brain produces a wide range of hormones and around 40 neurotransmitters of the same classes as those found in the head brain…Gut brain problems such as microbiota imbalance can cause symptoms of depression.” This is why proper digestion is of utmost importance! Consider regular probiotics, enzymes and fibre for regular bowel movements, proper absorption and optimal gut health.
Also, maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day is important in sustaining energy, mental focus, mood and craving control. Ensure regular, balanced meals that contain fibre, protein and healthy fats!
For nutritional recommendations, ensure adequate levels of D & B Vitamins as well as Magnesium and High EPA Essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids (i.e. fish oils) for proper mood support!
In addition to low serotonin levels, blood sugar imbalances, nutrient deficiencies and poor digestion/gut health, other factors such as: lack of physical activity, chronic inflammation, over toxicity, poor diet, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, poor lighting, stress, trauma and candida overgrowth can also play a role in low mood.
Consider 5-HTP as it provides the necessary building blocks to boost serotonin levels. It is clinically shown to enhance mood, fight depression, relieve insomnia by improving sleep quality, curb appetite and food cravings, prevent migraines, and relieve pain from fibromyalgia. Look for enteric-coated caplets that are designed to dissolve in the intestines rather than the stomach, significantly reducing the potential for nausea. It is advised to use for a minimum of 1 week to see beneficial effects.
Note: Be sure to consult a Health Care Practitioner in regards to possible interactions and cautions before incorporating a new supplement into your daily regime.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.