Let’s face it: when the cold sets in and the winter months take place, many of us find ourselves craving carbs. Whether it’s potatoes, pastries, or pasta, the winter months elicit such a craving for carbs that these warm summer months can’t begin to understand.
But succumbing to these carb-tastic cravings doesn’t just hit your waistline– it can also wreck your mood in the process, admits Nora Gedgaudas, certified nutritional therapist and author of a book on this very subject.
The desire to fill up on carbohydrates is only one side effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a depression that impacts 14 million people across the United States for almost four months annually. It affects women about four times as frequently as men. People affected with SAD are oftentimes more drowsy than normal, have a tougher time getting ready in the morning, and have a difficult time taking care of daily responsibilities both in their homes and in the workplace. They also are more likely to be less involved and interested in social activities, have lots of depressive thoughts and feelings, and fight more often with their friends and family.
Norman Rosenthal, M.D., spearheaded an important study in 1984 that found a connection between less sunlight exposure and frequency of SAD. Sunlight begins serotonin (which is a neurotransmitter that helps improve your mood) production. This means however, that when the sun drops down during the night, serotonin turns into melatonin, the hormone in charge of making us tired. Once you wake up the next day, the sunlight shining through your window changes melatonin back into serotonin again, thereby supplying us with the boost we rely upon to get us through the remainder of the day.
Carbohydrates come into play because, during Rosenthal’s study, a whopping 79 percent of SAD subjects said they experienced greater levels of carbohydrate cravings. The reason for this is because eating carbohydrates raises the body’s availability of an amino acid called tryptophan, which is the stuff sunlight changes into mood-raising serotonin and vitamin B6. Unfortunately, you’re not eating anything that carries copious amounts of tryptophan, Gedgaudas goes on; tryptophan is best obtained through foods like seafood, grass-fed meats, leafy greens, poultry, and green vegetables like broccoli. Since SAD makes you crave refined carbs, though, you end up eating less of such foods. This makes it so your body doesn’t have the tryptophan it needs to create serotonin, causing your energy to drop and you feel down-in-the-dumps.
“You feel tired and you feel out of it, and you feel like you want to be sleeping. You’re depressed,” she concludes.
Always remember to consult your physician or chiropractor before taking any health advice.
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