Healthy Holiday Strategies for a More Peaceful Season
December 2, 2019
The holidays are a glorious time for us to celebrate with our families and friends. With the seasonal changes, the holidays themselves, and the New Year, there is much to be thankful for. Yet, in the middle of the season, we may find ourselves over stimulated and exhausted. Many of these physical and emotional symptoms are messages telling us something is out of balance. This year, why not consider some new strategies to cope with the seasonal changes?
Amino Acids and Stress
Some primary reasons people take an amino acid blend are to calm stress, to balance the brain and nervous system, to strengthen the immune system, to stabilize blood sugar concerns, and to increase the body’s endorphins, which serves to decrease physical and emotional pain.
To understand how amino acid deficiency exacerbates mood, sleep and stress disturbances, it is important to understand how the brain affects our emotional and mental health. The primary neurotransmitters that maintain healthy brain functions are:
⇒ Serotonin - for mood stabilization, sleep and carbohydrate cravings
⇒ GABA - a natural tranquilizer for relaxing the nervous system
⇒ Dopamine and norepinephrine - offer the brain increased energy and focus
A complete blend of free form amino acids enters your blood stream within 20 minutes of ingestion. This rapid rate of entry has an immediate therapeutic effect. Stress and tension from seasonal changes and holiday pressures can cause the body to use more nutrients than normal. A complete amino acid blend can rapidly offer necessary nutrients, coming to aid your body with the nutrients it demands for seasonal balance.
For many of us, sleep disturbances also increase with seasonal changes, and our mood balance can suffer. Among the amino acids essential for good sleep is tryptophan, an essential precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which in turn is the precursor to melatonin—a neural regulator that promotes deep, prolonged sleep. As evening falls and light gets dim, the body has an innate mechanism that transforms serotonin into melatonin and initiates sleep. Many people who supplement with tryptophan find it alone is a good sleep aid, but of course, it does not substitute for the functions of the other amino acids.
Healthy Holiday Strategies and Lifestyle
Avoiding stimulants like coffee and desensitizers like sugar, alcohol, and nicotine is recommended for those experiencing holiday stress. It is best to stick with a good diet, and to exercise regularly, while limiting nuances that may result in more anxiety. Exercise stimulates endorphins, our natural painkillers, and promotes more oxygen and fuel to the brain, enabling us to focus and make better decisions.
Vitamin D and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Lastly, high doses of vitamin D during the winter months have proven in several studies to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Sunlight on the skin is an essential part of our natural way of synthesizing vitamin D. Thus, with short dark days plus heavy clothing, we make far less in winter and our reserves can become depleted. Fortunately, vitamin D can be supported by eating foods like cod liver oil that contain high levels naturally, or by taking nutritional supplements.
Sunlight also influences the mood-regulating hormone already mentioned: melatonin. Melatonin helps
modulate our circadian (day/night) rhythms, with darkness triggering melatonin secretion by the pineal gland within the brain, bringing us down gently at night for sleep. Sunlight shuts off melatonin production, bringing us up for daytime activity. If the day/night melatonin cycle is disrupted, insomnia, mood swings and food cravings may follow. Getting some sunlight early in the day can greatly help in restoring that cycle.
Of course, many factors work to brighten our mood. Amino acids, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, getting outdoors and enjoying sensible sun exposure are just a few strategic choices we can make to combat holiday stress. Enjoy!
Dr. Dan Smith, D.C.
1. Braverman, Eric R. MD. The Healing Nutrients Within. Basic Health Publications; 2003.
2. Safe Harbor. The Role of Diet in Mental Health. 2012.
3. Florey, E. (1991). GABA: history and perspectives. Can J Physiol Pharmacol
4. Cass, Hyla, MD,. Tryptopure Enhances Mood, Relaxation And Sleep. www.totalhealthmagazine.com.
5. Lansowne AT, Provost SC: Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter.
Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998, 135:319-323.
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