Here in the Northeast, winter is right around the corner. The days are shorter, we see the sun less, and for 3 million people in the US alone we get SAD. I don’t mean “really sad with a capital ‘S’” (although for some that’s literally true). I mean Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that starts in the fall and lasts until spring.
SAD can be a sub-type of major depressive disorder and can include symptoms such as feeling hopeless, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, trouble sleeping, and thoughts of suicide. A much more common but less intense form of SAD – sometimes called winter depression – has symptoms that include irritability, low energy, oversleeping, and weight gain.
Risk factors for SAD are various including gender (women are more frequently diagnosed than men but men may have worse symptoms), family history (genetic factors may be at play), and distance from the equator! It is thought that the decreased sunlight during the winter months plays a role in seasonal depression. Less sunlight means our bodies produce less vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important factor in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is closely tied to mood. Lower levels of serotonin are associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression. This is why we include vitamin D in our flagship anti-anxiety product Tranquilene!
The Power of Omega-3s
Do you remember the lovable fish Dori from Disney’s Finding Nemo? Her motto was “When life gets you down you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming!” I love that sentiment when I’m feeling low, but Dori can help our SAD symptoms in a much more direct way (ok maybe not the Pacific Regal Blue Tang, more like anchovies and sardines).
Fish oil is considered a general health supplement and has been shown to have beneficial effects on heart function, immune health, and nervous system function including reducing depression and anxiety. Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, both of which are lacking in most Western diets. DHA is vitally important for brain health. People with low levels of DHA have been shown to have significantly lower brain volume (literally smaller brains), as well as, higher risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. EPA is an important anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce anxiety on its own, as well as, amplify the effects of other anti-anxiety treatments.
Fish oil works by helping to form the membrane of the cells in our bodies. A proper ratio of omega-3s (from greens and fish) to omega-6s (from nuts and meat) allows our cells to respond properly to the normal amounts of stress they receive on a daily basis. This stress includes oxidation and inflammation – both linked to premature aging when left unchecked. Studies have shown that the ratio in our diets is heavily skewed towards omega-6s making fish oil supplementation a prudent course of action in many cases.
When our cell membranes have the proper ratio of omegas, they release molecules called resolvins. Resolvins are named after their ability to “resolve” inflammation. Resolvins are derived directly from the DHA and EPA in fish oil. Protectins are also derived from DHA and help protect brain cells in the event of inflammatory stress. In addition to these beneficial molecules, EPA increases the release of serotonin in brain cells while DHA increases the absorption of serotonin! A happy cell membrane is a happy brain!
No Sun? No Worries!
If around 70% of the population have inadequate levels of vitamin D, and even more have incorrect ratios of omegas in their cells, it’s a safe bet that most people are not producing nor absorbing serotonin at optimal levels. We may not be able to move to a sunnier climate but we can easily correct our omega-3 deficiency with fish oil.
It’s always important to eat whole foods as a major source of vital nutrients. Unfortunately when it comes to eating large amounts of fish, we may risk consuming high levels of mercury; depending on where we live and what species of fish we’re eating. Tranquility Labs takes the uncertainty out of omega-3 supplementation by removing mercury and other impurities from our CogniDHA Omega-3 High DHA Fish Oil. Additionally, we take extra steps to make sure our fish oil remains in the purest, most bioavailable form so it’s metabolized as quickly as possible.
It seems the more we learn about our bodies and brains, the more we discover a tight connection between our diets and moods. Break the SAD cycle this winter and make the best use of your serotonin with CogniDHA Omega-3 High DHA Fish Oil.