The days are shorter, the nights longer and everything seems WAY harder than it is in summer! So let’s be honest here. How are you feeling? Are you as happy as you felt in summer?
Is your mood fatter than normal? More irritable at work, or maybe you are starting to lose confidence and opt to stay home rather than socialise?
Despite the temptation to brush this off as the “winter blues” maybe there is a hormone change in your body – which might be seasonal, but one that you don’t need to put up with.
I want to discuss 3 common hormone changes, that can affect your mood, why these happen, and more importantly what you can do to find your happy switch again.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a hormone. You may have heard about how the sun supplies valuable vitamin D production on your skin? And in winter when there is less sunlight, often levels drop.
Vitamin D is critical for many processes and disease prevention in your body including cancer prevention, depression & anxiety, and bone strength. It is also important to have high vitamin D levels to have a strong immunity.
The sun emits 2 types of ultra violet rays, A and B. It is actually the Ultra violet B (UVB) rays that start the complicated synthesis of Vitamin D starting on your skin but not finishing it’s final conversion until your gut wall.
UVB rays will produce a shadow shorter than your height. Sunrays that cast a long shadow are generally UVA rays and whilst it’s nice to be out in don’t do much for Vitamin D production.
So in winter, with limited sun & shorter days, there is limited time to get your vitamin D dose. You can still get exposure to UVB through clouds but not clothes so sitting in the winters sun clad with clothes will stop your ability to make this valuable hormone.
Countries that have very low sunlight over the winter months have evolved to include vitamin D rich foods in their diets, including tuna, halibut, herring and cod, egg yolk, milk and sprouted seeds.
Try eating more of these foods, or have a holiday in a warm place with sun to break up winter.
As women we make 3 different types of estrogen and normally the levels fluctuate over the monthly cycle. If you are not fertile (pubescent or menopausal) it should be more stable. If you are fertile, estrogen follows a peak mid-way and then a week before your period, before the body starts to clear it out.
If you suffer with worsening symptoms during this time it is called Pre-menstrual symptoms (or PMS) or syndrome if it is ongoing. So if you suffer with mood changes, you may notice them to be worse just before you period.
More and more Australian women are suffering with high estrogen levels and this is the greatest cause of mood changes that I find in my Health Queen clinic.
One study showed that six in ten women with major depression reported their symptoms are worse 5-10 days before their period. I often find this is due to elevated estrogens or low progesterone or both. Other typical symptoms of high estrogen include cellulite, weight gain, weight that won’t shift, weight around the thighs and buttocks, acne, headaches, migraines, endometriosis and fibroids. The best way is to naturally lower estrogen by minimising input; organic (yes it makes a big difference), making sure your liver is processing the hormones (lots of green leafy vegetables) and that your gut is excreting it (high vegetable intake, low dairy, low gluten, daily bowel motions). If you want to measure your hormone levels these are best done on saliva testing as you can measure the free unbound hormone levels. Blood testing only reveals bound levels of estrogen which is often not reflective of what is occurring in your body. You can order a saliva test here.
High testosterone is affecting up to four in ten Australian women and rather than think of this as a sex hormone, think of this as a stress or sugar hormone. It generally goes up when we have added stress, work hard, train hard, work with males and forget to relax and downshift. If we consume a higher sugar diet serum testosterone also elevates.
The best test for this is the saliva test but these are some very characteristic signs; unwanted facial hair, belly fat, irritability and anger (some women feel out of control and even seem bipolar but it is the surges of rage), poly cystic ovaries, acne and infertility.
Lowering testosterone can be done without medications and a happy normal life can be resumed quite quickly, once you know how to lower it.
Over the years I have found instructing women to “stress-less” is hard. Instead I help them give themselves permission to have more fun. This balances the hormone testosterone. I call these fun activities green light activities and these include activities where time drifts away and you feel happy and lost in the moment. For example, art, pottery, meditation, yoga, cooking, movies etc. These will vary for each person, but finding your green lights and doing at least one a day will help keep testosterone down, and your moods up.
The weather is out of our control but your hormones are in your control.
Try the above suggestions if you think your hormones are impacting on your moods and if you need any more help, reach out. Check out nutritionist and health coach Sam Beau Patrick’s website
Check out: www.sambeaupatrick.com.
More research papers here.
If you feel you need to talk to someone urgently call lifeline on 131114.
The Carousel would like to thank nutritionist and health coach Sam Beau Patrick for this article.