5 Tips to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can give many of us the winter blues. Here are Dr. Cutler’s top 5 tips to combat SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, impacts around 17% of Canadians each year with varying levels of intensity. SAD usually begins around the months of fall and continues through the winter months. The symptoms are the same as major depression, with the only difference being the time of year of onset.

1. Sunshine

Get outside! Even if only for a short while (yes, it is cold), sunshine on our skin may help increase serotonin production. Depression is often linked with low serotonin levels. Decreased serotonin can also affect our energy, appetite, and sex drive. I’ve experienced, many times, how a short walk in my neighborhood can shift my mood and perception of the day.

Morning Tip: Open your blinds and let the light in as soon as you wake up. This can support our circadian rhythms, as well.

SAD Tip #1: Dr Dylan Cutler Outside Getting Sunshine

2. Sweat

Exercise has various health benefits, one of which is boosting our mood.

Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective anti-depressant for mild to moderate levels of depression. It doesn’t take much either! Researchers have estimated that 35 minutes of physical activity is enough to reduce the risk of depression. One study found that walking for 60 minutes a day (or running for 15 minutes) can reduce the risk of depression by 26%.

Exercise works by increasing blood flow to the brain, supporting neural growth, reducing inflammation in the brain, and releasing “feel good” endorphins.

Physical activity at a moderate intensity level seems to have the best effect on mental well-being (as opposed to intense levels).

SAD Tip #2: Dr Dylan Cutler Loves to Exercise Outdoors

3. Sleep

Sleep is vital all-year-round. However, during the holiday season it may be extra necessary to prioritize sleep. Schedules often get busier, responsibilities mount, and stress levels can rise.

Sufficient sleep (around 7-9 hours a night) can help stabilize our mood. People who are sleep deprived are at 10x greater risk of developing depression! Sleep is our time for restoration. If falling asleep or staying asleep is an issue, prioritizing a regular bedtime routine, along with daily activity and time outside, can be helpful.

SAD Tip #3: Sleep

4. Supplement

Evidence suggests that the removal and decline of magnesium from foods has resulted in various mood disorders in the Western world. Up to 75% of Americans are not obtaining the recommended amount of daily magnesium.

A randomized controlled trial from 2008 found that 450 mg of magnesium supplementation was as effective as Imipramine (an antidepressant) for treating major depression. This study was conducted in a group of elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and depression.

I enjoy popping a couple of Natural Calm magnesium gummies throughout the day (they feel like a chewy, sweet treat). Then, before bed, I mix Natural Calm magnesium powder in water and sip for a sound sleep. Both these products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with less than 1 gram of sugar.

SAD Tip #4: Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Powder

5. Support Network

In the darker months, it can be tempting to hibernate on the couch with a blanket and a good book, which at times is what our bodies need. However, too much isolation may result in worsened SAD.

Studies have shown that having a solid support network is an important determinant of health. Adults with flourishing support networks are more likely to be happier, have high life satisfaction, and more likely to report “very good” or “excellent” mental health.

SAD Tip #5: Dr Dylan Cutler and her social support in Whistler, B.C.

SAD Recap

So pop a magnesium gummy, get some sleep, and invite a friend for a hike in the outdoors!

In health,

Dr Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

The Link Between PCOS and Magnesium

Studies show that magnesium deficiencies are more common in women with PCOS. Learn how supplementing with magnesium may help manage insulin resistance, inflammation, anxiety, and more.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that greatly impacts the lives of up to 18% of women all over the world. PCOS affects multiple systems of the body including our metabolic, reproductive, and mental health. The long-term associations of PCOS include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. This is why daily lifelong management is important. While we are still learning much regarding root causes and treatment options, there is evidence that particular minerals may play a role.

Why is Magnesium Important for PCOS?

Magnesium is crucial for women with PCOS for several reasons. Research shows that magnesium can:

  1. Manage Insulin Resistance
    • women with PCOS have an increased risk and prevalence of insulin resistance (PCOS Guidelines 2018)
  2. Reduce Inflammation
  3. Improve Sleep
  4. Alleviate Anxiety
  5. Lower Blood Pressure

I was the lead author of a clinical study published earlier this year in Food Science & Nutrition which assessed dietary intake in women with and without PCOS (Cutler et al., 2019). One of our findings was that magnesium intake was decreased in women with insulin-resistant PCOS. In addition, we found that the greater magnesium women with PCOS consumed, the lower their levels of testosterone and markers of inflammation were.

How Much Magnesium Do We Need?

The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 320 mg for an adult woman. This will vary depending on factors such as body size and stage of life. Some foods that are great sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, broccoli, squash, green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and dark chocolate.

Link Between PCOS and Magnesium

To ensure I am obtaining enough magnesium, I supplement with Natural Calm magnesium citrate powder or vegan magnesium gummies depending on my mood and the time of day. 

In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.

References

  1. Oral Magnesium Supplementation Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Metabolic Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects

  2. Oral magnesium supplementation decreases C-reactive protein levels in subjects with prediabetes and hypomagnesemia: a clinical randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.
  3. Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep.
  4. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review

  5. The effect of lowering blood pressure by magnesium supplementation in diabetic hypertensive adults with low serum magnesium levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

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Link Between PCOS and Magnesium

How I Manage Stress with Secretly Calming Iced Tea

Stress can strike at any time, even on a warm summer’s day. Learn why managing stress is important and how this iced tea can help.

We are all aware that stress can strike at any time. Yes, even on a warm midsummer’s day. Read on to learn why adding magnesium to iced tea can help cool and chill you out.

Why is managing stress important?

When we experience a stressful event, specific hormones are released to protect our bodies. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is secreted to combat stress. However, when we are exposed to stress over a long period of time, excess cortisol released can cause immunosuppression. This is why chronic stress is thought to be responsible for many health conditions. For example, highly-stressed type A personalities are often at higher risk of a heart problem, such as a stroke or heart attack. Stress can also impact people with and at risk for type 2 diabetes by further increasing blood sugar levels. Chronic stress can also lead to other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Fortunately, finding ways to manage stress can be very effective at decreasing our risk of health complications.

Manage Stress with Natural Calm Magnesium Iced Tea

The link between stress and magnesium

The connection between magnesium and stress is interesting because magnesium deficiencies affect our ability to respond to stressful situations, but also, stress depletes magnesium in our bodies! When we are in a state of stress, we excrete more magnesium in our urine. Magnesium is crucial for combating stress because it downregulates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis reducing cortisol production. Evidence suggests that supplementing with magnesium may reduce anxiety, depression, and support stress management.

How I supplement with magnesium

We can increase our stress-fighting powers and make sipping magnesium citrate powder even more delicious by adding it to a calming tea, like lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, or chamomile. Ginseng, an adaptogenic antioxidant often found in tea, has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety through regulating the HPA axis.

Manage Stress with Natural Calm Magnesium Iced Tea
Blueberry Lemon Ginseng Iced Tea with Raspberry-Lemon Magnesium Powder

For more on mood-boosting teas and spices check out this post.

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

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Manage Stress with Secretly Calming Iced Tea