Traditional Wellness Wisdom

9 ways to banish winter blues

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This time of year, it’s easy to let depression, fatigue, anxiety, feeling unmotivated, and the winter blah’s get the best of us.

Lack of Vitamin D has an adverse effect on our moods, behavior, ability to focus, and immune systems. Fortunately, spring is not too far away. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’ve dearly missed Vitamin D from the sun, and I’ll only be too happy to don my swimsuit and soak up some beautiful rays again when the warm weather returns.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s still a few months off.

The good news is, there are some natural solutions that really do work which I’ve been using all winter long.  If you have been experiencing a dip in mood, motivation, or low immunity, these recommendations can help!

Fortunately, many of them involve eating real food (which is one of my favorite things to do, ever). Here’s the list:

1. Eat more pastured animal foods. Animal fats from pastured sources contain critical nutrients such as Vitamin A and D, cholesterol, Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), B12, and minerals including iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. These foods are supportive and protective of our bodies including our immunity, brain, circulatory, pulmonary, digestion, reproduction, and hormonal (endocrine). Read more about how critical fats and cholesterol are to health from The Weston A. Price Foundation.

These foods include:

raw milk, cream, cheese, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, duck and goose fat, schmaltz (chicken fat), and fat from game animals including venison, elk, bison, and wild fowl.

Recommended brands of traditional animal fats I’ve used are Pure Indian Foods organic, grassfed ghee, Ancient Organics organic, grassfed ghee, Fatworks Pure Pork Lard, Fatworks Beef Tallow both from pastured animals and GMO-free. Learn how to render your own lard here.

2. Eat coconut oil. Coconut oil has been shown in studies to boost immunity . Coconut oil is rich in saturated, monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E and Vitamin K  which are important for keeping free radicals in the body under control and absorbing Vitamin A and D, other critical fat-soluble vitamins. This traditional fat also contains lauric acid which is converted to monolaurin which is useful in dealing with both viruses and bacteria.  Coconut oil is versatile for raw preparations and cooking, and is great for those who have dairy intolerances.

Recommended brands I’ve used include Nutiva, Trader Joe’s, and Native Forest.

3. Go outside to move and get sun exposure. Although Vitamin D levels are lower in winter months, and especially for those in Northern latitudes, your body can benefit from being out in natural, solar light in many ways.

4. Take fermented cod liver oil. I use and recommend Green Pasture Products fermented cod liver oil, which is rich in Vitamin A and D. If you buy the butter oil/cod liver oil blend products including Blue Ice Royal Infused, Blue Ice Royal emulsified, or Blue Ice Royal capsules, you can be sure you will also get the critical K2 necessary to absorb the Vitamins A and D found in this superfood.

5. Get adequate rest. Rest replenishes your body, and we generally need more in the winter time. So listen to your body and allow more time for rest and sleep during winter months.

6. Take a quality vitamin D supplement if you feel you don’t have enough D.  Although I am not a fan of supplements, holistic health care practitioners and various individuals testify to the fact that winter time causes severe depletion of certain important nutrients, including Vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for immunity and can help keep colds and flu away. It also plays a crucial role in stabilizing your moods. This is especially true in winter months when the sunlight and daytime hours are much reduced.  It’s always a good idea to get your levels tested before starting supplementation.

I have used and recommend Premier Research Labs D3 Serum and Biotics Bio-D -Mulsion.

Always take any Vitamin D supplement with animal foods, and especially those rich in K2 such as pastured dairy foods such as butter, ghee, cheese, cream. Gouda and Edam cheese are especially rich in K2.

Reasons we need Vitamin D, from Mark’s Daily Apple:

Vitamin D regulates the levels of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and it promotes the mineralization and growth of bones, working together with calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.

-Vitamin D plays a massive role in the immune response, activating and “arming” the killer T-cells for defense against infections and bacteria.

-Vitamin D modulates the expression of genes that regulate cell proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation, suggesting a potential role in cancer incidence. Epidemiology suggests links between vitamin D deficiency and most cancers, including breast, colorectal, and pretty much all the big ones.

-Vitamin D reduces systemic, chronic inflammation.

Magnesium is important too for Vitamin D absorption.  Magnesium oil or lotion, or magnesium salt/epsom salt baths and foot baths are good sources of magnesium and absorb very well. Other good sources of magnesium include homemade bone broth, leafy greens and sea vegetables such as dulse, kelp, or other seaweed. I also drink homemade nettles infusions daily which are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and iron. Susan Weed shows how to make your own nettles infusions in just a few minutes.

I use and recommend Ancient Minerals magnesium oil. Life-Flo magnesium oil is another reputable brand. Recommended epsom salts White Mountain and Epsoak.

7. Use a near-infrared sauna.  NIR sauna technology encourages detox, relaxation, and healing from a long list of health conditions including infections, skin conditions, and pain. I have used far-infrared saunas many times and loved them, but haven’t yet used the NIR technology.

If you have a chronic or acute health condition, consulting with a qualified health care practitioner is advised prior to use if you have never used this technology before. Read more here.

8. Engage in something you enjoy, preferably that does not induce stress. Do you enjoy reading, sewing, playing games, building or constructing, or just being with those you love? Sometimes pulling yourself away from obligations and have-tos is necessary, and can make a big difference in lifting your spirits. Make that time for you a priority.

9. Consume homemade fermented foods and beverages. If you don’t regularly eat and drink these foods, now’s the time to start! These probiotic-filled, nutrient dense, delicious foods are helpful not only for gut health, but immunity and overall well-being. Cultured foods can help you make the most of the other nutrient-dense foods you eat including organic fruits and vegetables and traditional fats.

Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, beet kvass, and sauerkraut are just a few of the foods my family eats some of most days.

I recommend my affiliate partner Kombucha Kamp for all your kombucha-making needs (some products are eligible for free shipping!!).

Learn to make your own raw milk yogurt and kefir.

There are a few quality brands I recommend including Zukay Raw Beet Ginger Kvass and other products, and Rejuventive Foods products.

Other store-bought products would be a second choice as these don’t contain the same amount and diversity of bacteria. Some brands I recommend include Bubbies pickles and sauerkraut. Read here about the process Bubbies uses to produce their fermented vegetables (as was once believed, they don’t pasteurize,but flash heat to keep their products from exploding on the shelf).

Some stores now carry raw yogurt and kefir. Inquire at your local health food store.

What are your tips for keeping winter blues away?

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