For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year brings fewer daylight hours, colder temperatures and limited plant growth. It’s not uncommon to feel the effect of ‘winter blues’ with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affecting more than 12 million people in Northern Europe with symptoms of depression affecting individuals during winter months (1).
SAD can manifest as low mood, fatigue, insomnia or sleeping too much, overeating, difficulty concentrating and not enjoying things you usually would.
Reduced sun exposure is commonly associated with its influence on Vitamin D levels. Without supplementation, our most useful source of Vitamin D is from the sun. In the UK, it is recommended for most adults to supplement with Vitamin D throughout the year to support immunity, and energy levels and prevent deficiency for individuals who spend the majority of peak sunlight indoors or usually cover most of their skin outdoors (2).
Additionally, it is important to understand the influence on our circadian rhythm. With minimal exposure to natural sunlight and the effect of blue light from screen use and bright lights can play havoc with our natural processes that are influenced by sunlight such as our sleep and hormones including serotonin and dopamine which play a role in regulating mood, emotion, appetite and digestion (3). Getting outside during peak sunlight hours as much as possible can have a positive effect on our vital functions and general well-being.
Furthermore, during this period many of us become less active due to colder temperatures and whilst physical activity is not only great for weight management – working up a sweat can provide a surge of endorphins, endocannabinoids and dopamine with research touting exercise as a potential therapeutic aid to minimising symptoms of SAD or mood disorders (4).
On a cellular level, antioxidants play a formidable role in cell metabolism (the process that converts energy for us to function) and protection from free radicals. An imbalance of free radicals in the body causes a cascade of oxidative stress, altering the cell membrane structure and function (5).
Enzymatic antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) convert harmful oxidative products and non-enzymatic antioxidants interrupt the chain reaction of free radicals. Naturally, antioxidants are found in a range of colourful plant sources; most commonly ascorbate, tocopherol, glutathione and betaine. Antioxidants can also be categorised by their solubility in fat or water. For example, Vitamin E, carotenoid and lipoic acid are fat soluble whereas, Vitamin C is water soluble (6).
A varied diet of colourful, fresh plant sources is optimal which would include nutrients such as:
- Bright orange carotenoids and redder lycopene from guavas, papaya, carrots and fresh tomatoes for eye and heart health
- Blue anthocyanins from blueberries provide potent anti-inflammatory, microbial and oxidative properties
- Cruciferous vegetables supply sulforaphane to support our DNA and cellular health
Eating a seasonal diet may lower our intake of antioxidants. Consideration of how eating patterns will likely be influenced by our environment and craving comfort foods may provide temporary relief but additional nutritional support can provide a sustainable solution.
As mentioned, physical activity holds a wide range of benefits physically and mentally. For many of us, the issue can be motivating ourselves to start exercising and that could be linked to low energy. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a lipid-soluble antioxidant and an essential cofactor for cellular energy processes (7). As we age, we produce less of this compound, and many find benefit from topping up levels through supplements to neutralise free radicals and support cellular energy production (8). Supplementation in liposomal form is superior due to its natural instability. Lipolife’s LLQ1 is made up of ubiquinone in a phospholipid bubble to greatly increase bioavailability. A 5ml dose in the morning or mid-afternoon can help provide an energy boost on a cellular level and support overall well-being.
On the other hand, over-exercising can negatively affect our well-being and particularly our immune function. Vitamin C, Zinc and Quercetin all support our immune function, gut health and defence systems. Vitamin C / ascorbate is commonly taken to support the immune system and reduce the duration of winter colds and has the potential to reduce oxidative and inflammatory biomarkers (9). When looking to increase activity levels, taking vitamin C in a liposomal form before exercise can help reduce muscle soreness (10). LVC1 is made up of sodium ascorbate & ascorbic acid encapsulated in phospholipids derived from soy or LVC2 derived from sunflower, both providing 1000mg of Vitamin C per 5ml dose with up to 200% higher absorption than standard supplements. Additionally, LVC6 combines Vitamin C with Quercetin, two nutrients that work together to support immunity, inflammatory responses and adrenal function.
The mineral Zinc is essential for its role in antioxidant enzymes, adaptive immune cells and also possess anti-inflammatory properties (11). Chronic inflammation not only affects us physically but is also linked to neurological ailments (12). Dependent on Zinc status, studies have indicated supplementation with zinc can improve depressive symptoms (13) and testosterone levels (14). Another great complex is LVC3 made up of Vitamin C, D, K2 and Zinc or LLZ1 for 7.5mg of Zinc per 5ml.
Sleep disturbances are linked to the hormone melatonin which is produced in the pineal gland at night time and is one of the key chemicals required for a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Interestingly it also holds antioxidant properties (15).
Spending more time indoors during the colder months can increase our exposure to pollutants and toxins and is also a viable reason to consider additional nutritional aids. A lack of nutrients and exercise can inhibit our natural functions and puts a greater demand on nutrients like glutathione. Glutathione is a tripeptide and our body’s master antioxidant and can be supplemented to support our body’s defences and detoxification pathways. Glutathione is utilised for several antioxidant enzymes, mitochondrial function, cellular proliferation and neutralisation of free radicals. Higher levels of glutathione have been associated with better physical health and reduced incidence of neurodegenerative conditions, illness and liver disease (16). LLG3 provides a flavoured reduced l-glutathione in liposomal form – a superior form that has been clinically studied and found to increase blood glutathione levels and support the immune system.
In summary, antioxidants hold a plethora of capabilities to support several physiological processes in the body that may require additional support during certain periods of the year. A diet based upon a wide variety of plant sources is key to providing an excellent supply of antioxidants to support overall function. When the immune system isn’t functionally optimally, we’re under stress or are suffering from symptoms of fatigue or sleep disturbances, antioxidant supplementation can bridge the gap to support greater health and well-being.
For additional support for SAD contact your healthcare provider.
Samaritans (tel:116 123 – https://www.samaritans.org/) are dedicated to providing 24/7, free and confidential support by phone. We are here to help everyone in the United Kingdom who may be looking for support with anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, and suicide.
- NHS Inform, 2022. https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/low-mood-and-depression/beating-the-winter-blues
- NHS, 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
- Randy A. Sansone, MD and Lori A. Sansone, MD. Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology? 2013 Jul-Aug; 10(7-8): 20–24. PMCID: PMC3779905. PMID: 24062970.
- Sandra Amatriain-Fernández, Henning Budde, Thomas Gronwald, Carla Quiroga. The Endocannabinoid System as Modulator of Exercise Benefits in Mental Health. 2021 Aug 11. PMCID: PMC8719298. PMID: 33342414
- Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Bøhn SK, Dragland S, Sampson L, Willey C, Senoo H, Umezono Y, Sanada C, Barikmo I. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutrition journal. 2010 Dec;9(1):3.
- Satish Balasaheb Nimse and Dilipkumar Pal. Free radicals, natural antioxidants, and their reaction mechanisms. Institute for Applied Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Hallym University, Chuncheon, 200-702, Korea.
- Molyneux SL, Young JM, Florkowski CM, Lever M, George PM. Coenzyme Q10: is there a clinical role and a case for measurement? Clin Biochem Rev. 2008 May;29(2):71-82. PMID: 18787645; PMCID: PMC2533152.
- Francisco Miguel Gutierrez-Mariscal,1,2 Antonio Pablo Arenas-de Larriva. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation for the Reduction of Oxidative Stress: Clinical Implications in the Treatment of Chronic Diseases. 2020 Nov; 21. PMID: 33114148; PMCID: PMC7660335
- Rosales-Corral S, Tan DX, Reiter RJ, Valdivia-Velázquez M, Martínez-Barboza G, Acosta-Martínez JP, Ortiz GG. Orally administered melatonin reduces oxidative stress and proinflammatory cytokines induced by amyloid-beta peptide in rat brain: a comparative, in vivo study versus vitamin C and E. J Pineal Res. 2003 Sep;35(2):80-4. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-079x.2003.00057.x. PMID: 12887649.
- Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH. Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Jun;16(3):270-80. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.3.270. PMID: 16948483.
- Hunter J, Arentz S, Goldenberg J, Yang G, Beardsley J, Myers SP, Mertz D, Leeder S. Zinc for the prevention or treatment of acute viral respiratory tract infections in adults: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2021 Nov 2;11(11):e047474. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047474. PMID: 34728441; PMCID: PMC8578211.
- Deleidi Michela, Jäggle Madeline, Rubino Graziella. Immune aging, dysmetabolism, and inflammation in neurological diseases. Frontiers in Neuroscience, VOLUME=9. 2015.
- Yosaee S, Clark CCT, Keshtkaran Z, Ashourpour M, Keshani P, Soltani S. Zinc in depression: From development to treatment: A comparative/ dose response meta-analysis of observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2022 Jan-Feb;74:110-117. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Aug 10. PMID: 32829928.
- Fallah A, Mohammad-Hasani A, Colagar AH. Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. J Reprod Infertil. 2018 Apr-Jun;19(2):69-81. PMID: 30009140; PMCID: PMC6010824.
- Ferlazzo, N.; Andolina, G.; Cannata, A.; Costanzo, M.G.; Rizzo, V.; Currò, M.; Ientile, R.; Caccamo, D. Is Melatonin the Cornucopia of the 21st Century? Antioxidants 2020, 9, 1088. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9111088
- Pizzorno J. Glutathione! Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb;13(1):8-12. PMID: 26770075; PMCID: PMC4684116.