Getting Through the Long Winter Ahead: Mood Disorders and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For some people, the long winter season takes its toll on our regular mood and functionality. Mood disorders are common and seasonal changes can affect people more than they realize, sometimes making it tough to keep a positive mental outlook and work through the day efficiently. Monthly cyclical changes that many women deal with may make this time of year even harder.
Improve your Diet
Published studies on the ties between depressive conditions and diet are becoming increasingly more abundant, and the links are becoming clearer. In a report published in 2016, researchers explored U.S. national food intake data records for more than 4,000 American men and 4,000 American women for correlations.
Two diet patterns were compared:
- Western: Including non-whole grain, white potatoes, cheese, meat, oils and fat, and added sugar
- Healthy: Including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and seeds.
While the "Western" pattern did not appear to bring about depression, the "Healthy" dietary pattern was associated with a reduced risk of depression in women.[i]
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help with Mood Disorders
More specific to nutrients that may be responsible, scientists do point out that omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of the cell membrane and may be involved in mood stabilization. One proposed theory is that increased levels of this nutrient in the cell membrane permits serotonin – one of our ‘happy’ hormones, and an important message carrier to the brain – to move more freely through the cells.[ii] Correlations between levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA+ DHA) in their blood, also show a strong connection between regular fish or fish oil intake and reduced risk of major depressive disorders.[iii]
Effective Natural Relief for Women’s Menstrual Symptoms
Omega-3s are also cited with respect to the cyclical emotional and physical changes that women may deal with throughout their reproductive years. Krill oil, a concentrated source of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to support these changes both before and during a woman’s cycle. In one study from the University of Montreal, women taking 2,000 mg of krill oil needed only half as much pain medication, felt less breast tenderness, and had more manageable emotional symptoms over the three-month clinical trial.[iv]
More research is called for on the links between omega-3s and depressive disorders, but findings to-date do express that this important nutrient may provide effective, natural relief for mood disorders and symptoms of PMS and menstruation. Keeping this in mind through these cold winter months may just help get us through until the season shifts again.
[i] Kim WK, Shin D, Song WO. Are Dietary Patterns Associated with Depression in U.S. Adults? J Med Food.
[ii] Fish oil to treat depression? WebMD. Available at http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/fish-oil-to-treat-depression#1.
[iii] McNamara RK. Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Etiology, Treatment, and Prevention of Depression: Current Status and Future Directions. J Nutr Intermed Metab 2016 Sep;5:96-106.
[iv] Sampalis F, Bunea R, et al. Evaluation of the effects of Neptune krill oil on the management of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea. Alternative Medicine Review 2003;8(2):171-179.