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Beat the Winter Blues and Boost Your Energy


We all want to feel great all the time; yet in the winter months a variety of factors make this harder to achieve.  By employing these three healthy habits, you can make the winter months almost as great as the summer time.

The most glaring factor of all is an overall lack of vitamin D.  Vitamin D has so many benefits: energy, heart health, coordination, strength, comfortable joints and muscles, good mood, memory, healthy bones, teeth and gums, prostate and breast health, you name it, and vitamin D is probably involved.  Unfortunately, as Americans, at least three quarters of us have insufficient levels of vitamin D1; and since our bodies make vitamin D when the sun’s rays strike the skin, this deficiency is exacerbated in the winter months. 

Even on a sunny day in the winter, we can’t make vitamin D in the northern latitudes as the sun is too low on the horizon.  I call this period, when we can’t make vitamin D from sunlight, the “Vitamin D Winter.” If you live north of Atlanta, you can’t make vitamin D for at least part of the winter.  The further north you are, the longer the duration of your “Vitamin D Winter.” Here in NY, I tell my patients to get at least 5,000 IU’s of vitamin D from mid October through April.  The nice thing about vitamin D is that it begins to work fast.  If your winter blues are due to an insufficiency of vitamin D, you may start to feel better within 2 or 3 days of beginning your supplementation regime.  Another nice benefit of vitamin D is the price; it’s one of the lowest cost vitamins you can take so you get tremendous bang for the buck.  The vitamin D I'm currently useing is Physiologics: 5,000IU's and the 200 softgel bottle is only $15- (click here to purchase).

The second healthy habit is to begin supplementing with omega 3’s from fish or krill.  (I won’t get into which is better in this article but if you would like to read up on this issue see my article: Krill Oil-Incredible Benefits.)  Omega 3 fatty acids provide so many important benefits for the heart, the brain, the arteries, the joints and muscles, weight management, vision, strong bones etc.  On the other hand, being deficient in omega 3’s opens us up to multiple health issues that are so unnecessary. In America we are woefully deficient in these omega 3’s because the modern ranching and farming industries have systematically removed them from our diet.  Hundreds of years ago this wasn’t a problem. We consumed plenty of omega 3 fatty acids every time we ate meat, fish or poultry.  That’s because the natural diets of these animals contained lots of omega 3’s which were then concentrated in their muscle tissue.  When we ate the meat, we got the omega 3’s.  Now these animals are eating grains, which are high in omega 6 fats and low in omega 3’s.  Think about cattle for example; they are supposed to eat grass.  Grass is high in omega 3’s.  Now ranchers feed cows grain instead to fatten them up quickly.  Grains are high in omega 6 and low in omega 3’s, hence we’ve lost the animal supply of omega 3’s.

But what about fish you ask?  Surely fish is an excellent source of omega 3’s?  Well if you are spending the extra money to purchase wild caught fish you are correct; however, if you are buying farmed fish, that is not the case.  This is because farmed fish are fed fish food that is grain based and hence low in omega 3 and high in omega 6.  Tuna is an excellent source of omega 3’s, unfortunately it is also an excellent source of mercury, so be careful to eat it no more than 2-3 times per month. 

If you do want to increase your omega 3’s by eating more fish you should focus on wild caught salmon, low mercury tuna (available in many health food stores including Whole Foods), sardines, white fish, herring and other smaller fish.  Stay away from large top of the food chain fish such as shark, tile fish, grouper, sword fish and tuna as these fish eat lots of small fish over their lifetimes concentrating the mercury in their muscle tissue.

An easier way to insure that you are getting enough omega 3’s is to simply supplement with a high quality omega 3 formula.  I have several on my site which are all excellent choices (click here to view).  My favorite omega 3 nutrient is the Krill Omega Combo Formula by Purity Products as it combines both krill and fish oils along with a nice dose of vitamin D (click here to view/purchase).  Shoot for at least 1,000 mgs of the combination of EPA and DHA per day.  You’ll have to read the label as most fish oils provide 300mgs of these oils per 1,000mgs of fish oil.

The last healthy habit is a bit more difficult, but possibly the single most important thing that you can do for your health: Exercise.  Exercise is certainly one of the Pillars of good health.  There are so many benefits that they’re too numerous to list.  Some of the highlights are: Improved energy, better mood, better sex life, weight loss, healthier heart and cardiovascular system, better memory, less chance of dementia or Alzheimer’s, boost your metabolism, feel better and stronger and so many more.  In my practice, I encourage my patients to exercise almost daily.  The government recommends that Americans perform moderate aerobic exercise for at least a half hour every single day and weight resistance exercises that works out all major muscle groups at least twice a week.  Unfortunately, I have found that relatively few of my patients follow these recommendations.  My “Core Exercise” program is a great place to start (click here to view and download a free copy of the pamphlet).  Add some walking, jogging or biking and you’re off to the races.  One note on exercise: getting started is exciting; so be careful and don’t overdo it early on.  If you do you will probably get very sore and may hurt yourself.  Baby yourself early and slowly but surely build up to more speed and resistance.  If you add these healthy habits to your life I’m sure that you’ll notice a wonderful difference.

Eat well, exercise, supplement wisely and maintain a positive mental attitude.  That’s how we’ll age gracefully, together.

To Your Excellent Health,
Dr Neil Levin, chiropractor, nutritionist, fitness trainer, www.drneillevin.com

Dr. Levin practices in East Northport, NY and can be reached at: 631-651-2929 or drneil@drneillevin.com   

1-Archives of Internal Medicine, March, 2009