By: Sheila Warren, RN, GMC's Health Navigator
If winter leaves you feeling lethargic, irritable or just blah, there may be good reason. You may be surprised to learn that winter can affect your thyroid, adrenal and sex hormones, which is enough to make anyone feel like they have a case of the winter blues. In fact, everything from your mood and weight to digestion and sex drive are all impacted by your hormone levels.
So why does winter have such a big impact on our hormones?
Well the truth is there can be a number of factors that can cause a change hormone levels. Overall, though, winter weather may be to blame when it comes to seasonal hormone changes. For instance, it is believed that the cold temperatures may cause the pituitary gland to produce more thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Similarly, the lack of daylight during the winter months is largely responsible for a decrease in sex drive and adrenal hormones.
With winter comes cooler temperatures, and in an effort to stay nice and warm, your body’s need for TSH increases. Unfortunately, as your body demands higher levels of TSH, you may be left feeling some common symptoms of hypothyroidism—even if you don’t actually have this condition. Common symptoms you may notice include:
· Dry skin
· Muscle weakness and/or tenderness
Give Your Thyroid a Tune-up
Despite the impact cold weather can have on your thyroid, you don’t have to suffer through fatigue all winter long. By routinely eating foods that are rich in thyroid-boosting nutrients, you’ll be supporting the health and effectiveness of your thyroid. Try to make these foods a part of your weekly menu:
· Brazil nuts
· Olive oil
· Dark chocolate
While studies have shown that the holiday months are actually when people are most likely to conceive, it’s not uncommon for both men and women to experience a dip in sex drive. There are a few reasons why winter may be cooling off your steamy encounters.
First, men typically experience a drop in testosterone levels during these months. As the hormone that’s largely responsible for sex drive, a dip in levels can lower sexual desire and sexual satisfaction.
Now for women, the likely culprit behind their low libido is the reduction in serotonin production. With lower levels of this particular hormone, it can be difficult to get in the mood and lead to a lack of interest in sex overall.
The good news is to remedy this sink in sex drive; exposure to light may be the perfect solution for both men and women. Studies have shown that light exposure can boost testosterone levels, as well as support the production of serotonin. And even better news, just 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight should do the trick.
How to have Healthy Hormones
Thanks to out-of-balance hormones, winter can often feel like a bit of a drag. So how can you you’re your hormone levels happy? As it turns out, there are simple, everyday ways you can support the health of your hormones, as well as overall health and wellness.
Be a snow bunny. Even though the cold weather may seem like a deterrent for outdoor exercise, it doesn’t have to be. Not only will this help to boost serotonin levels, it’ll help to avoid winter weight gain. And bonus, if you exercise outdoors, you’ll get some much needed sunshine.
Soak up winter rays. Whether you’re outdoors getting exposure to natural sunlight, or your using light therapy indoors, this can help to stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder, and promote healthy hormone levels.
Eat a balanced diet. Just because it’s winter is no excuse to not enjoy fresh produce. In fact, there are a surprising number of delicious fruits and veggies that are ripe for the picking. Try incorporating oranges, beets, pomegranates, turnips, leeks, kale, cranberries and more.
The easiest way to enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season is to work with your primary care provider. As the specialist that knows you best, your primary care provider will ensure that you always receive the best care possible for all your winter health needs.
And don't forget to mark your calendar for the upcoming GMC Women's Wellness Day. This innovative event provides women of all ages the opportunity to learn from some of the area's top health experts on how to make 2018 the best year yet!