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The winter months can be tough to get through, especially if you reside in the northern latitudes where the weather is cold, the days are short and stress is often at its peak. If your energy takes a dip during this time of year, it may help you to seek out some natural support.

Vitamins and herbs can provide a natural boost in energy while superfoods can add more nutritionally dense variety to your existing diet. Here are 5 energy boosters available at your local health food store that may perk you up, naturally.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is nicknamed the sunshine vitamin for good reason. Vitamin D is manufactured by your skin with daily exposure to the ultraviolet rays and with the shorter and darker days of winter, you can very easily end up with a vitamin D deficiency. Seen as an epidemic in North America by health officials, vitamin D deficiency is associated with seasonal affective disorder or SAD. SAD is characterized by depression, fatigue, apathy and difficulty concentrating and it typically affects individuals in the fall and winter months. Taking a supplement may help improve your energy levels and lift your mood. A typical adult dose is 1000IU per day. You may require more or less; be sure to ask your doctor to test your levels at your next checkup.

B Complex

One of my favourite energy boosters is a B complex supplement. A B complex supplement contains a full complement of all the B vitamins, all of which are vital for energy production in the body. B vitamins are found in a variety of foods from meat and poultry to whole grains and green leafy vegetables. However, if you are going through a period of heavy stress and if your diet isn’t up to par, you may benefit from a B complex supplement to help fill in the gaps. Not only is B complex effective at boosting energy levels, it may also boost your metabolism, improve the quality of your hair and boost your mood.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng, or Eleutherococcus senticosus is part of a group of herbs known as adaptogens. It is a popular herb which has been used for centuries in China and parts of Eastern Europe. Siberian Ginseng and similar adaptogens help your body adapt and cope better with stress, increase your energy levels and support your immune system so that you can stave off illnesses such as the common cold or flu. Available in liquid or capsule forms, it’s important to check with a healthcare professional before taking this herb for prolonged periods as it may interfere with certain medications.

Spirulina

These blue green algae are found in fresh water sources. Spirulina is nutrient dense and it has obtained ‘superfood’ status by many nutritionists and naturopathic doctors alike. As a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, Spirulina is a great addition to your morning breakfast routine or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up either by adding it to water or to your morning smoothie. It supports the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria and it has been shown in studies to improve blood cholesterol levels and to have a protective effect on your brain. The typical recommended dose is 2 to 3 grams per day, however, depending on the individual, this can vary.

Cacao Nibs

If you like chocolate, why not just go for the source. Cacao, pronounced ka-cow, is the unprocessed raw form of chocolate. It is a potent source of antioxidants called flavonoids which have been shown to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure and theobromine, a nervous system stimulant. Cacao also contains tryptophan, an amino acid which converts to serotonin in the body, a chemical that enhances mood and supports healthy sleep patterns. So if you are feeling the winter blahs, go for chocolate, just make sure it’s the unprocessed form to maximize the health benefits. Add a tablespoon to your oatmeal in the morning or enjoy it as a crunchy snack later on in your day.

These vitamins, herbs and superfoods can all be used to improve your energy levels, mood and to keep you moving during the cold, dreary winter months. If your fatigue persists, however, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to rule out anemia, a thyroid disorder or other possible health conditions.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com