12 7 causes of mood swings

7 causes of mood swings

Find out why your mood is fluctuating

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13 April 2018

1) Hormones

Hormones can cause mood swings because they often affect the chemistry of the brain. Women are most prone to experiencing mood swings as a result of hormones as they often experience more hormonal fluctuations than men, for example PMS, pregnancy and menopause can all contribute to mood swings. 

It is not exactly clear why PMS, pregnancy and menopause cause mood swings however, we do know that there are clear links between fluctuating female hormones and mood. For example, in the two weeks leading up to your period your oestrogen and progesterone levels change dramatically which can then influence your happy chemical serotonin. Click here to find out more about how PMS can cause mood swings.

During menopause, mood swings are one of the most commonly experienced symptoms. Most menopausal women experience unexplained moods that are constantly changing. Similar to PMS, major hormonal changes are thought to be to blame here. Oestrogen and progesterone decline during menopause and, as a result, so do your serotonin levels. Other menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and sleep problems can be frustrating and can therefore also contribute to mood swings. Click here to find out more about how the menopause can cause mood swings.

Men can also experience mood swings as a result of hormones although this is less likely to occur than it is in women. After the age of 30 men’s testosterone levels begin to gradually decline, low levels of testosterone can cause sleep problems, erectile dysfunction and even mood swings!

2) Caffeine

It’s a well-known fact that caffeine is a major culprit when it comes to mood swings. Caffeine works by stimulating the nervous system and tricking the brain into releasing feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. However, as I’m sure you’re all aware these significant highs come at the cost of energy slumps that can leave us feeling exhausted and low in mood. 

Caffeine can affect your mood in a variety of ways and, although many of us believe all these effects to be negative, studies have shown that coffee could potentially be beneficial for helping to reduce stress and depression. No two coffee drinkers are alike because your genes play an important role in how you process caffeine both mentally and physically. 

Although caffeine stimulates your nervous system and blocks adenosine receptors thus preventing you from sleeping, a study found that it could also prevent receptors from reacting and causing a stress response such as bad mood, memory problems and low mood.1

However, that being said it’s important that we don’t overlook the main and most common emotional response to caffeine and sugar. Anxiety and irritability can easily occur if we consume too much because both caffeine and sugar can stimulate your fight-or-flight response making you hyperaware. 

If we aren’t aware of when and how much caffeine we consume then the emotional turmoil they cause can easily be interpreted as symptoms of mood swings. The recommended daily amount of caffeine is 400mg which equates to roughly 4 cups of coffee. Try swapping your regular caffeinated drink for a caffeine-free alternative such as herbal tea or Bambu, our natural coffee substitute.

3) Dehydration

Even mild dehydration is enough to cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches changes to our mood and mental function. It is thought that dehydration causes mood swings because of decreased blood flow to the brain. Another theory suggests that neurons in the brain can detect dehydration and then send signals to other parts of the brain that are responsible for mood regulation.

One study found that dehydration makes it more likely for us to experience negative feelings such as anger, anxiety and irritability.2 Drinks such as alcohol and those which contain caffeine are diuretics meaning that they cause us to urinate more frequently than normal. This excessive urination can then cause dehydration which can wreak havoc on our mental wellbeing.

4) Diet

Blood sugar levels, gut health and poor dietary choices can all affect our mood stability for example sugar is a major trigger of mood swings. Working in a similar way to caffeine, sugar stimulates the nervous system and tricks the brain into releasing the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. However, after your sugar high comes that all-too-predictable sugar crash that can leave us feeling tired and irritable.

Our mood often follows our sugar highs and lows making our blood sugar levels important regulators when it comes to our mood and preventing mood swings. One study found that low blood sugar levels tended to be more associated with negative emotional states such as nervousness. Alternatively, higher blood sugar levels were almost always associated with positive emotions although, anger and sadness were also associated with this blood sugar group.3

The gut health could also contribute to your emotional health. As I discussed in my blog ‘How does serotonin affect your emotions?’ around 90% of your feel-good chemical serotonin is actually produced in the gastrointestinal tract. So keeping your gut happy could be key to keeping your mood swings at bay. 

There are a number of ways that you can use your food to improve your mood – be sure to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes plenty of foods from the main food groups such as carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables. Try to eat natural, fresh and raw foods wherever possible, as the more processed your food is the more it loses its nutritional value. Finally check out our blog for 6 easy ways that you can improve your digestion.

5) Anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety can cause so much emotional distress that they can easily result in mood swings. Mood swings caused by anxiety can follow episodes of nervousness, fear and stress but they can also often occur on their own with no obvious trigger. They can also vary in intensity and frequency which can make anxiety difficult to spot. But why does anxiety cause mood swings in the first place?

Well, when we are anxious we are in a state of high emotional alertness that can make us hyperaware and hyper-responsive to situations, our environment, people and emotions. Anxiety (in a similar way to stress) also leeches all of our important nutrients that play an important part in mood regulation. This happens because all of these nutrients are driven towards essential organs like the heart, lung and brain and in the production of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. 

There are a number of easy changes you can make to overcome anxiety including meditation, breathing techniques, dietary and lifestyle changes. Herbal remedies such as our AvenaCalm can also be used to soothe the nervous system and ease symptoms of mild stress and anxiety. For more information on how to overcome anxiety check out our anxiety pages on the website.

6) Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the UK despite being readily available to us through our diet. Magnesium is an important mineral for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, some of which are beneficial for regulating our mood. When we have low levels of this mineral we can become prone to a variety of symptoms that affect our mood such as anxiety, irritability, depression, low mood and headaches.

Magnesium helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, which, as we already know, is beneficial for preventing mood swings. A small study investigating the biological processes of magnesium that are involved in mood found that increasing magnesium intake resulted in improvements in depressive symptoms. However, despite these positive results further investigation is still needed as the research did not use a placebo group in this experiment meaning that it is tricky to know for sure how effective magnesium could actually be in easing depressive symptoms.4

Although research is still relatively controversial when it comes to using magnesium to relieve symptoms of depression, it can still have indirect benefits for our mood. For example, magnesium is known to help prevent fatigue, which in turn will help to improve and stabilise our mood.

7) Fatigue and poor sleep

Fatigue can caused by a combination of factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, medical conditions and poor sleep. Fatigue is a constant feeling of tiredness or weakness and can affect us both mentally and physically. Sleep and mood are closely connected, we need good quality sleep to be able to emotionally process the day we’ve had at a subconscious level. Sleep is also our time for healing and restoration so, without it, we can increase our chances of both emotional and physical problems.

Lack of sleep can easily lead to low mood or feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. If we are an intermittently good and poor sleeper we may see similar fluctuations in our mood which can then be interpreted as mood swings. Similarly, if we don’t experience fatigue all the time we can also interpret the occasional exhaustion, low motivation and irritability it can cause as a mood swing rather than for what it actually is.

Overcoming fatigue and poor sleeping habits can be tough – particularly with the rise of technology which is not only addictive but also stimulating. Click here to check out my blog for some easy tips on how you can improve your sleep hygiene. When it comes to fatigue, I always recommend our handy Balance Mineral Drink. This drink contains an energising blend of nutrients and minerals as well as a fresh strawberry flavour to help pick you back up again.

When to seek extra support

It is completely normal to have days where we feel sad and days where we feel happy however, rapid or severe changes in mood may be more of a cause for concern. Mood swings can also be triggered by a range of medication so if you feel this could be the case, or that your mood swings are interfering with your daily life, it may be time to see a doctor who will be able to investigate the route of the cause and rule out more serious conditions. 

1  http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-cup-coffee-may-help-people-manage-stress-avoid-depression-and-memory-loss-337588
2  https://today.uconn.edu/2012/02/even-mild-dehydration-can-alter-mood/
3  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2707223
4  https://www.nhs.uk/news/2017/06June/Pages/Can-magnesium-help-depression%E2%80%93or-is-it-just-a-placebo.aspx


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