Why is my mood so up and down?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@emmatalkshealth
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


09 September 2021

Why is my mood so up and down?

While mood swings could be a sign of a more serious underlying physical or psychological condition; in many cases they are commonly caused by factors such as fluctuating hormones, nutrient deficiencies, wobbly blood sugar levels, stress or poor sleep. Therefore, improving your diet and introducing lifestyle changes can often help to manage mood.

What can cause mood swings?

In some instances, a more serious underlying condition could be contributing to your mood swings. However, in many cases, it can be helpful to rule out a number of possible underlying risk factors first, including the following:

1. Fluctuating hormones

Hormones can certainly have a lot to answer for and particularly when it comes to your mood. Your teenage years can be particularly troublesome, but for some women who struggle with the symptoms of PMS, this can be a monthly occurrence.

Pregnancy and menopause are some other occasions when you will experience a notable shift in your hormones so again, mood swings can be part and parcel of these stages in your life too. As for men, lowering testosterone can also be a trying time, so it's important to consider hormones first and foremost if you're wondering what could be contributing to your mood swings.

What can be done to help?

Get tracking! Depending on when your symptoms started, if they come hand in hand with any other symptoms, or if they appear cyclically in the case of PMS, for example, these patterns could give you a better idea of what the likely underlying cause may be.

If hormones are likely to be at the root of the cause, working on balancing your hormones with something like Agnus castus in the case of PMS, would be the best approach, rather than trying to target the moods more directly. And hey, you might even help clear up some other symptoms whilst you're at it!


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2. Nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies could potentially trigger mood swings or be a contributing factor in the problem. Nutrients including magnesium and the B vitamins help to support the nervous system. Magnesium, in particular, can also have a calming effect, both physically and mentally.

Interestingly, nutrient deficiencies can often go hand in hand with hormone imbalance. As our hormones drop, especially in the case of oestrogen, symptoms of a nutrient deficiency can often develop. Also, did you know that research suggests that taking certain medications, such as the pill, for one, could make us more at risk of deficiencies including magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and the B vitamins? (1)

What can be done to help?

If you're on medication consider if there could be any side effects like nutrient deficiencies Then, whilst diet is the number one place to acquire the majority of your essential nutrients, topping up with a supplement such as our Balance Mineral Drink could just help to offer some extra protection against unwanted nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin D is another one that many of us struggle to get enough of, so it's now recommended everyone takes an additional supplement.

3. Wobbly blood sugar levels

Did you know that your mood could also be directly related to your blood sugar levels? This is a survival tactic in that, when your blood sugar levels drop, your body goes into survival mode and drives you to acquire a source of energy as soon as possible. Unsurprisingly, this can mean that cravings ramp up, plus your mood can easily turn somewhat irritable whilst you prioritise sourcing some food.

Certain habits or dietary elements can make your blood sugar levels more unstable after an initial spike, such as opting for refined sources of carbohydrates, alcohol or regular doses of caffeine.

What can be done to help?

High fibre foods, plus good sources of protein and healthy fats can all help to balance your blood sugar levels better. Avoid skipping meals is another tip, plus, try using cinnamon in your cooking which is also very balancing for your blood glucose levels.

Magnesium is one other nutrient that is helpful for supporting your insulin sensitivity, plus it tends to be found more copiously in fibre and protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds and green veg – win-win!

4. Increased or long-term stress

Your natural stress response can affect your mood and create peaks and drops in your symptoms.

See, during times of stress, your body has to make sugar available in order to mobilise a source of energy that your muscles or brain can use to fuel you out of a tricky situation. Then, your blood sugar can return to baseline as the stressor passes.

However, if you experience chronic or long-term stress, your body isn't designed to cope with this so well. This state can cause turmoil with your blood sugar levels and your mood can easily fluctuate as well.

Stress also has a number of physical symptoms associated with it from digestive upset to palpitations – all of which can easily add to your unrest.

What can be done to help?

Nutrient deficiencies can easily reduce your resilience to stress. Essential nutrients such as magnesium or vitamin C can decline if your demand for cortisol, the main stress hormone, is too high. Once again, a supplement such as Balance Mineral Drink, as mentioned above, can be a helpful, protective element to add to your regime.

Moving more can also be a helpful stress reliever, as can being outside. The smells of nature, as well as some of the beautiful sights and sounds we experience outside, have been shown in research to reduce cortisol levels by as much as 20% per hour. Although, interestingly, we may not need to dedicate even that much of our day to the great outdoors as the quickest improvement in stress levels were found after as little as just 20 minutes – lovely! (2)

5. Not sleeping enough

Lack of sleep is another common contributing factor when it comes to moods swings. Poor sleep can easily throw off a number of important hormones relating to mood, as well as affecting your blood sugar levels and eating habits – ever noticed you're more inclined to make poor food choices if you're sleep deprived? This is exactly why!

What can be done to help?

Sleep is harder to catch up on once the damage has been done so instead we should try to get some extra sleep when we have the chance. Aim to retire to bed no later than 10pm and try and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends, to help support your in-built circadian rhythms.

Are my mood swings normal?

If your mood swings are having a significant impact on your day-to-day life or are coming in between relationships then it's time to chat to your doctor to help determine the likely underlying cause.

This also applies if you are experiencing highs and lows in your mood, or periods of low mood that don't seem to be shifting. More significant mood swings could be linked to conditions such as cyclothymia or a range of other underlying physical or psychological conditions.

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Did you know?

When we feel stressed or anxious our body responds as though we are under attack, releasing a surge of adrenaline which can cause a number of baffling bodily behaviours including palpitations, shortness of breath and even a dry mouth!

The physical symptoms our emotions cause

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