My patients always seem surprised when I remind them that what they eat has a lot to do with their moods.
“I’m in a bad mood because I had a long day,” I’m often told. “What does my eating pattern have to do with my mood?”
For starters, there are certain types of food that can alter the neurotransmitters in our bodies, which help carry signals to the brain and aid in its function.
The three main neurotransmitters that are essential to the brain function are:
Certain foods can produce these three neurotransmitters, which can counterbalance the positive energy with negative energy and cause a “mood swing.”
The Connection Between Food and Mood Swings
Foods that are high in carbohydrates will actually increase the production of tryptophan, which imitates serotonin. This would explain why people who are having mood swings tend to seek high-sugar foods, breads, rice, or even pasta—they are all high in carbohydrates. These foods may seem calming and comforting, but they are really harming your body when you eat them while stressed out.“Junk food tastes good and it calms me down—it’s the right solution for my mood swings,” you may say. You’re sadly mistaken. It may give you temporary satisfaction, but after the sensation wears off, you will likely find yourself struggling to maintain focus.
Why and When Do Mood Swings Occur?
In most cases, anxiety can cause extreme amounts of stress and can lead to mood swings. Anxiety can cause some people to become overly emotional and depressed, which can literally turn their mood from happy-go-lucky to, “I want to curl up into a ball and just sleep.”The real question is, why do mood swings occur? As I mentioned previously, research has shown a direct link between the body’s hormones and the neurotransmitters. When anxiety occurs, it literally changes how your body functions. It will reduce the hormone balance in your system and will immediately change how the neurotransmitters are transporting nutrients to the brain.The brain is a sensitive part of the body, and the chemistry it has with the rest of the body plays a fundamental role—if your brain activity is drastically altered, it can make you more emotional and prone to negativity.
Men, Women, and Mood Swings
Studies have shown that depression is twice as common in women as it is in men, and about one in four women suffer from depression. In most cases, women are more prone to depression during pregnancy and in the first year post-pregnancy.In Dr. Ruta Nonacs’ book, A Deeper Shade of Blue: A Woman’s Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years, she references a recent study that illustrates how 25% of women who are diagnosed with depression suffer from it during pregnancy or shortly thereafter.
Stress triggers for women, according to the study, generally include conflicts in the family, obstacles in the workplace, and reputation in the community.
In addition, the various types of hormones a woman is exposed to are significantly higher than the hormones a man would experience. The hormonal shifts that a woman deals with can alter their hormonal balance and eventually lead to mood swings. For example, each month a woman goes through her menstrual cycle.
Cramps, heavy bleeding, and hormonal fluctuations can negatively influence a woman’s emotions and it can be quite easy for some women to slip into depression during this time period.
Foods to Eat When Dealing With PMS
1. Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is mainly known to improve heart health—but it can also provide significant relief during PMS. Research from a 1996 study revealed that women aged 15 to 18 who took six grams of omega-3-rich fish oil daily for two months experienced considerably less menstrual pain than normal.
2. Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, which is actually very helpful in alleviating water retention and even mood swings. When women are dealing with PMS, they tend to get bloated; magnesium can reduce the amount of water that causes the bloating.
3. Bananas: Bananas contain high volumes of magnesium and potassium. Some women can lose sleep while dealing with PMS because of the painful cramps; consuming bananas can actually aid both sleep deprivation and pain symptoms during PMS.
Foods to Consume During Menopause
- Vitamin B-rich food: Liver, whole grains, meat, and poultry can all help with brain development and function. Consuming adequate levels of vitamin B have been proven to help lift depression and decrease mood swings—this is extremely beneficial for women who go through emotional changes during menopause.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Stock up on salmon, tuna, and sardines—these omega-3-rich foods can help maintain a woman’s hormonal balance during menopause.
Feeling Blue? This Food Is For You
Below are foods for anyone who is dealing with constant mood swings:
1. Organic turkey breast: Turkey breast contains large quantities of amino acids and tryptophan, which your body will eventually convert into rich quantities of serotonin. Turkey breast has generally been more effective for people who are extremely argumentative. When the individual consumes tryptophan, they tend to become more pleasant.
2. Blueberries: These berries contain the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps the brain produce dopamine; this increases the coordination of the brain’s memory function and has a direct link to your mood.
3. Dark chocolate: It produces the compound anandamide, a neurotransmitter found in the brain that can block out feelings of pain or depression for a period of time.
Mercola, J., “10 Superfoods for Stress Relief,” Mercola.com, April 27, 2015; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/04/27/10-stress-relieving-superfoods.aspx.
Borreli, L., “Eat Right For Period Pain: 7 Foods Every Woman Should Add To Her Diet To Ease PMS Symptoms,” Medical Daily web site, August 26, 2014; http://www.medicaldaily.com/eat-right-period-pain-7-foods-every-woman-should-add-her-diet-ease-pms-symptoms-299946.
Borchard, T.J., “Why Do Women Get Depressed More Than Men?” Psych Central web site, February 6, 2015; http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/09/22/why-do-women-get-depressed-more-than-men/.
“Anxiety and Mood Swings,” Calm Clinic web site; http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/mood-swings, last accessed May 13, 2015.