Vitamin for mood swings

Learn natural ways to control mood swings with simple lifestyle changes. Mood swings are not inevitable and lifestyle habits often cause or worsen them.

What You’ll Learn Here

It’s normal for your mood to vary as you react to events of the day.

But if your reactions swing wildly and you feel like you live on an emotional roller coaster, your mood swings may be out of control.

Mood changes, especially when they are sudden or unpredictable, often take a toll on relationships or performance at work.

The first thing you may blame your mood swings on, especially if you are a woman, are hormonal fluctuations caused by pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills, or your monthly cycle.

And while hormones can undoubtedly play a part, unreasonable mood swings are often caused by or largely exacerbated by your lifestyle.

So learning how to control mood swings naturally with food, supplements, and other healthy lifestyle adjustments can apply to anyone.

How to Control Mood Swings with Diet

The food you eat can have a profound effect on your mood.

The right foods provide nutrients that feed, nourish, and protect your brain.

Healthy foods provide the building blocks of hormones and brain chemicals that regulate your moods.

Conversely, the wrong foods not only lack essential brain nutrients, they contain compounds that trigger biochemical events that contribute to mood swings.

Eat Real Food

Michael Pollan succinctly summed up a healthy diet in his bestselling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto — “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

By “food” he means things that your ancestors from just a few generations ago would recognize as food — vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, meat, eggs, and fish.

The food-like products found in boxes, cans, and packages in the inner aisles of the supermarket do not count as real food.

Eat Healthy Fats

It’s important to include in your diet plenty of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, oily fish (like salmon, cod, or sardines), olive oil, and coconut oil.

Your brain is largely made of fat and these foods provide the basic building blocks of healthy brain cells and neurotransmitters — chemicals your brain cells use to communicate with each other. (1)

The low-fat diet fad has been a big fat failure for our weight and for our collective mental health. (2, 3)

Acetylcholine is the brain chemical of memory and learning.

Alzheimer’s patients have only 10% of normal levels.

According to Datis Kharrazian, PhD, DHSc, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, your brain will start digesting itself if you don’t provide it with enough healthy fats to make acetylcholine.

And don’t make the mistake of avoiding all dietary cholesterol.

It’s not the risk factor for heart disease that it’s been made out to be and you need it for the synthesis of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. (4)

Too little cholesterol can lead to hormonal imbalances and the associated mood swings of pregnancy, menopause, and PMS in women and andropause in men.

Surprisingly, low cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of depression, suicide, and dementia. (5, 6)

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Avoid Sugar

Refined sugar sends blood sugar levels, and your mood, on a roller coaster ride — first up, then down.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
How to Stop Sugar Cravings (+ 8-Step Plan to Stop Eating Sugar)

Eating mostly unprocessed food should preclude consuming much sugar, but there are many so-called “healthy” foods that are loaded with added sugar, such as yogurt, natural sodas, cereals, condiments, and snacks.

Sugar goes by many names, and it doesn’t matter if it’s called high fructose corn syrup (“bad”) or organic cane juice crystals (“good”), it’s all metabolized the same way.

Watch Out for Wheat

Even if you’re rather sure that you have no problem with gluten, you should still minimize wheat consumption.

Wheat, even whole wheat, has a high glycemic index score. (7)

Two slices of whole wheat bread can raise your blood sugar level as much as eating a candy bar! (8)

If you are on the fence about reducing your intake of wheat, go without it for two weeks and see if your mood swings and your general health improve.

You may be surprised!

Manage Caffeine Strategically

With a Starbucks seemingly on every corner, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that today’s world runs on caffeine.

While some caffeine can improve your mood and make you more productive, too much can make you an anxious, jittery mess.

If you’ve consciously decided to drink caffeine, enjoy it, but drink it in moderation.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
All About Caffeine Addiction and Withdrawal & How to Quit

The latest research shows that caffeine is more addictive than previously thought.

Withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, headache, brain fog, and nausea can start within 12 to 24 hours of your last dose of caffeine. (9)

If you love coffee or tea, find your ideal dose and stick with it.

But if you are guzzling sugar-laden energy drinks, soda, or coffee drinks, consider making a switch to a more natural, healthy source of caffeine.

Minimize MSG

Avoid foods that contain added MSG (monosodium glutamate).

This chemical food additive gets broken down into glutamate, a known neural excitotoxin that, in excess, literally stimulates brain cells to death.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
You can find a list of ingredients that indicate a food contains MSG in our article 5 Neurotoxins Found in Popular Foods.

Too much MSG can cause mood swings, migraines, brain fog, upset stomach, heart irregularities, and asthma in sensitive individuals. (10)

The worst sources include fast food, ramen noodles, canned soups, salty snacks, and refined soy products like veggie burgers.

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Manage Mood Swings with Supplements

If you find that diet alone isn’t doing the trick or you need a little help with mood swings until you’ve upgraded your diet, here are a couple of supplements that can help.

Fish Oil

If you don’t regularly eat cold-water fatty fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement for extra omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Fish oil supplementation has an impressive record for improving brain functions of all kinds — mood, memory, cognition, and general mental well-being. (11, 12)

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Fish Oil for Depression and Mood: A Case for Omega-3 Fats

Increasing your omega-3 fat intake increases the volume of gray matter in areas of the brain that control mood and depression. (13)

Omega-3s can even help those with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. (14)

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens are a unique group of herbs that work like a thermostat to keep you in a balanced physiological state known as homeostasis.

They work by supporting adrenal function, balancing blood sugar level, and normalizing the level of the stress hormone cortisol.

Chronically elevated cortisol is linked to mood swings, memory loss, anxiety, brain fog, and depression. (15, 16, 17)

Only a few dozen herbs such as bacopa, ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, and Rhodiola rosea qualify as adaptogens.

These herbs energize you when you are fatigued and relax you when you are stressed out, putting you in the “Goldilocks zone” of feeling just right.

Minimize Mood Swings with Exercise and Sleep

Serotonin and dopamine are two of the brain chemicals essential for maintaining a good mood.

Physical exercise balances their levels in the body, keeping them from getting too low or too high. (18, 19)

Exercise also boosts the level of the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, which reduces your stress response and improves your mood. (20, 21)

Exercise will help you sleep, another important factor in controlling mood swings.

Even one sleepless night can leave you moody, irritable, and overly emotional the following day.

If you don’t get enough sleep at night, try taking a power nap in the afternoon.

A 20-minute nap will help decrease cortisol, restore your good mood, and keep your productivity higher all day long. (22, 23)

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Mood Swings in Women: PMS and Menopause

If you’re a woman with hormone-based mood swings, consider taking inositol.

This mood-enhancing nutrient is found in high concentrations in the brain where it facilitates communication between brain cells.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
How Inositol Benefits These 6 Mental Health Conditions

Inositol is excellent for relieving the mood swings, depression, and anxiety that occur with PMS (premenstrual syndrome), a more severe form of PMS known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), pregnancy, and menopause. (24, 25)

It’s effective for treating all kinds of anxiety including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and agoraphobia. (26)

Other supplements that can help keep PMS mood swings in check include calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, chasteberry, and St. John’s wort.

If you are transitioning into perimenopause or menopause, a decline in estrogen can contribute to mood swings.

Women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup reports in her book The Wisdom of Menopause that pregnenolone supplementation is particularly helpful for women during menopause.

Pregnenolone is the building block for other hormones whose levels are falling during this time of life, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA.

Mood Swings in Men: Low Testosterone

Testosterone levels start to gradually decline once a man reaches age 30.

Low testosterone is a major source of mood swings, fatigue, and depression in men.

If you aren’t sure where you stand, you can have your testosterone level checked by your doctor.

He may recommend testosterone replacement therapy, but there are several ways you can increase your level naturally.

At the top of the list is stress management.

There’s an inverse relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone — when cortisol goes up, testosterone goes down. (27)

Also, you can engage in physical exercise, eat a healthy diet that contains adequate protein and healthy fats, and take the right supplements.

Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and ginger are all proven testosterone boosters. (28, 29)

When Mood Swings Are Extreme

If your mood swings are extreme, they may be caused by an underlying health condition or psychiatric disorder.

Mood swings can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, a thyroid disorder, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, or schizophrenia. (30)

If you think that your mood swings are serious, discuss the situation with your health care professional.

If an underlying condition is the cause of your mood swings, making healthy lifestyle changes can be a useful adjunct to professional care, but not a substitute for it.

How to Control Mood Swings: Take the Next Step

Mood swings are not inevitable or out of your control.

Hormones usually get the blame for mood swings, but often, lifestyle habits cause or aggravate the problem.

You can manage your mood swings by eating a diet that emphasizes unprocessed foods, and by getting adequate sleep and physical exercise.

Additionally, you can try one or more adaptogenic herbs to help you attain a state of homeostatic balance.

READ NEXT: Using Adaptogenic Herbs to Reduce Stress, Boost Energy

What causes mood swings during menopause?

Share on PinterestNearly a quarter of women experience mood swings before, during, or after menopause.

There are many steps along the way to menopause, while each phase of the process has characteristics and symptoms.

Perimenopause describes the period when estrogen levels in the body start to drop. Some women start noticing symptoms such as menopausal mood swings and hot flashes at this time.

Menopause takes place, technically, after a woman has not had a period for 12 months. After this, she is considered postmenopausal, and many women see differences in their emotional symptoms. From start to finish, the process can take 2-10 years.

According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), close to 23 percent of women go through mood swings before, during, or after menopause.

For some women, especially women who are taking hormones or have had their uterus removed, mood swings are their first indication that they are beginning to transition into menopause.

The emotional aspects of perimenopause and menopause are significant. For some, they can be as disturbing as the physical elements of this transition.

Some of the more widespread aspects of menopause mood swings include:

  • Irritability: Up to 70 percent of women describe irritability as their main emotional problem during the early stages of the menopausal transition. They find themselves less tolerant and more easily annoyed at things that did not bother them before.
  • Depression: Depression is a more common and serious emotional side effect of menopause. It affects up to 1 out of every 5 women as they progress through menopause.
  • Anxiety: Many women experience tension, nervousness, worry, and panic attacks during menopause. Some may find their anxiety getting worse while others may develop it for the first time.
  • Crying episodes and feeling weepy: This tendency can become more pronounced in menopausal women, as they find themselves weeping over incidents that might not have mattered much before. However, tears can reduce stress as they allow people to release pent-up feelings.
  • Insomnia: Insomnia can contribute to mood swings, as it interferes with day-to-day functioning. It is common during menopause, affecting 40-50 percent of women.

How might menopause lead to mood swings?

During the transition to menopause, levels of the hormone estrogen drop, causing wide-ranging changes throughout the body. Many of these changes have direct connections to menopausal mood swings.

Share on PinterestThe drop in estrogen can cause fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

For example, the drop in estrogen is thought to affect the way the body manages serotonin and norepinephrine, two substances that have been linked to depression. Lower levels of estrogen have been linked to irritability, fatigue, stress, forgetfulness, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.

The impact of these changing hormone levels may not be limited to a direct cause-and-effect relationship with depression, anger, and anxiety. Hormone shifts may also intensify these feelings.

Also, researchers have found higher levels of a brain protein known as monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), which is linked to depression, in women entering perimenopause.

Sometimes, reactions build on each other, such as with night sweats. These are hot flashes that take place when someone is asleep.

Night sweats can be so intense that a woman is woken and sleep is disrupted. Several nights of disrupted sleep can result in foggy thinking, irritability, and other characteristics associated with menopausal mood swings.

Risk factors

Two of the most important risk factors for difficult menopausal mood swings are a history of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and prior episodes of depression or other significant mental health problems.

Women may also have a greater risk of emotional problems during menopause if they have any of the following situations:

  • unsatisfactory relationships with loved ones
  • a great deal of stress in their lives
  • a difficult living situation

10 nutrients that can lift your spirits

If you want some pep in your step or a dash of good cheer, look no further than the grocery store’s shelves. Not only are foods rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids healthful, but studies show they can also increase happiness, lessen symptoms of depression and quell anxiety.

(Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg)

How can foods improve our moods? It all comes down to the brain. A healthy cognitive system is essential to regulating mood, and certain nutrients have a profound impact on maintaining normal brain function. Researchers have studied the association between foods and the brain and identified 10 nutrients that can combat depression and boost mood: calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and zinc. Try foods containing these nutrients for a midday pick-me-up, to promote long-term happiness or to ward off the nagging worry that you forgot to lock the front door. (You did remember, right?)

(Bigstock) Calcium

The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium plays an important role in maintaining strong bones and healthy blood vessels, and in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Low levels of calcium may play a role in premenstrual-syndrome-related depression in particular. (Sorry, guys, we couldn’t find data on whether calcium can also regulate mood fluctuations in men.) Calcium deficiency affects more women than men, so women should take special care to meet the daily requirements.

How eating it helps: Found in a variety of sources (nondairy included), calcium is often paired with Vitamin D to help regulate mood fluctuations attributed to PMS. Since estrogen plays a large role in calcium production, calcium consumption may improve PMS-related depression.

About the units used below: Mg (milligram) is the typical unit of measurement for nutrients, and 1,000 mg equals 1 gram. Mcg is the abbreviation for microgram, and 1,000 mcg equals 1 mg.)

Recommended Daily Allowance, or R DA: 1,000 mg per day for adults

Food sources of calcium :

●Collard greens, frozen (1 cup): 357 mg

●Ricotta, part skim (1 / 2 cup): 308 mg

●Yogurt, plain/low fat (3 / 4 cup): 310 mg

●Milk, low-fat (1 cup): 305 mg

●Kale, frozen (1 cup): 179 mg

(Bigstock) Chromium

A trace mineral found in small amounts in the body, chromium helps metabolize food . A lack of chromium hurts the body’s ability to regulate insulin (the hormone that regulates sugar) and may lead to diabetes-related complications such as vision loss and high blood pressure.

How eating it helps: Chromium plays an important role in increasing the brain’s level of serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin, which help regulate emotion and mood. Because chromium works directly with the brain’s mood regulators, it’s been found to be an effective treatment for depression.

RDA: 25 mcg per day for women; 35 mcg per day for men

Food sources of chromium :

●Broccoli (1 / 2 cup): 11 mcg

●Grape juice (1 cup): 8 mcg

●Whole-wheat English muffin (1 piece): 4 mcg

●Potatoes, mashed (1 cup): 3 mcg

●Turkey breast (1 / 3 cup): 2 mcg

(Nadia C./iStockphoto) Folate

Folate (also known as B9 or folic acid) helps the body create new cells and supports serotonin regulation. Serotonin passes messages between nerve cells and helps the brain manage a variety of functions, from determining mood to regulating social behavior. Folate deficiency can cause fatigue in addition to lowering levels of serotonin.

How eating it helps: A pair of power nutrients, folate and B12, are often paired together to treat depression. By itself, Folate has the added benefit of boosting the efficiency of antidepressants.

RDA: 400 mcg per day for adults

Food sources of folate :

●Spinach (1 / 2 cup): 131 mcg

●Black-eyed peas (1 / 2 cup): 105 mcg

●Asparagus (4 spears): 89 mcg

●Brussels sprouts (1 / 2 cup): 78 mcg

●Avocado (1 / 2 cup): 59 mcg

(iStockphoto) Iron

Iron plays an important role in the body, from transporting oxygen to supporting energy levels and aiding muscle strength. Low levels of iron can lead to feelings of fatigue and depression. Iron deficiency appears more frequently in women than men, especially women of childbearing age.

How eating helps: Consuming enough iron will help prevent iron anemia (not enough iron), a condition that commonly affects women more than men. Keeping enough iron in the body is important, as the fatigue, apathy and mood change associated with iron deficiency can often lead to depression.

RDA: 18 mg per day for women; 8 mg per day for men

Food sources of iron :

●Fortified oatmeal, instant (1 package): 11 mg

●Soybeans (1 cup): 8.8 mg

●Lentils (1 cup): 6.6 mg

●Beef Ribeye (5-oz. fillet): 3.8 mg

●Turkey, dark meat (1 / 3 cup): 2.0 mg

(iStockphoto) Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that plays over 300 roles in maintaining and protecting the body’s health. Deficiency can cause irritability, fatigue, mental confusion and predisposition to stress.

How eating it helps: Magnesium plays a large role in the development of serotonin, which is a major contributor to feelings of happiness. Due to magnesium’s ability to help regulate emotions, it’s a common element in homeopathic remedies for balancing mood.

RDA: 310 mg per day for women; 400 mg per day for men

Food sources of magnesium :

●Almonds (1 / 8 cup): 79 mg

●Spinach (1 / 2 cup): 78 mg

●Cashews (1 / 8 cup): 74 mg

●Peanuts (1 / 4 cup): 63 mg

●Edamame (1 / 2 cup): 50 mg

(Tatiana Fuentes) Omega-3s

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that plays an important role in brain health and contributes up to 18 percent of the brain’s weight. The body does not naturally produce omega-3, so it needs to be consumed from outside sources. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, memory decline and depression.

How eating it helps: Studies show a correlation between consumption of fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a decreased risk of depression and suicide. Whether eating fish or snacking on chia seeds, increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help combat depression.

RDA: There is no established RDA for omega-3s, but the American Heart Association suggests eating a variety of fish (trout, herring and salmon) at least twice a week. For vegetarians, there are also plenty of non-meat sources of omega-3s.

Food sources of omega-3 :

●Chia seeds (1 / 8 cup): 4,915 mg

●Atlantic salmon (1 / 2 fillet): 3,982 mg

●Chinese broccoli (1 cup): 227 mg

●Atlantic herring (5-oz. fillet): 3,171 mg

●Spinach (1 cup): 381 mg

(Bigstock) Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 helps the production of neurotransmitters (which send messages from the brain to the rest of the body). Deficiency in B6 can cause short-term anemia; long-term effects include a weakened immune system, confusion and depression.

How eating it helps: Consuming Vitamin B6 is essential for regulating brain function, which influences our emotions. In addition to regulating healthy moods, Vitamin B6 is also an effective method for treating premenstrual depression.

RDA: 1.3 mg per day for adults

Food sources of B6:

●Chickpeas, canned (1 cup): 1.1 mg

●Yellowfin tuna (1 / 3 cup): 0.9 mg

●Salmon (3-oz. fillet): 1 mg

●Chicken breast, skinless and boneless (1 piece): 0.5 mg

●Fortified breakfast cereals (3 / 4 cup): 0.5 mg

(Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Vitamin B12

B12 is an essential element that aids in the creation of red blood cells and nerves. Low levels of B12 can cause short-term fatigue, slowed reasoning and paranoia, and are associated with depression. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in meats, eggs and animal byproducts, which means that vegetarians and vegans have an increased risk of developing a deficiency.

How eating it helps: Because moods depend largely on signals from the brain, B12 plays an important role in regulating depression: Consuming enough Vitamin B12 allows the body to synthesize a group of nutrients critical for normal neurological function.

RDA: 2.4 mcg per day for adults

Food sources of B12:

●Rainbow trout (1 fillet): 9 mcg

●Sockeye salmon (3-oz. fillet): 17.6 mcg

●Swiss cheese (1 / 8 cup): 4.4 mcg

●Mozzarella cheese (1 / 8 cup): 3.0 mcg

●Tuna, in water (3.5-oz. can): 2.5 mcg

(Greg Powers) Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps regulate cell growth, plays an important role in maintaining the immune system and (when paired with calcium) protects bones. Studies show that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with depressive symptoms in both men and women. Most often, lowered levels of Vitamin D are the result of indoor lifestyles, limited sun exposure and inadequate intake of Vitamin-D-rich foods.

How eating it helps: If you’re feeling blue, increasing Vitamin D could help ward off depression. Consuming the mood-regulating vitamin is important, especially during the wintertime when light from the sun (a natural producer of Vitamin D) is limited.

RDA: 600 IU per day for adults ages 15 to 60. (IU, or international unit, is a type of measurement typically reserved for vitamins A, C, D and E.)

Food sources of Vitamin D:

●Cod liver oil (1 tablespoon): 1,360 IU

●Salmon (3-oz. fillet): 646 IU

●Swordfish (1 / 3 cup): 566 IU

●Chanterelle mushrooms (1 cup): 114 IU

●Milk (1 cup): 115-124 IU

(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post) Zinc

Zinc is found in almost every cell and plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system and helping the body protect the gut from damage. Low levels of zinc in the diet can lead to a variety of ailments, including a weakened immune system, loss of appetite, anemia, hair loss and depression. Vegetarians need as much as 50 percent more zinc than non-vegetarians due to the body’s lower absorption rate of plant-based zinc.

How eating it helps: Studies have identified zinc as an important factor in decreasing depressive symptoms, as the vitamin can improve the response of antidepressants while reducing the side effects of antidepressant medication. A lack of zinc can trigger depressive behaviors, so load up on zinc-rich foods to balance your mood.

RDA: 11 mg per day for men; 8 mg per day for women

Food sources of zinc:

●Roasted pumpkin seeds (1 cup): 9.5 mg

●Cashews, dry roasted (1 cup): 7.67 mg

●King Alaska crab (1 leg): 10.2 mg

●Pork loin (6-7 oz.): 3.5 mg

●Swiss cheese (1 / 8 cup): 1.2 mg

This story was produced by greatist.com.

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Vitamins for Moodiness and Irritability

While there are many factors that could make a person moody or irritable, depleted levels of certain vitamins and other nutrients are among the physiological causes, according to “The Food-Mood Solution” by Jack Challem and Melvyn R. Werbach 1. Those who are deficient may notice mood improvement upon increasing their intake of these essential vitamins, and it’s possible that supplementation with these vitamins may also generate favorable results among those whose irritability has other causes.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

B12

Challem and Werbach state that vitamin B12 has been studied in numerous clinical trials focused on depression, anxiety and other mood-related problems, and has often been found to improve these conditions when administered to test subjects. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements lists depression and confusion among the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency 3. According to “User’s Guide to Natural Remedies for Depression” by Linda Knittel, B12 deficiency may be related to substance abuse, high stress, recent surgery or even vegetarian diets 2.

Folic Acid

According to Knittel, folic acid is another essential vitamin related to mood management. Also known as vitamin B9 or folate, folic acid is needed only in small amounts, but it is crucial to the generation of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Many prescription antidepressants also aim to create these brain chemicals. Folic acid is available as a supplement, is a common ingredient in multivitamins and can be obtained by eating leafy green vegetables, pineapple, oranges, bananas and asparagus.

Niacin

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is responsible for breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates and converting them into energy, according to Knittel. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked with depression and other mood abnormalities, in part because of niacin’s relationship with the amino acid tryptophan. As an essential amino acid, one of tryptophan’s roles is to produce niacin, but it is also responsible for producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood. When tryptophan levels are low, as is commonly observed in people with depression, too much of the existing tryptophan is dedicated to niacin production, leaving serotonin production neglected. Supplementation with niacin from multivitamins, whole grains and organ meats like kidney and liver can help offset this effect.

Vitamin D

According to a study published in the December 2006 issue of “The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,” vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor mood and cognitive performance among older adults 3. “Health and Fitness Times” cites another study that suggests supplementation with vitamin D may be an effective alternative treatment for periodic affective disorder, a type of depression that affects sufferers during the winter months. Fish is a good dietary source of vitamin D, and milk and breakfast cereals are often fortified with this vitamin, though you’ll want to carefully check the label to be sure.

Ever notice how a bad mood can be a diet killer? Anxiety, stress and crankiness can all sabotage your diet – causing you to eat more and pack on those unwanted pounds. Find the effective solution to keeping your moods under control with some of nature’s best-kept secrets.

For Anxiety: Holy Basil

A member of the mint family, holy basil has been used for thousands of years in India to lower the intensity of anxiety and stress responses. Studies show that taking holy basil at 500mg twice daily after meals has a significant effect in reducing generalized anxiety, stress and depression. The remedy costs roughly $8 and is available at vitamin and health food stores.

For Crankiness: Lemon Balm

One of the biggest causes of crankiness is being over tired. Lemon balm is used for controlling anxiety and – thanks to its mild sedative effect – it also helps improve sleep, helping to prevent sleep deprivation-related crankiness. Take about 60 drops added to water before bed. Lemon balm is sold at vitamin stores for $6.

For Nervousness: Passionflower

Nervousness is often times the culprit behind mindless eating. Passionflower is a great natural solution because it has the same properties as some prescription medicines used to promote calmness and relaxation. It can be taken in liquid or capsule form. Both cost about $10 at vitamin or health food stores. Take 2ml of this supplement three times a day.

For Stress: L-Theanine

Stress is a major contributor to belly fat because of the hormones, like cortisol, it causes your body to produce. L-Theanine is an amino acid, found in black, white and green teas, that helps you think more clearly and cope better with stress. Studies have shown that people with high anxiety experienced increased attention and improved reaction time 15-60 minutes after ingestion. You can take 200mg with a full glass of water. This supplement costs $8 and is especially great if you don’t have time to make tea or don’t like the taste.

Do mood swings sometimes overtake you for no apparent reason? Maybe they’re not as extreme as the roller coaster highs and lows of bipolar disorder. But if they create an ongoing problem in your life, you may have cyclothymia, bipolar’s milder — and rarer — cousin.

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Although symptoms aren’t typically as disruptive, cyclothymia can signal bigger problems to come. So it’s a good idea to mention the mood swings to your doctor.

“Cyclothymia causes a sort of mini-depression and mini-hypomania,” says psychiatrist Amit Anand, MD. “It is a chronic, low-grade condition.”

In order to be diagnosed with cyclothymia, adults must have had episodes for at least two years. Cyclothymia is quite rare in children and teens; but to receive a diagnosis, they must have had episodes for at least one year.

To understand cyclothymia, it helps to first understand bipolar disorder.

How does bipolar disorder affect you?

When you have bipolar disorder, you have periods of both depression and mania or hypomania that last for days, weeks or even months. (Episodes of hypomania are briefer and cause fewer problems than episodes of mania.)

You’re probably familiar with the symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Decreased interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Weight changes.
  • Slowed thinking and movement.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Mania is the opposite of depression, and its symptoms include:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity.
  • A decreased need for sleep.
  • Rapid or pressured speech.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Distractibility.
  • Increased activity levels.
  • Impulsive or high-risk behavior.

If you recognize a milder form of some of these symptoms in yourself, you may have cyclothymia.

How does cyclothymia affect you?

When you have cyclothymia, you have periods of depression and periods of hypomania. However, you have fewer symptoms, and your episodes aren’t severe or long-lasting enough to meet the criteria for bipolar disorder.

How can you tell the difference between cyclothymia and the ups and downs we all experience? Dr. Anand uses three other criteria to make a diagnosis:

  1. Do your moods affect the way you function? Are your moods causing problems at work, at home or in other areas of your life?
  2. Do moods seem to come out of nowhere? Do mood changes seem disproportionate — or unrelated — to the circumstances of your life? Do relatively small issues trigger them?
  3. Are your moods out of control? Are you unable to take steps to make yourself feel better or to calm yourself down?

What can you do about cyclothymia?

If you suspect you may have this condition, talk to your doctor or to a mental health professional. Getting help will allow you to avoid the problems cyclothymia may now be causing in your life.

Taking this step is also important because having cyclothymia increases your risk for bipolar disorder. And the sooner you get treatment, the sooner you’ll learn how to handle mood swings and maintain your mental health.

Dr. Anand recommends psychotherapy over medications. Although bipolar disorder requires mood-stabilizing drugs, the side effects can be problematic. The symptoms of cyclothymia aren’t typically severe enough to justify their use, he says.

Find a good therapist — it can make a real difference in your life. You’ll learn how to identify your triggers, better handle stress, and develop solid skills for managing your moods.

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