Did you know that what you eat and drink can greatly affect your moods?
Think about a time when you felt tired, irritable, sad or anxious, but couldn’t figure out why. Chances are that it was related to what you were eating or drinking in some way. Most of us don’t think about how food affects our moods. But knowing a few key strategies can make a huge difference in how you feel every day, and can be a game changer if you’re dealing with regular mood swings.
Rule #1 – Get hydrated!
When you feel sluggish and you’re having trouble focusing, stop and ask yourself how much water you’ve had to drink that day. The body is about 60% water and every cell in the body relies on having enough water to function properly. Mild dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, trouble concentrating, bad moods and cravings for sweets. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, a person who weighs 150 pounds should drink about 75 ounces of water per day. You should drink more when you sweat, exercise, or drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
Balance your blood sugar
When your blood sugar spikes, you have a lot of quick-burning energy for a short time (think about kids eating candy). Then when your blood sugar crashes, your energy plummets. You get “hangry” and you want more quick-burning carbohydrates NOW. This blood-sugar rollercoaster wreaks havoc on your moods.
To avoid this, first of all, don’t skip meals. Eating a meal every 3-5 hours keeps your blood sugar in a comfortable range throughout the day. Next, make sure every meal and snack has plenty of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to give you sustained energy. In other words, focus on eating whole foods (straight from the ground or animal) and balancing your meals. Sugar and processed white-flour foods put you on the blood sugar rollercoaster. Save them for special occasions.
Moderate your alcohol intake
Alcohol can be a double-edged sword with your moods. Emotionally, you tend to have higher highs and lower lows when you’ve been drinking. When you first start drinking, it’s common to feel more excited, confident, affectionate, trusting, happy and invincible. But with more drinks or daily drinking, you’re more likely to feel sad, depressed, anxious, irritable or angry. Many people can have one or two drinks without problems, but if you’re dealing with mood swings, monitoring your alcohol intake is a good idea.
Be savvy about caffeine
Like alcohol, caffeine can be a double-edged sword. Caffeine in moderation can increase mental focus and reduce anxiety and depression. But too much can increase nervousness, irritability and anxiety. Also, drinking caffeine too late in the day can impair good sleep, and chronically impaired sleep can make your moods worse. People metabolize caffeine at different rates, so there is no specific amount that you should or shouldn’t have. But if you’re dealing with mood swings, consider how much caffeine you’re getting and at what time of day.
Boost your serotonin
Serotonin is your feel-good neurotransmitter. It stabilizes your moods and supports feelings of well-being and happiness. It also helps with good sleep, which benefits your moods as well. To boost your serotonin:
- Eat the foods that help make serotonin. Your body uses the amino acid tryptophan and B-vitamins to make serotonin. Foods with these nutrients are fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts/seeds, tofu (if you tolerate soy), legumes and whole grains.
- Eat fermented foods. Gut bacteria are involved in making 95% of the body’s serotonin. Support a healthy microbiome by eating fermented foods such as organic plain yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha (watch out for added sugars). Fermented vegetables are found in the refrigerator section of the store and not in the canned foods section. Remember that beneficial gut bacteria feed on dietary fiber, so eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and legumes to support these allies.
Finally, remember that gut health, food sensitivities and hormonal imbalances can affect your moods. If you’re having chronic mood problems, contact us at Radiance Functional Medicine for an assessment of what’s going on with you.