With Easter out of the way and spring in full swing, many of us are looking forward to casting off the winter blues and enjoying sunnier days.
We often find that the arrival of spring ushers in improvements to our mood, as the nights get shorter and we’re able to enjoy more vitamin D throughout the course of the day.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression experienced during particular times of the year, is thought to affect around three in 100 people in the UK, beginning in the autumn, lasting through winter and easing as the season changes to spring.
But if you’re a SAD sufferer still struggling, even as we say goodbye to the winter months, there could be other reasons for your low mood.
Symptoms of depression and low mood
Depression and low mood can manifest in a range of ways, including:
- losing interest in your usual activities
- feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or guilty
- poor concentration
- low energy levels/feeling lethargic
- finding it difficult to wake up in the morning
- sleeping more than usual
- eating more than usual
- loss of libido
- feeling less sociable
- feeling anxious
Many of these mental symptoms can also be linked to non-season specific depression.
Depression can be caused by or linked to many factors, and it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about the different options available to you if you are struggling with these types of symptoms. Counselling can help you explore the cause of the feelings and provide effective coping methods. Your doctor may also want to explore medication.
But for some, low mood and other related issues around mental health can be linked to diet.
The second brain
It’s often said that our gut is like a second brain. 90% of the body’s serotonin, the hormone responsible for happiness, is produced in the gut. The body’s main nerve, the vagus, connects the gut and the brain, with information constantly travelling between the two.
With the gut and the brain so closely connected, it’s not surprising that if the gut is unhappy, the brain will be too.
If your gut is often upset by something in your diet, the resulting side effects could be having an impact on your mood.
The impact of food intolerance on your mood
If you have a food intolerance, it’s not just your gut that can suffer. As well as bloating and IBS, common symptoms often also include itchy skin, acne, joint pain, headaches and migraine, fatigue and respiratory problems, many of which can contribute to feelings of low mood and lethargy.
The impact of lockdown
There’s no doubt that the past year has had a huge negative impact on our mental health. Endless social media doom-scrolling and 24-hour news cycles do little to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
Alongside the challenges of lockdown, our diets have suffered (link to lockdown diet article) as we looked to comfort foods as a way to boost our spirits.
But the processed takeaways, sugar-rich processed treats, and increased alcohol consumption may have contributed to an unhappy gut, in turn leading to feelings of low mood.
A restricted diet
Variety is certainly the spice of life, particularly when it comes to our diets. Too much of the same thing can be detrimental, both to our mood and to our gut.
For many of us, the boredom and routine of lockdown led to a limited routine of meals, offering a reduced palette lacking in nutritional balance. Over-consumption of the same foods, over time, can lead to issues in the gut which may then contribute to food intolerance symptoms, including low mood.
Taking control of your diet
Stress, depression and anxiety can be triggered by many factors. They can be specific to a certain event or situation or can be long-lasting. If you’re suffering with the symptoms outlined in this article, it’s important to talk with your GP.
If you suspect that something you’re eating could be causing issues that are contributing to your feelings of low mood, it might be time to take a closer look at your diet.
Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. Elimination diets, where you remove one ingredient at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel, can take a long time to reveal your triggers. As many of us react to between two and six ingredients, it can be a while before you’re able to see the bigger picture.
Additionally, the foods that you react to can often be surprising. It’s common to blame a few ‘usual suspects’ when it comes to food intolerance but in reality anything, from beef to broccoli, could be the cause.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own particular trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service, using ELISA plate testing, gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts with clear, easy to understand results sent to you by email within three days.
The test is supported by a 30-minute telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist to help you understand the results of your test and make safe, sustainable changes to your diet.