How to Tell The Difference Between a Hormone-Induced Mood Swing... and Just Being Crabby


Twice a month, Yahoo Health’s Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, HHC, is answering the most common questions about hormones and how they relate to weight, sex, acne, bad moods, low energy, and everything in between. Read her introductory column to learn more about Alisa’s approach to stopping hormonal chaos and getting into hormonal flow.

THE QUESTION: It’s easy to blame my mood swings on “being hormonal” — but is this actually true? How do I spot the signs of a true hormone-induced mood swing versus general crabbiness?

ALISA’S ANSWER: It’s become so socially acceptable to blame a woman’s emotions on hormonal fluctuations that the notion of PMS has become something of a joke. But the reality is, it’s no laughing matter, and serious mood changes that result from hormonal imbalances can be a real source of both physical and emotional suffering for many women. They’ve come to accept PMS as just part of life — an inevitability of being a woman — when, in fact, much can be done to combat the symptoms and relieve you of the burden entirely. The reality is, however, that your mood is not just related to your hormones. It’s the result of the interplay of hormones, food, gut, and your reaction to things in your life.

Understanding what the causes might be and how to interpret your symptoms will give you the power to make the necessary changes so that you can feel happier and live a life that lights you up.

The FLO Science: 7 Causes of Bad Moods

Your mood is hugely dependent on the neurotransmitters and hormones that are manufactured from the foods you eat and the bacteria in your gut. Your mood is not so dependent on your hormones as it is on your gut, as that’s where all the mood-stabilizing factors are created. That’s right — what you put on your plate has a direct correlation not just with how you feel physically, but emotionally. Every woman’s personal hormonal patterns and problems are unique, but the solution to getting back to your happy place is the same across the board: Eating in a way that fuels and enhances your hormones.The foods you eat will either support or disrupt your endocrine system and microbiome, and if you’re eating in a way that’s disruptive, it can fan the flames of existing anxiety and fatigue.

The key to keeping your moods under control throughout the month is to take proactive, preventive measures before the bad moods strike. By the time you notice yourself sinking into a negative headspace, it’s often too late to take action. By eating the right foods for each phase of your cycle , you can avoid the emotional roller coaster later. Having a good mood is not hit-or-miss or a luck of the draw; it’s a result of careful, conscious planning and proactive measures.

1. Elevated Estrogen: Feelings of Depression

If you suffer from estrogen dominance, you might tend to feel more manic during that first half of the cycle and take such a turn during the second half that you feel like a different person. But your seemingly multiple personalities aren’t just due to a hormonal shift during the month; the highs and lows of estrogen dominance are the product of a complex interplay of diet, gut health, and mental wellness. If your blood sugar levels are unstable, your liver isn’t efficiently clearing estrogen from your system, and you’re ill-equipped to deal with everyday stressors, it’s the perfect storm for estrogen-dominance-induced depression.

2. Low Estrogen: Irritability

Without enough estrogen circulating in your brain, you will feel less social and communicative, and you’ll be more likely to snap at your friends, family, or strangers for the smallest infractions. If your period lasts three days or less and your flow is particularly light, you may be suffering from a vitamin or nutrient deficiency and/or adrenal burnout from extreme dieting, major stress, or a combo of the two.

3. Elevated Cortisol: Anxiety and Fatigue

Several lifestyle factors impact how your body regulates and produces cortisol, and each one significantly impacts your overall mood. Bouncing blood sugar, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor gut health, and, of course, stress can send your cortisol levels soaring and your mood plummeting with simultaneous feelings of edginess and exhaustion.

4. Insulin Spikes: Irritability

If you’re skipping meals in an effort to lose weight, you’re not only doing your waistline a disservice (crash dieting and deprivation do not work) — you’re also setting yourself up for blood sugar spikes and crashes that jack up your insulin and cortisol, setting off a cascade of hormonal fluctuations that result in intensified crabbiness in addition to a host of other unpleasant consequences.

5. Dysbiosis: Depression

Gut health is an essential part of mood stability and your microbiome is a main player in regulating your hormones, particularly estrogen. An imbalance in this flora resulting from improper diet and lifestyle choices can lead to acne, bloating, difficulty losing weight, and yes, depression.

6. Low Thyroid: Depression and Fatigue

One in five women have a thyroid disorder, and yet this remains the most underdiagnosed hormonal issue. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, sleep, digestion, mood, and more, and if it’s underperforming, you’re in for trouble. The genetic factors, diet, and lifestyle choices that can lead to a sluggish thyroid may be responsible for your deflated mood and flagging energy levels.

7. Suppressing Your Truth: Depression, Irritability, and Fatigue

The thing all the above hormonal issues have in common is a tendency for us to suppress our true feelings about a situation. Over time and multiple situations, this suppression of yourself leads to a suppressed energy overall. Noticing where you do this is key to freeing up not only your expression, but your energy!

The FLO Fix: How to Differentiate Between Bad Moods and PMS (and How to Combat Both)

To lower estrogen: Carrots supply a healthy dose of vitamin A to help the liver metabolize estrogen more efficiently, and broccoli and kale are rich in indole-3 carbinole, a compound that helps break down estrogen.

To raise estrogen: Fermented soy like miso is a great option for boosting your natural estrogen levels.

To lower cortisol: The high vitamin B-5 content in chickpeas helps regulate cortisol levels and bring anxiety back down.

To balance insulin: Cinnamon has been shown to lower insulin resistance and help regulate blood sugar levels to keep your glucose levels stable.

Dysbiosis: Kimchi and fermented sauerkraut are natural probiotics that will help re-balance your gut flora with beneficial bacteria.

Thyroid: Sea veggies like seaweed are rich in iodine, which your thyroid needs to function optimally.

Related: Is There a Natural Way to Deal With Anxiety?

It’s easier than you think to get a handle on your moods, and unless the issue is a clinically diagnosed case of depression or anxiety, it has nothing to do with pills and prescriptions. All it takes is some strategic planning and careful integration of the right (delicious!) mood-enhancing foods. It doesn’t take much to get started — check out the list below and start slowly incorporating more of these nutritious choices into your diet in the weeks preceding your period and see if your mood improves. I have a good feeling it will!

But remember, while we want to banish the severe mental symptoms of hormonal imbalance, it can also be helpful to pay close attention to times that you do feel moody and irritable. Sometimes your bad mood is a message from your body to your brain that you need to reevaluate some part of your life. Try thinking of PMS as an opportunity to take inventory of your life and take charge of your destiny. You don’t have to write off your mood swings as meaningless consequences of hormonal fluctuations; you can appreciate your hormones for providing valuable insight into how to live your life more successfully and pleasurably.

Good things come in threes: I want to hear from you in the comments!

First, do you feel like you’re a different person one half of the month? What suggestions are you going to try?

Second, what are your top health questions for me, your trusty Hormone Whisperer? Your question could be featured in my column!

Third, everyone you know is hormonal: Spread a little good ovary karma and share this article with your friends on social media, and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Need more Hormone Help?

If you’re needing some health upgrading, it’s time you started you looking into what’s going on with your hormones. I’ve designed a 4 day hormone detox and evaluation to help you understand exactly what’s out of whack and how you can start getting back to balance so that your hormones no longer have to suffer. Click here to get your FREE detox and evaluation!

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