October 3, 2008

Publication: Galway Now

Date: Thursday, October 2, 2008 Page: 64

Headline: Moody Blues

Some say it's a woman's prerogative, others say it's out of our control. Either way, most of us will admit that it's a bane rather than a privilege to have ownership of that most erratic of things our moods. So, what are mood swings? What causes them? And most importantly, what is it that we can do to manage them?

the most significant factor affecting changes in mood is the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout a woman's monthly menstrual cycle, hence the fact that men are rarely accused of being moody. Chemical imbalances due to varying levels of oestrogen, progesterone and androgens affect the mood-altering hormones in the body resulting in erratic feelings and occasionally inexplicable behaviour, It's just hormones! We talk about them all the time but few of us know that hormones are complex biochetnitals released by the brain and that their job is to control, amongst other functions, the way we feel and respond to things.

Chief amongst those that affect our moods are endorphins, dopamine arid serotonin. ENDORPHINS Often described as the 'feel-good' hormones.These are the chemicals that kick in when you're facing something nerve-wracking, giving that familiar 'butterflies feeling, Endorphins are also the body's natural painkiller and have been shown to leap into action following severe physical trauma, rendering victims pain-free for extended periods of rime.

DOPAMINE This neuro-hormone is responsible for our feelings of alertness and menial sharpness and more accurate reaction times. It is also controls our energy levels, so no wonder we feel that sluggish, foggy aura pervading our day when the dreaded mood swine kicks in.

SEROTONIN This hormone makes us feel calm, poised, confident, and relaxed and induces a feeling of well-being. Medical science has long associated serotonin levels with depression and many or the most common anti-depressants are based or increasing serotonin levels in the brain in order lo increase feelings of happiness. So what can we do to influence hormone levels? Rather than simply being at die mercy of raging hormone levels, research has shown that there are several aspects of mood regulation that we can manipulate to our advantage. Mood Food Endorphin levels can definitely be boused by the foods we eat, with the best example being chocolate. It just happens to contain a chemical called phenylcthylamine which produces an endorphin response similar to the feelings experienced from a hug.

Chilli peppers are another food that affects an endorphin response; indeed many pain-relieving pharmaceutical products are based on capsinim, the active ingredient in chilli. Low endorphin levels, with feelings of deflation and anxiety, make us crave fat – think crisps and greasy take-aways! Go instead for good quality chocolate with 70 per cent cocoa solids and a low sugar content and for the mote healthy fats like nuts and oily fish.

Serotonin levels:, are heavily influenced by carbohydrate intake. If we are feeling nervous, stressed or irritable many of us will crave sugary foods Mich as biscuits and cakes which give us a Temporary 'high' of serotonin followed a residual low. Go for good carbs such as cereals, fruit, grains and vegetables to give a more sustained boost to serotonin levels. We all know the feeling of being mentally sluggish and this is associated with reduced levels of dopamine. In this case, protein foods are the answer nibble on nuts, have a yougart in the desk drawer or even a protein bar for a quick fix. Otherwise, increase general protein levels with meat, fish or chicken, eggs ot pulses.

Stress Support Multi from evergreen.ie is 3 probiotic supplement that can help suoport you when the 'moody blues' set in! This organic supplement contains 15 nourishing probotic vitamins and ais as well as 16 stress balancing and soothing herbs to help conquer whatever challenges you. Stress Support Mum is available now from www evergreen ie and is priced at €22.25 Evergreen HEALTH FOOD STORES www.evergreen.ie,

Alcohol is a depressant and also has the effect of dehydraring the body so reduce or cut out alcohol for an immediate improvement. Caffeine is a stimulant which can have a certain effect on elevating mood. Too much, however, can make us excitable and jittery so limit consumption to one to two cups per day.

Natural High Exercise is known to decrease the body's stress hormones while increasing levels of eudurphins, serotonin and dopamine to produce feelings of well-being. Physically active people are known to be less prone to depression and also recover better form depressive episodes if they do suffer. More vigorous, cardiovascular exercise is better for releasing the feel-good hormones that create a raised mood while genteler exercises like yoga can induce relaxation. Even ten minutes of moderate exercise will have a beneficial effect, so do walk to the shops or do a few laps of the office block at lunchtime – it all helps.

Take the Complement It is well documented that complementary therapies such as accupuncture, reflexology and shiatsu can aid relaxation and create calm, These therapies also ptomote good sleep, another precursor to an elevation in mood. So decide to try something new today go for a massage as a weekend treat and see the feel-good factor kick into action.

Laugh it off Believe it or not, laughter is a powerful weapon in the battle to revive the body's serotonin levels. Clinical trials have actually shown that good hearty laughter can reduce stress hormones, decrease pain, lower blood pressure, and even boost the immune system. Medical studies have proven that laughter therapy can benefit those in long-term, chronic pain, often providing immediate symptom alleviation by raising endorphin levels, the body's natural pain reliever,

Mairrad O'Driscoli is a registered nurse, midwife, public health nurse and a qualified reflexologist.