What makes us moody?

January 14, 1998

What makes us moody?

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

How can you feel lighthearted and sunny one morning, and be gloomy as a storm cloud a few hours later?

Sometimes moods can change like the weather, leaving us shaking our heads at the mystery.

Moods are an outward expression of what's going on inside the body, and irritability is a symptom, says Dr. Marc Gamerman, a Hagerstown chiropractor.

They are affected by a number of factors, including your lifestyle, the foods you eat and the job you have, he says.


The body has an enormous capacity to take abuse, Gamerman says.

"You do it until you have a heart attack or need your gallbladder removed," he says. "Your body is so good at tolerating this stuff that it manages to get by."

Mood swings can affect everybody, and they're fairly prevalent, says Michael Bramel, a psychology instructor at Penn State's Mont Alto Campus in Mont Alto, Pa.

They especially are prominent in women, who experience hormonal differences related to the menstrual cycle, Bramel says.

Those going through menopause also are subject to mood swings because of the shaky state of their hormones, Gamerman says.

Watch what you eat

One of the simplest ways to control mood swings is to make diet a priority.

"People have a tendency to skip breakfast and grab something for lunch out of the vending machine," Gamerman says.

He advises drinking four to eight glasses of water a day and avoiding foods high in sugar, salt and preservatives.

If you load up on sugar or caffeine, you'll bottom out later, and that's when mood swings occur, Gamerman says.

That irritability may be increased by not eating often enough, says Tammy Thornton, a registered dietitian and coordinator of Washington County Health Department's Partners in Prevention Program.

Eating five to six small meals a day is better than having three large ones, Thornton says.

When you go four to five hours without eating, the body is in a state similar to fasting, and you feel tired, she says.

Thornton says the body needs constant fuel, and she stresses the importance of eating breakfast. If you don't have time to eat in the morning, take something to work with you so you're not so famished by lunchtime.

Sometimes indulging in a comfort food can help you feel better, and smooth-textured ones are popular choices, she says. Some people crave chocolate when they're feeling down, while others reach for chicken noodle soup, she says.

Walk away

Exercise also is important, because it helps to get rid of stress.

Walk away from the environment that is causing the stress, says Dr. Mathew McIntosh, director of the Wellness and Cardiac Rehab Center at Hagerstown Junior College.

"Changing your body position is the simplest thing you can do," McIntosh says.

Any aerobic activity that physically stresses the body is a good way to work off a bad mood, he says.

Mood swings also might be triggered by substance abuse, lack of sleep or any time your patience or emotional reserves are overburdened, Bramel says.

You should get help when the condition is starting to interfere with a relationship, the ability to work or any other area of life that's important to you, Bramel says.

"It's one thing to feel down for a day, but if you're feeling consistently down, you need to make a judgment call," Bramel says.

To deal with bad moods, people need to find out what works best in their situation, Bramel says.

If you are aware you are prone to them, you can know when to take timeouts and thus be able to pull yourself together, he says.

"By taking care of our bodies, the tendency to have emotional ups and downs is minimized," Bramel says.

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