How to Control Mood Swings Without Drugs

Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC | Written by Deane Alban

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Learn natural ways to control mood swings with simple lifestyle changes. Mood swings are not inevitable and lifestyle habits often cause or worsen them.

It’s normal for your mood to vary as you react to events of the day.

But if your reactions swing wildly and you feel like you live on an emotional roller coaster, your mood swings may be out of control.

Mood changes, especially when they are sudden or unpredictable, often take a toll on relationships or performance at work.

The first thing you may blame your mood swings on, especially if you are a woman, are hormonal fluctuations caused by pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills, or your monthly cycle.

And while hormones can undoubtedly play a part, unreasonable mood swings are often caused by or largely exacerbated by your lifestyle.

So learning how to control mood swings naturally with food, supplements, and other healthy lifestyle adjustments can apply to anyone.

How to Control Mood Swings with Diet

The food you eat can have a profound effect on your mood.

The right foods provide nutrients that feed, nourish, and protect your brain.

Healthy foods provide the building blocks of hormones and brain chemicals that regulate your moods.

Conversely, the wrong foods not only lack essential brain nutrients, they contain compounds that trigger biochemical events that contribute to mood swings.

1. Eat Real Food

Michael Pollan succinctly summed up a healthy diet in his bestselling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto — “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

By “food” he means things that your ancestors from just a few generations ago would recognize as food — vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, meat, eggs, and fish.

The food-like products found in boxes, cans, and packages in the inner aisles of the supermarket do not count as real food.

2. Eat Healthy Fats

It’s important to include in your diet plenty of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, oily fish (like salmon, cod, or sardines), olive oil, and coconut oil.

Your brain is largely made of fat and these foods provide the basic building blocks of healthy brain cells and neurotransmitters — chemicals your brain cells use to communicate with each other. (1)

The low-fat diet fad has been a big fat failure for our weight and for our collective mental health. (2, 3)

Acetylcholine is the brain chemical of memory and learning.

Alzheimer’s patients have only 10% of normal levels.

According to Datis Kharrazian, PhD, DHSc, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, your brain will start digesting itself if you don’t provide it with enough healthy fats to make acetylcholine.

And don’t make the mistake of avoiding all dietary cholesterol.

It’s not the risk factor for heart disease that it’s been made out to be and you need it for the synthesis of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. (4)

Too little cholesterol can lead to hormonal imbalances and the associated mood swings of pregnancy, menopause, and PMS in women and andropause in men.

Surprisingly, low cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of depression, suicide, and dementia. (56)

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3. Avoid Sugar

Refined sugar sends blood sugar levels, and your mood, on a roller coaster ride — first up, then down.

Eating mostly unprocessed food should preclude consuming much sugar, but there are many so-called “healthy” foods that are loaded with added sugar, such as yogurt, natural sodas, cereals, condiments, and snacks.

Sugar goes by many names, and it doesn’t matter if it’s called high fructose corn syrup (“bad”) or organic cane juice crystals (“good”), it’s all metabolized the same way.

4. Watch Out for Wheat

Even if you’re rather sure that you have no problem with gluten, you should still minimize wheat consumption.

Wheat, even whole wheat, has a high glycemic index score. (7)

Two slices of whole wheat bread can raise your blood sugar level as much as eating a candy bar! (8)

If you are on the fence about reducing your intake of wheat, go without it for two weeks and see if your mood swings and your general health improve.

You may be surprised!

5. Manage Caffeine Strategically

With a Starbucks seemingly on every corner, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that today’s world runs on caffeine.

While some caffeine can improve your mood and make you more productive, too much can make you an anxious, jittery mess.

If you’ve consciously decided to drink caffeine, enjoy it, but drink it in moderation.

The latest research shows that caffeine is more addictive than previously thought.

Withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, headache, brain fog, and nausea can start within 12 to 24 hours of your last dose of caffeine. (9)

If you love coffee or tea, find your ideal dose and stick with it.

But if you are guzzling sugar-laden energy drinks, soda, or coffee drinks, consider making a switch to a more natural, healthy source of caffeine.

6. Minimize MSG

Avoid foods that contain added MSG (monosodium glutamate).

This chemical food additive gets broken down into glutamate, a known neural excitotoxin that, in excess, literally stimulates brain cells to death.

Read more —
You can find a list of ingredients that indicate a food contains MSG in our article 5 Neurotoxins Found in Popular Foods.

Too much MSG can cause mood swings, migraines, brain fog, upset stomach, heart irregularities, and asthma in sensitive individuals. (10)

The worst sources include fast food, ramen noodles, canned soups, salty snacks, and refined soy products like veggie burgers.

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Manage Mood Swings With Supplements

If you find that diet alone isn’t doing the trick or you need a little help with mood swings until you’ve upgraded your diet, here are a couple of supplements that can help.

Fish Oil

If you don’t regularly eat cold-water fatty fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement for extra omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Fish oil supplementation has an impressive record for improving brain functions of all kinds — mood, memory, cognition, and general mental well-being. (1112)

Increasing your omega-3 fat intake increases the volume of gray matter in areas of the brain that control mood and depression. (13)

Omega-3s can even help those with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. (14)

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Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens are a unique group of herbs that work like a thermostat to keep you in a balanced physiological state known as homeostasis.

They work by supporting adrenal function, balancing blood sugar level, and normalizing the level of the stress hormone cortisol.

Chronically elevated cortisol is linked to mood swings, memory loss, anxiety, brain fog, and depression. (151617)

Only a few dozen herbs such as bacopa, ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, and Rhodiola rosea qualify as adaptogens.

These herbs energize you when you are fatigued and relax you when you are stressed out, putting you in the “Goldilocks zone” of feeling just right.

Minimize Mood Swings With Exercise and Sleep

Serotonin and dopamine are two of the brain chemicals essential for maintaining a good mood.

Physical exercise balances their levels in the body, keeping them from getting too low or too high. (1819)

Exercise also boosts the level of the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, which reduces your stress response and improves your mood. (2021)

Exercise will help you sleep, another important factor in controlling mood swings.

Even one sleepless night can leave you moody, irritable, and overly emotional the following day.

If you don’t get enough sleep at night, try taking a power nap in the afternoon.

A 20-minute nap will help decrease cortisol, restore your good mood, and keep your productivity higher all day long. (2223)

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Mood Swings in Women: PMS and Menopause

If you’re a woman with hormone-based mood swings, consider taking inositol.

This mood-enhancing nutrient is found in high concentrations in the brain where it facilitates communication between brain cells.

Inositol is excellent for relieving the mood swings, depression, and anxiety that occur with PMS (premenstrual syndrome), a more severe form of PMS known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), pregnancy, and menopause. (24, 25)

It’s effective for treating all kinds of anxiety including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and agoraphobia. (26)

Other supplements that can help keep PMS mood swings in check include calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, chasteberry, and St. John’s wort.

If you are transitioning into perimenopause or menopause, a decline in estrogen can contribute to mood swings.

Women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup reports in her book The Wisdom of Menopause that pregnenolone supplementation is particularly helpful for women during menopause.

Pregnenolone is the building block for other hormones whose levels are falling during this time of life, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA.

Mood Swings in Men: Low Testosterone

Testosterone levels start to gradually decline once a man reaches age 30.

Low testosterone is a major source of mood swings, fatigue, and depression in men.

If you aren’t sure where you stand, you can have your testosterone level checked by your doctor.

He may recommend testosterone replacement therapy, but there are several ways you can increase your level naturally.

At the top of the list is stress management.

There’s an inverse relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone — when cortisol goes up, testosterone goes down. (27)

Also, you can engage in physical exercise, eat a healthy diet that contains adequate protein and healthy fats, and take the right supplements.

Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and ginger are all proven testosterone boosters. (28, 29)

When Mood Swings Are Extreme

If your mood swings are extreme, they may be caused by an underlying health condition or psychiatric disorder.

Mood swings can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, a thyroid disorder, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, or schizophrenia. (30)

If you think that your mood swings are serious, discuss the situation with your health care professional.

If an underlying condition is the cause of your mood swings, making healthy lifestyle changes can be a useful adjunct to professional care, but not a substitute for it.

How to Control Mood Swings: Take the Next Step

Mood swings are not inevitable or out of your control.

Hormones usually get the blame for mood swings, but often, lifestyle habits cause or aggravate the problem.

You can manage your mood swings by eating a diet that emphasizes unprocessed foods, and by getting adequate sleep and physical exercise.

Additionally, you can try one or more adaptogenic herbs to help you attain a state of homeostatic balance.

Recommended: If you're feeling over-stressed, anxious, or depressed, talk therapy with a professional can help you cope better with life.

BetterHelp online counseling is the better choice vs in-person therapy:

  • BetterHelp is more affordable & convenient.
  • It's discreet, private, secure & COVID-19 safe.
  • Same professionalism & effectiveness as traditional therapy.

REVIEW: Why we recommend online counseling and BetterHelp.