Could a Food Intolerance be Causing Mood Swings?

Feeling moody, irritable or emotional is often dismissed as just ‘part of life’. But while it’s not unusual to experience mood swings from time to time, irregular emotional behaviour that occurs on a regular basis may be an indication of a more serious underlying trigger. One common trigger is intolerance to certain foods, which can have a significant effect on our mental health.

What do we mean by ‘mood swings’?

Are you aware of constantly-changing mood-states in yourself, your child or a person you care for? Mood swings can be sudden, distressing, and have a negative impact on both the person affected and those around them.

  • Signs and symptoms of mood swings include:
  • Experiencing sudden and erratic shifts in mood and behaviour
  • Feeling irritable, depressed or agitated
  • Having trouble concentrating or paying attention
  • Becoming confused or disorientated

The link between food intolerance and mood

Food intolerance refers to difficulties digesting certain foods. Unlike food allergies, which trigger the immune system, the symptoms of food intolerance tend to take longer to appear.

Food intolerance can cause a wide range of physical symptoms, including bloating, headaches, irritable bowel and a cough or runny nose. But its impact doesn’t stop at these physical effects – for some people, food intolerance can trigger a range of negative mental symptoms, including emotional dysregulation and swings in mood.

The primary reason for this is that food particles that haven’t been digested properly can end up in your bloodstream, causing inflammation of the gut which can trigger mood swings in the brain. What’s more, studies have linked gastrointestinal disorders with difficulties in regulating emotions, including problems with goal-directed behaviour and a lack of emotional awareness[1].

Common types of food intolerances

Food intolerances can occur in response to a wide variety of food types. Some of the most common types of food intolerances which may result in mood changes include:

  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Wheat
  • Caffeine
  • Histamine (found in mushrooms and cured food)
  • Additives such as artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings

If you’re concerned that a food intolerance may be causing mood swings in yourself or a person you care for, speak to a doctor about how to identify potential ‘problem’ foods. In some cases, a simple blood test can shed light on an intolerance.

A Hit 100 dietitian can work alongside your health professionals to assist you and your family identify food intolerances and develop a meal plan that addresses dietary sensitivities - so you can enjoy a happier, healthier life with a diet that works for you.