Mind and Health: Which Comes First, Mood Changes or Physical Changes?

What is the etiology of mood changes? Do they come about because of physiological stressors or emotional stressors?

In my practice, it seems that the majority of the patients who experience significant changes in mood have dietary problems, allergies, chemical stressors and life stress issues that underlie their mood swings.

A recent case is that of an eight-year-old girl named “Susie” who suffered from migraine headaches, stomach upset and “temper tantrums.” Ordinarily a sweet , obedient child, she would nonetheless sometimes cry and scream for no apparent cause. These tantrum episodes occurred three or four times each month. Her mother took Susie to her pediatrician, who in turn referred her to a neurologist. The neurologist prescribed Effexor, which made this young girl feel tired and did little for her headaches or mood.

When Susie and her mother came to see me, I took a quite different approach, urging that she be on a very low-sugar diet with an increase in vegetables and fresh fruit and targeted supplements. Soon she was tapered off the Effexor. Four weeks later, Susie and her mother were happy to report that her headaches had greatly diminished in frequency and severity (she did not have to go to bed with them), her stomachaches were gone, and she had had a month free of tantrums! Susie liked having control of herself. Testing showed she had several food and chemical allergies. This is a clear case of the effects of diet and nutrition on mood, pain and behavior. “Carol” came into the office complaining of depression, irritability, and some anxiety. She had been taking Prozac for six months, which helped these symptoms but ruined her sex drive. Carol reported she was under a lot of stress, ate a high sugar diet, and had chronic sinus stuffiness. Her periods stopped about a year ago and she seemed to breeze through menopause, without hot flashes, vaginal dryness, or anything else she associated with “the change.”

I explained to Carol that when she was menstruating she was making progesterone and estrogen, and when she stopped menstruating she continued to make these hormones in smaller amounts-but that the progesterone was getting “used up” by the adrenal glands to make cortisone in response to the sugar, stress, and allergies. She was placed on a healthier diet, natural progesterone, and she was tested for allergies. Carol returned for follow-up six weeks later stating that she felt great, had taken herself off the Prozac and was free of depression, irritability, and anxiety. She exclaimed, “To think, all I needed was Progesterone!” It’s important to understand that different hormonal imbalances may produce quite different symptoms. The key is to test and to adjust as necessary.

Another patient, “Sheri,” was a computer “guru” at a large company. She suffered from frequent and severe migraines.She also developed chronic fatigue, and various muscle and joint pains. These symptoms escalated so that she missed a lot of work and she was worried about the security of her job.

Her family was worried about her, as well. Her children noticed that Mom didn’t feel very well most of the time and this prevented her from having a full family life. She had a lot of stress at her job, demands at home, and ate on the run most of the time. This meant lots of junk food, and sugary treats for a “reward” on a regular basis. She did not worry about the calories because she was trim and fit.

Sheri also was very depressed. As the headaches and other pains became part of her daily routine, her mood plummeted. She went to several doctors who prescribed several different medications that had little effect, except to add to her fatigue. In my work with her, I found that Sheri had quite a number of allergies to foods and food chemicals, as well as a number of nutrient deficiencies and some hormone imbalances. In her case it has taken several months for her headaches, muscle and joint pain to fade, and for her mood to improve. Making dietary alterations and changing the idea in her mind that sweets equal rewards was difficult for her, but she made the choice that her health and life with her family was worth the effort.

It is important to realize that what we eat, the stress in our lives, allergies and exposure to chemicals all affect our physical health and our mental health. We need to take care in all of these areas to lead happy, healthy lives.