Mental Health

4 reasons you’re feeling low and how to combat it

4 reasons you're feeling low and how to combat it MAIN

Can’t help feeling low or depressed? Bio-Kult expert technician, Hannah Braye reveals 4 reasons you’re feeling down plus how to combat it

Do you often feel sad, tired, frustrated, angry or have low self-esteem? You could be suffering from low mood.

These feelings are often transient and will lift after a few days or weeks. However, a low mood that persists, may indicate a more serious underlying problem – such as depression.

Indeed, according to mental health charity MIND, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England.

Depression often requires professional assessment however, approximately only one in eight adults with a mental health problem are currently getting any kind of treatment.

a number of lifestyle factors could be negatively impacting your mood

Whatever may be the cause of your low mood, if your negative feelings aren’t going anywhere, are too much for you to cope with, or are stopping you from carrying on with your every day life, you may need to make some lifestyle changes and get some professional support.

If you’re still feeling down after a couple of weeks, talk to your GP.  If you are feeling distressed, in a state of despair or suicidal you can contact the NHS on 111 or Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours, 7 days a week).

While trying to get to the bottom of your low mood, it’s important to note that a number of lifestyle factors could be negatively impacting your mood, and some simple reasons listed below may be the reason, plus what changes you can make that may help…

Reason #1 You’re not getting good quality sleep

Disordered sleep is strongly associated with depression, as well as difficulties with emotion regulation.

Sleep disturbances are also among the collection of symptoms used to diagnose major depressive disorders.

So if you are struggling to get to sleep or waking in the night, this could be both a symptom and/or a contributing factor of your low mood and fatigue.

Disordered sleep is strongly associated with depression

In addition, studies reveal sleep problems are a primary risk factor for depression in those not currently depressed.

In fact, one study found that insomnia symptoms for a period of more than two weeks predict an increase in developing depression within one to three years.

The significant increase in our use of electronic devices is thought to be a factor in the increasing prevalence of sleep disorders due to the blue light emitted from the devices that disrupts circadian rhythms.

What can help:

Practising good sleep hygiene is a great first step in combatting any sleep disruptions. Try avoiding screen use for at least one to two hours before bed, or use a blue light blocking apps or  device.

It’s also important to mark the end of the day, and help switch the mind into sleep mode. To do this, take some time to wind down and clear your mind. Take a hot bath, read a book, practice some yoga nidra or try relaxing meditation.

causes of low mood disrupted sleep

Reason #2 You’re too stressed

Stress may be categorised as ‘good’ (i.e. a job interview or public speaking), ‘tolerable’ (where something bad happens but personal resources and support systems provide resilience) or ‘toxic’ stress (where something bad happens but personal resources or support systems are lacking/overwhelmed).

And with this, there are a number of biological (mental and physical) consequences of stress.

The latter two predispose an individual to increased risk of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation, increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels and consequent disturbances in cognition and mood.

try to avoid over exposure to upsetting content

You may also feel stressed and worried about current world events. There is a lot going on in the world at the moment, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, and many people are struggling with increased mental health issues as a result.

Feelings of anxiety and helplessness are understandable in light of the upsetting images on the news, and these feelings can exacerbate low mood.

What can help:

Whilst it’s important not to shut ourselves off from world events, try to avoid over exposure to upsetting content (perhaps limiting the amount or type of news coverage you view each day).

Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling may be particularly beneficial for helping individual’s build stress resilience, as well as practicing good self-care when it comes to sleep, diet, exercise, being kind to yourself and taking breaks.

counselling may be particularly beneficial for helping individual’s build stress resilience

Some people find having a sense of purpose, and something to keep them busy helpful in these circumstances.

Perhaps consider volunteering to help with collection of donations, or set yourself a fund-raising challenge, such as running a 5K or walking the three peaks.

There is lots of evidence supporting the benefits of physical activity for mood.

woman running to relieve stress reasons for low mood and depression

Reason #3 You have poor gut health

There is increasing awareness that a two way communication system exists between the gut and the brain, known as the ‘gut-brain axis’ and that our gut bacteria play a significant role in modulating the messages sent along it.

For this reason, gut health is thought to be a potential regulator of mood. It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore that evidence suggests a correlation between digestive symptoms and mood.

One study found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) had more frequent and severe depressive symptoms compared to healthy controls.

evidence suggests a correlation between digestive symptoms and mood

Significant increases in intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’), inflammatory markers, and endotoxins have also been correlated with severe mental illness compared to controls.

These markers are linked with dysbiosis, highlighting the role the microbiome may play in some mood disorders.

What can help:

One way to support good gut health is to regularly consume live fermented foods such as kefir, live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, and/or to take a live bacteria supplement.

Bio-Kult Brighten is an advanced multi-action formulation that contains 14 strains of live bacteria, as well as vitamins D, B6, and B12 and minerals magnesium and zinc.

Vitamins B6 and B12 contribute to normal psychological function as well as the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, whilst vitamin D and zinc contribute to the normal function of the immune system.

In February 2022, University of Oxford published a randomised double blind placebo controlled clinical trial (the gold standard of clinical research), that examined the effect of the 14 strains in Bio-Kult Brighten on low mood and emotional salience.

the live bacteria appeared to convey some degree of emotional impartiality

The study enrolled 71 individuals with symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Low mood associated symptoms were assessed following four weeks’ supplementation with either the Bio-Kult blend or an identical placebo.

Impressively, Bio-Kult intake significantly reduced overall depression scores by 50 per cent from baseline. In addition, Bio-Kult intake significantly improved concentration.

Participants in the Bio-Kult group also displayed changes in emotional processing. Essentially, the live bacteria appeared to convey some degree of emotional impartiality, where individuals are less sensitive to specific emotional stimuli.

Researchers also observed a non-significant downward trend in awakening salivary cortisol concentrations (an important stress hormone) after 4 weeks of Bio-Kult intake.

gut health reasons for low mood and depression

Reason #4 You’re suffering from inflammation

While many pathophysiological pathways play a role in the development of depression and fatigue, both have been associated with increased inflammatory activation of the immune system.

This immunopsychiatric link is supported by the association between inflammatory diseases (such as autoimmune and allergic conditions) and increased depression.

In addition, higher levels of baseline inflammation appear to reduce efficacy for many conventional treatments for depression.

70 per cent of the immune system resides in the gut

Therefore, targeting immune pathways to reduce inflammation may be beneficial for treating depression and fatigue in certain individuals.

Many genetic and environmental factors can modulate an individual’s susceptibility to inflammation, for example exposure to environmental toxins, a pro-inflammatory diet, underlying health conditions, stress and poor gut health (70 per cent of the immune system resides in the gut).

What can help:

Nutritional psychiatry is a budding area of research that looks at the effect that our diet has on physiological mechanisms effecting our mood.

A lower Dietary Inflammatory Index is associated with lower depression incidence.

An anti-inflammatory diet is one high in anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables, fibre and omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish and low in processed refined sugary foods.

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