Feeling like your low mood just won’t shift? From sleep to digestion here are 4 signs you shouldn’t ignore a low mood plus what can help
Written by Bio-Kult expert technician, Kim Plaza
According to the mental health charity MIND, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.
What’s more, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week.
Globally, depression remains a leading cause of disability. Over the past couple of years mental health has been reported to significantly diminish as a result of the pandemic, noting higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress.
one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year
Therefore, although it may feel like you are ‘going it alone’ with low mood, you may be surprised by how effective it can be to talk to friends, family, or mental health charities.
There are many reasons why feeling low should not be ignored, this is because of the potential issues that could associated with it.
Below are some wider aspects of health that mood may impact and therefore highlights that low mood is not to be ignored…
Sign #1 Disrupted sleep
A common symptom that often accompanies low mood is tiredness and fatigue. The knock-on effect of this could lead to dysregulated sleeping patterns.
Additionally, this relationship seems to be cyclical and therefore sleep quality and mood are suggested to affect each other.
A potential reason for sleep disturbance is a deregulated stress response (which can occur in individuals with low mood). Our stress hormones will attempt to support us when experiencing stressful events.
After a poor night of sleep, feeling tired could perpetuate stress
This is done by releasing hormones that allow us to cope with the additional stress, however in cases where an individual experiences stressful experiences too often or does not receive the support needed to ‘whether the storm’, a dysregulation in stress hormones may occur.
Sleep problems may occur due to these stress hormones influencing our sleep hormones, therefore we could begin to feel ‘wired and tired’, where we may not be able to shut-off or relax sufficiently to enable sleep.
After a poor night of sleep, feeling tired could perpetuate stress through trying to keep up with daily demands; inevitably making us feel tired once more.
What can help?
Try to establish a regular bed-time routine, switch off electronic devices and screens at least one hour before bedtime, many screens utilise a blue light filter, which can be useful in supporting sleep-related hormones.
Incorporating some physical activity into your day could help with feeling tired, but make sure that it is suitable for your level and you are not over-committing yourself (as this could be an additional stress).
Sign #2 Poor immunity
If you constantly find yourself trying to disregard how you’re feeling, frequent coughs and colds could be giving you away.
Much like associations with mood and sleep, the immune system is also intrinsically linked with our emotional and stress responses.
immune function is linked with sleep quality and duration
One study found that mood influenced the type and number of immune cells between individuals and that people with low mood showed higher levels of inflammation in the body, producing a heightened response to stressful events.
Consider also that immune function is linked with sleep quality and duration, therefore with irregular sleep not only having a detrimental effect on mood, but also on immune function, it would no doubt contribute to feeling low.
What can help?
Try to incorporate some healthy eating plans into the week, this could initially be as basic as cooking one meal each week, particularly if you have been relying on convenience foods.
Our immune system is reliant upon good quality protein sources, therefore grass-fed meat, oily fish and plenty of legumes could be added to increase a meal’s nutritional content.
Sign #3 You have problems with you digestion
Problems with digestion are frequently reported in people with depression and/or anxiety.
So much so, that some researchers have suggested that making changes to benefit digestive function could in fact improve outcomes in mood related diagnoses.
This therefore provides an important reason for not ignoring low mood signs and symptoms. The gut is often described as a second brain, with a lot of research now confirming the gut-brain connection (known as the gut-brain axis).
The gut-brain axis is commonly mentioned to use three routes of communication; one of these routes being the immune system. As mentioned earlier, people with low mood may have higher levels of inflammation and this could unfortunately involve inflammation of the gut.
having an imbalance of beneficial gut bacteria has been associated with mood disorders
Where inflammation occurs, our digestive function may become impaired, meaning that we may not absorb nutrients as effectively and we may also experience symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, food sensitivities and headaches.
Symptoms will of course vary between individuals and some people may not experience digestive upset at all.
An additional factor within this mechanism is the balance of microorganisms in the gut, after all, some microbes are known to reduce inflammation and others have been found to increase it.
Interestingly, having an imbalance of beneficial gut bacteria has been associated with mood disorders, therefore whilst we may try to ignore feelings of low mood, behind the scenes may be a pro-inflammatory digestive system, leading us to deal with another set of symptoms.
What can help?
Supporting the gut is an important factor, especially when discussing its impact upon digestive function, immunity and also mood-related diagnoses.
The gut microflora may flourish with plenty of fibre foods and prebiotics, these include Jerusalem artichokes, slightly green bananas, inulin, onions, garlic and chicory root.
Live bacteria foods are also useful, some examples include kombucha, live yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi.
The gut microflora may flourish with plenty of fibre foods and prebiotics
Alternatively, many people find it easy to take supplemented live bacteria capsules, such as Bio-Kult Brighten. Strains within Bio-Kult Brighten were found to improve depressive symptom scores in just four weeks.
Additionally, these same strains were found to significantly improve IBS severity scores and quality-of-life aspects in IBS-D patients. Bio-Kult Brighten also contains vitamins B6, B12 and D3 as well as zinc, which contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
Vitamins B6 and B12 also contribute to normal psychological function as well as the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
So even if this is the first step in making a change for the better, appreciate that low mood is not to be ignored and explore new activities, perspectives as well as foods.
Sign #4 Your low mood seems more like depression
Considering that low mood could impact our sleep, immune function and digestive function, it would be understandable to expect a reduction in sociability.
A dysregulation in all of these factors could result in a person feeling less motivated to carry out their usual activities (which may include personal hygiene, eating well and staying active).
depressive symptoms may result in reduced socialisation
As a result, an individual may experience reduced self-confidence, demotivation and an inability to feel pleasure from activities usually enjoyed (known as anhedonia).
Sadly, this seems to be another example of a bi-directional influence, where depressive symptoms may result in reduced socialisation and vice versa (reduced socialisation may lead to depressive symptoms).
What can help?
It can be difficult taking the first steps in trying to lift our mood, especially if we have been feeling low for some time or feel overwhelmed by the thought of doing something different.
One popular treatment method for depressive symptoms is social prescribing, this involves a routine of agreed time-points of a certain activity, for example walking in a green space, such as a park once each week. Sometimes the action of simply ‘doing’ has proved to be a promising concept for many.
you may actually be opening up a conversation that could help another
Talking with a peer, friends or family can initially seem daunting, however given the number of people over the past couple of years reporting increased feelings of anxiety, depression and stress, you may actually be opening up a conversation that could help another, as well as you.
So try to be honest about your mood and talking to your GP or health professional is another valuable option. Guidance on how to find a practitioner is available from MIND’s website.