Menopause App

Digital Packs Banner Digital Packs Banner

Mood and Mind

5 common health conditions that can affect your mood

5 common health conditions that can affect your mood MAIN

Feeling moody, anxious or depressed? Healthista takes a look at 5 common health conditions that could be affecting your mood

Did you know that certain health conditions can affect your mood and even induce mental health issues such as anxiety and depression?

A recent study (BMJ, 2023) found that people with mental health issues are twice as likely to have an underlying physical condition. Indeed, research by Mental Health UK also shows that if you suffer from mental health problems you’re more likely to also have a physical health condition.

certain health conditions can affect your mood and even induce mental health issues

So, if you’re experiencing mood swings or other psychological issues, and you’ve tried therapy or medication, but nothing works, it’s important to check if there’s anything else going that could be going on with your physical health. 

#1 Hypothyroid (Underachieve Thyroid)

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones and helps to regulate many body functions including metabolism, hormones, energy, sleep and digestion. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is the most common thyroid disorder (affects 2 per cent of the population – with 10 times as many women as men). 

It occurs when there is too little thyroxine which causes the body to to slow down. Physical symptoms may include weight gain, dry skin, brittle or thinning hair, tiredness, lack of energy, poor circulation, irregular periods, heavy menstrual flow, infertility, feeling cold, muscle cramps, puffy face, constipation, goitre (swelling in the neck), daytime drowsiness. 

Emotional symptoms: 

An underactive thyroid can make you feel lethargic and depressed. You may also experience mood swings, weepiness, brain fog, poor memory and find it hard to concentrate. 

In a recent meta-analysis (Cureus, 2022) it was shown that people with undiagnosed and untreated hypothyroidism were at increased risk of developing depression. 

What you can do…

Ask your GP for a blood test – the initial screening is to measure Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels. 

The standard treatment is to take daily thyroxine tablets.  Sometimes, symptoms suggest an underactive thyroid, but TSH levels come back borderline (at the higher end of the normal range) or even normal.  If that’s the case, ask your GP for a referral to an endocrinologist for further tests.  

To support thyroid health, eat leafy greens, vegetables and fruit, organic meat and fish

Self-help tactics also help. Stress affects the adrenal glands, when these become exhausted, this can trigger a thyroid disorder, because the two systems are interlinked. So, reducing stress can help.

To support thyroid health, eat leafy greens, vegetables and fruit, organic meat and fish – eg: lamb, chicken, turkey (these contain the amino acid tyrosine).  The thyroid needs tyrosine as it combines with iodine to be converted into thyroid hormones.

Selenium is also important for thyroid health. Avoid soya foods (which block iodine absorption), white carbohydrates, gluten and sugar, as these cause inflammation that may inhibit thyroid function.   

Try: Viridian Thyroid Complex, £24.45 for 60 capsules – contains iodine, selenium and B vitamins, is ethical and pure supplement with no fillers or nasties.   

READ MORE: Thyroid problems? These 4 natural fixes are proven to help


#2 Hyperthyroid (Overactive Thyroid)

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is where the thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones. This causes the whole system to speed up.  This condition is 10 times more common in women than men and typically starts between 20 to 40 years of age.

Symptoms may include high blood pressure, weight loss, hair loss, increased bowel movements, irregular periods, increased sweating, trembling, muscle weakness, palpitations, trembling, goitre

Emotional Symptoms: 

May include anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, irritability, panic attacks and mood swings.

In a recent study (Cureus, 2023) it was shown that hyperthyroidism can manifest with anxiety-like symptoms, mimicking mental health issues such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). 

What you can do…

Ask your GP to arrange tests. You may be prescribed anti-thyroid medication to bring thyroxine levels down.  

Stress may a contributory factor, so, practicing relaxation techniques – eg: breathwork, meditation, can be helpful. Regular exercise and spending time in nature is also beneficial.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can also be beneficial. Try to eat a healthy, wholefood, unprocessed diet and avoid iodine and sugar rich foods. Several studies suggest there may be a link between poor thyroid function and gluten intolerance in some people. 

READ MORE: 5 natural ways to boost your immune system


#3 Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome

This is lingering fatigue that may occur after a viral infection (e.g., flu, and even the common cold). Post-viral fatigue can last a few weeks to a few months.  

Typical physical symptoms may include debilitating fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, general malaise, dizziness, night sweats, weight loss, cough, and earache. 

Emotional Symptoms: 

A meta-analysis (Neural Regeneration Research, 2015) suggests that viral infection may trigger neuroinflammation in the brain that affects the central nervous system (CNS). This can lead to psychological symptoms including depression, low mood, irritability, anxiety, poor memory and lack of concentration.

Inflammation can affect the activity of anxiety related brain regions

In a recent review (Translational Psychiatry, 2023) it was shown that elevated inflammation can trigger mood disorders. Inflammation can affect the activity of anxiety related brain regions, including the amygdala and this can lead to emotional problems.  

What you can do…

There is no specific treatment, and most sufferers gradually get better with rest. Strengthening your immune system can help to speed up recovery. The immune system is your body’s defence against bacteria, viruses, fungi and other infections and pathogens. When the immune system is weak infections tend to linger.

Try these tactics to boost immunity: 

  • Ginseng – studies have shown that ginseng stimulates the immune system, increases energy levels, calms the central nervous system and nourishes the adrenals. Try: Viridian High Potency Adaptogen Complex, £33.40 for 90 capsules. Contains Siberian ginseng, damiana leaf, Chinese red ginseng and yerba mate.
  • Avoid processed foods.  
  • Eat coloured fruit and vegetables – eg: red, yellow peppers, carrots, green vegetables – all of which are rich in health boosting anti-oxidants. 
  • Take a daily vitamin C supplement – studies show that vitamin C plays an important role in supporting immunity. Try: Healthspan Vitamin C Sustained Release Vitamin C, 90 tablets, £9.99
  • Take a supplement – Try: The Naked Pharmacy Olive Leaf, 60 capsules, £21.00 extract Capsules with Elenolic Acid is the highest-concentrated ELA supplement currently available plus in addition, organic Moringa leaf is added as a prebiotic to help promote gut health. The Naked Pharmacy is a supplement brand that offers expert advice with pharmacists on hand to answer any queries.    

READ MORE: Do you have PCOS? This gynaecologist has help


#4 Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women in the UK. With PCOS the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs. You do not actually have cysts though.

PCOS occurs as a result of abnormal levels of hormones in the body, including high levels of insulin, which controls blood sugar. When insulin levels are too high, this causes your body to produce too many male hormones (androgens), including testosterone.

With PCOS the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid filled sacs

Symptoms may include: irregular periods, or no periods at all, stubborn weight gain, thinning hair, unwanted hair (eg: on the face and chest) and acne.

PCOS can also cause fertility problems.

Emotional Symptoms: 

Women with PCOS are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

In a recent meta-analysis (Medecina 2021) it was shown that women with PCOS were six times more likely to develop moderate to severe anxiety, and four times more likely to develop depression than healthy women.

A number of studies suggest that high levels of stress are at the root of increased mood problems. Stress is also associated with some of the physical symptoms of PCOS.

A recent review (Journal of Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pediatrics, 2023) shows that PCOS is also associated with a higher risk of eating disorders.  

What you can do…

Ask for a referral to an endocrinologist. Treatment options vary depending on symptoms.  Making lifestyle changes can also make a significant difference in helping to manage symptoms.  

being overweight exacerbates symptoms

Lose weight – women who have PCOS put weight on more easily. But, being overweight exacerbates symptoms and research shows that a weight loss of even 5 per cent can lead to significant improvements in PCOS.   

Eat a Mediterranean Keto Diet – in a recent study (Journal of Translational Medicine, 2020) it was shown a Mediterranean keto diet can be beneficial in managing PCOS, as it helps to improve hormone levels, insulin sensitivity and reduce body fat. 

Foods to eat include: healthy fats (eg: olive oil and fish), vegetables and leafy greens. Avoid: carbohydrates, sugar, red meat and processed foods. 

READ MORE: Weight gain? IBS? Nutritionist reveals why your cortisol levels may be to blame


#5 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is the most common disorder of the digestive system that affects up to one third of the UK population, according to Guts UK ( Typical symptoms may include constipation and diarrhoea, abdominal pain, wind, bloating, tiredness and nausea.

It’s not known exactly what causes IBS, but, research suggests that factors such as stress, certain foods, erratic eating and post bacterial infection (eg: food poisoning) can imbalance the gut microbiome (bacteria) making symptoms worse.   

Emotional Symptoms: 

People with IBS are at increased risk of anxiety and depression. Indeed, in a recent meta-analysis (Nature Reviews Gastoenterology & Hepatolgy, 2023) it was shown that IBS sufferers are three times as likely to develop these conditions.

The study also found that bipolar disorder, eating disorders and suicide attempts were significantly higher amongst people with IBS

A new study by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, US, also shows a link between IBS and mental health issues. The study (on over 1.2 million IBS patients) found that 38 per cent had anxiety, and more than 27 per cent had depression.

The study also found that bipolar disorder, eating disorders and suicide attempts were significantly higher amongst people with IBS. The research suggests this may be down to a dysfunction of the ‘gut-brain’ axis. 

‘The gut and the brain are in constant communication,’ says Nutritional Therapist, Jeannette Hyde.

‘The gut-brain axis is connected by millions of nerves which transmit messages in both directions. There is also communication via chemicals, called neurotransmitters (eg: serotonin).

‘So, for example, if you’re feeling anxious and stressed, the brain sends a message to the gut, slowing down digestion, making IBS symptoms worse. The bacteria in the gut also produce chemical reactions which are transmitted to the brain (via the vagus nerve) and this can affect mood.’

What you can do…

Hyde offers the following to tips to deal with IBS: 

  • Eat at least 30 different types of colourful, plant foods (eg: vegetables, fruit, nuts, pulses) every week – this will help to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria.
  • Keep a food diary – keep track of foods that cause symptoms.  
  • Know your triggers – eg: stress, certain foods 
  • Avoid highly processed food – additives, sweeteners, sugars. 
  • Eat prebiotic foods – eg: Jerusalem artichoke, bananas, garlic, onion, leeks, celery, chicory root, these encourage good bacteria to thrive. 
  • Eat probiotic foods – eg: kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, these introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut. Try: Healthspan new Triple Action Biotic,  a 3 in 1, with pre, pro and post-digestive support, 60 capsules £24.99 
  • Exercise regularly – to get rid of stress chemicals. 
  • Practice techniques to calm your mind – eg: breathwork, mindfulness.  

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

More Healthista Content