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Emily Beers
Emily Beers

Fitness Writer

7 Mood-Fixing Tips and Supplements

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Sometimes, mood is circumstantial. If you had a long, stressful day at work, go figure you might feel a bit tired and off-kilter, or desperate for rest in the evening.

But often, mood is chemical or hormonal and can be fixed by tweaking your diet, by taking natural substances or, in some cases, through supplements.

Let’s consider your hormones: There are four major chemicals in your brain that effectively contribute to mood and happiness levels. They are dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins.

Some natural ways to improve these levels include eating a high protein diet, reducing saturated fats, exercising regularly and getting sufficient sleep.

But sometimes, that’s not enough. Sometimes, we still struggle with feeling unhappy or low energy, or our mood is just off, or we’re full of anxiety half our lives.

7 Considerations to Improve Your Mood

1. Probiotics

Probiotics are the living microorganisms in our digestive tract that help our bodies function optimally—aka the “good bacteria.” They’re known to improve gut health, and also mood disorders as they help increase dopamine production. The “bad bacteria,” on the other hand, decrease dopamine levels. So the goal is to get more good bacteria and avoid the bad bacteria.

While you can get probiotics from various food sources, especially fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha and pickles, you often don’t get as much as thinking you’re getting.

Case in point: Yogurt.

Yogurt has often been marketed as a great source of probiotics. For yogurt to consider itself a probiotic yogurt, it must contain at least 1 billion CFUs. CFUs, or colony-forming units, refer to the number of live microorganisms in the product.

While 1 billion might sound like a big number, a probiotic supplement can contain as many as 100 billion CFUs, putting your yogurt to shame.

As a general rule, if you’re considering a probiotic supplement, the higher the CFU count the better.

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2. Vitamin D (Low Mood)

Vitamin D, commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, is another key to happiness.

Without enough Vitamin D, we become susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SADs). It can make us feel low energy, lethargic, unmotivated to leave the house, and basically just depressed.

This 2011 study suggests as much as 41.6 percent of the US population is deficient in Vitamin D, while other research has stated this number to be close to 75 percent.

It also appears that some people are more susceptible to feeling low mood in the winter months than others. Specifically, those who have a specific gene called 5-HTTLPR are more likely to experience SAD, because 5-HTTLPR helps regulate how serotonin is removed from our brains. Again, low levels of serotonin are linked to low mood, low sex drive and depression, including SAD.

Vitamin D helps boost serotonin levels by helping your body produce more Vitamin D3 from the cholesterol found in your skin. Vitamin D then converts tryptophan, an amino acid, into serotonin.

How much Vitamin D do I need?

While different sources recommend different amounts, the agreed-upon norm is that you need at least 600 IUs of Vitamin D per day, and as much as 4,000. The Endocrine Society, for example, says we need between 1,500 and 2,000 IUs each day, while the Mayo Clinic suggests a minimum of 600 IUs.

Can you get this from your food? 

Yes. But you probably need to be a big seafood lover.

Cod liver oil, for example, has 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D per 100 grams, although that’s a lot of oil to a throwback. Salmon has 526 IUs per 100 grams and mackerel has 1,006 IUs per 100 grams. Eggs are also a decent source: 100 grams of eggs have 218 IUs of Vitamin D.

If you’re suspicious you’re not getting 600 IUs a day, and even if you are but your mood is frequently low, consider a Vitamin D supplement, especially if you live in an area of the world where the sun disappears for weeks on end. 

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3. Fish Oil

While we often think about taking a fish oil supplement to reduce inflammation, improve heart health and cognitive function or increase recovery, there’s growing evidence that fish oil also helps reduce anxiety. This JAMA study, in particular, suggests that taking 2 g of fish oil per day helps reduce anxiety.  

The theory comes down to this: Your brain has a structure called an amygdala, which is full of neurons that are associated with how we interpret fear. In this sense, it protects us against real danger. But, if our amygdala is overactive, it can lead us to feel fear and anxiety when there’s no actual threat.

Now, factor in dopamine, which affects how we react to various situations. If dopamine levels are low, our amygdala must work harder, hence why people who are anxious often find themselves low on dopamine. Fish oil then has been shown to control our amygdala, stopping it from running wild. Check out this resource for more about fish oil supplementation

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4. Magnesium

Magnesium plays various roles in maintaining your health, including proper brain, nerve and muscular function, as well as heart health, memory and temperature regulation, to name a few. It’s also known to help promote better sleep.

On top of this, there’s evidence magnesium has antidepressant qualities that might just help increase dopamine levels.

Some foods high in magnesium include avocados, bananas, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and some fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel.

Another way to get more magnesium is through supplementation. If you’re going to go down that road, consider the two types of magnesium supplements: salts and chelates.

The salt form of magnesium is cheap to manufacture and buy, where chelates are bonded to amino acids, are tougher to manufacture and more expensive. In short, go for the chelates. They’re more expensive, but your body absorbs them more effectively.

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5. Vitamin B6

Further, Vitamin B6 is important for making melatonin, which effectively helps regulate sleep and our circadian rhythm. Sleep is, of course, a key component in ensuring we feel good, or at least it’s hard to feel good when you’re not getting enough.

Some foods that are particularly high in Vitamin B6 include organ meats, such as beef or chicken liver, chicken, turkey, fish, whole grains, milk, eggs and starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes.

General recommended doses of Vitamin B6 include 1.4 mg a day for men and 1.2 mg a day for women. Though this doesn’t sound like a lot, one cup of potatoes, for example, has approximately 0.4 mg of Vitamin B6, as does three ounces of turkey.

 If you’re plant-based and don’t eat many starchy vegetables, it could be worth looking into a Vitamin B6 supplement.

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6. Iron

While iron isn’t traditionally a mood supplement, there’s a time and a place it could be useful: Namely for menstruating women, especially those who are low in iron. 

 Women need 18 mg of iron per day, and often lose 5 to 6 mg during their period, and sometimes just eating spinach and beef isn’t enough to combat the lost iron.

 Not only that, often just before, or during the first couple days of menstruation, women can feel low-mood, low energy, or anxious, as if the world is caving in on them. 

 The number one reason to take an iron supplement is to avoid becoming deficient and developing anemia, which can lead to fatigue, among more severe symptoms. However, a second reason is to help combat traditional PMS symptoms, as iron promotes the formation of melatonin, which is known to decrease mood swings.

 This 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests a significant link between getting enough iron and emotional health.

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7. Green Tea

This one might be a little bit more out there, but green tea has long been known for its antioxidant qualities and therapeutic, soothing ability.

It also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that works directly on your brain to increase dopamine. Various studies have shown this to be the case, which essentially gives green tea an antidepressant effect. That being said, more research needs to be done on the green tea front.

Regardless, sipping a green tea instead of a scotch on the rocks before bedtime seems like the wiser choice if we’re considering how we’re going to feel when we wake up the next morning.

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