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How does diet affect anger and mood?

Mood Swings photoAnger is a growing concern in our increasingly stressful society. People of all ages and from all walks of life can suffer from outbursts of uncontrolled anger, which is often just as distressing for them as for the people around them. Other people who find that they cannot vent their anger often become critical, grumpy or cynical. According to lead researcher Aron Wolfe Siegmen, women who are prone to angry outbursts have higher levels of bad LDL cholesterol and higher overall levels of cholesterol than women with normal cholesterol levels. Furthermore, the research also showed that exercise may counteract these anger surges. Chronic problems with anger management, both expressed and repressed, can be destructive to relationships, happiness and, ultimately, health. There are many ways to tackle the problem, so don’t let anger ruin your life, or that of someone close to you.

Does fat stop anger and mood?

You may not realise it, but many of the foods that we eat can make it difficult to control our emotions, making us prone to angry outbursts. Correspondingly, many other foods have the opposite effect and make us calmer and more relaxed. A large percentage, somewhere in the region of 70%, of your brain is made out of fat. Research has now uncovered just how essential the right balance of fats in the brain is for normal mental function and behaviour. One study found that when young offenders were given supplements of omega 6 and omega 3, there was a 37% reduction in violent offences. Other research found that when people reduced their fat intake, their hostility rating increased. Those people who remained on a high fat diet experienced no increase in anger-hostility and felt less tense and anxious. But before you head for the nearest fish and chip shop for a calming fat fix, you need to know that it’s only the good fats that have a beneficial effect on mood. Those fats found in fried food, margarine and animal products have the opposite effect and may actually aggravate anger and irritability. So more fish, raw nuts, seeds and olive and flaxseed oil, and fewer burgers and crisps could help you be the calm, relaxed person you want to be.

Foods that make you angry and moody

  • excess red meat
  • alcohol
  • sugar
  • greasy and fried foods
  • hydrogenated foods including margarine

Foods that make you calm

  • omega 3 fats from oily fish
  • lightly cooked vegetables
  • soy foods such as miso and soya milk
  • bitter foods such as rocket, watercress, rye and dandelion root

A helping hand

One of the most effective therapies for learning to manage your anger is cognitive behavioural therapy. This works by helping you to change the way that you respond to certain situations. The reality is that we often can’t change the things that make us angry, but what we can do is learn to respond to them differently. Your Naturopath should be able to make a referral to a practitioner in your area.

Anger management tips

The National Mental Health Association makes the following recommendations to help control angry feelings:
  • Relax! Breathe deeply and imagine yourself in a soothing atmosphere
  • Change your mind. As you feel yourself getting angry, remember to think rationally. Often as we get angry we tend to exaggerate. Remain logical to keep a cool head.
  • Talk it out. When we’re in a heated exchange with someone you tend to say the first thing that pops into your head. This can of course have disastrous consequences. Be sure to think before you speak and really listen to what the other person is saying.
  • Don’t forget to laugh. Humour can often diffuse a situation, but don’t confuse it with sarcasm!