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Did you know there’s a strong link between our physical and mental health? If one’s out of kilter, the other one’s often not far behind.

Good physical health promotes good mental health and wellbeing, and poor physical health can leave us feeling sad, run down and sometimes a bit “blue”.

In this blog we look at some of the more common causes of feeling tired, run down and a bit out of sorts. For some people, these feelings can be minor and quite manageable, but for others – they can feel quite down, and sometimes depressed.

Some of the most common causes of feeling tired and a bit run down are deficiencies in vitamins and hormones. Fortunately, they’re also some of the easiest problems to fix.

Vitamin D: the sunshine vitamin that boosts your mood

Low levels of vitamin D can influence our energy and mood.

Our body produces vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, and it works together with calcium to build bones and keep them strong. Without enough calcium and vitamin D, you can develop osteoporosis (brittle bones). 

Often there are no symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, but it can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, pain and depression. There is some evidence that low vitamin D levels are linked to low mood.

Even in a country as sun-drenched as Australia, as many as 30% of Australian adults have a vitamin D deficiency. 

If you’re normally active and love being outdoors, chances are you’re exposed to enough sunlight during the year to get plenty of vitamin D. But during winter, many Australians don’t get enough sun exposure to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D. 

Of course, it’s important to find a balance between getting enough sun exposure to boost your vitamin D, while also avoiding skin damage from the sun. 

In Australia, you should be able to maintain your vitamin D levels with only a few minutes of sun exposure each day in summer, and two to three hours a week in the middle of winter. 

While sunlight is the main source of vitamin D, you can also boost your vitamin D levels through your diet. 

The best sources of vitamin D are fatty fish – such as herring, salmon, mackerel and tuna – and eggs. Some dairy and soy drinks, as well as some breads and cereals, may also be fortified with vitamin D. 

It can be worthwhile getting your vitamin D levels checked if you: 

  • Avoid sun exposure for medical reasons
  • Are house-bound or in residential care
  • Cover your body for cultural or religious reasons
  • Have a medical condition that affects the way your body absorbs nutrients

If you find out you have low vitamin D, you may need to take a supplement – check with your doctor.

Even in sun-drenched Australia, many of us don’t get enough vitamin D during the long winter months. #health Click To Tweet

Three hormones that affect your state of mind

Our hormones have a powerful influence over our moods. The hormone cortisol is needed by our bodies for vital functions such as controlling blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and increasing your metabolism. 

But if we’re under threat, cortisol is released as a way of helping our bodies to respond to danger, enabling the fight or flight response. 

One of the signs of chronic stress and high cortisol is mood swings, as well as high blood pressure, weight gain around the face and abdomen, and fragile skin. 

The sex hormones testosterone and progesterone also play key roles in your mood.

Among adult men, low testosterone can cause low mood, irritability and depression, as well as physical symptoms such as poor muscle strength and osteoporosis.

As men age, their testosterone levels drop by 1-2% each year. In fact, a third of men over 45 may have lower than normal testosterone levels.

Women produce testosterone, too, and can also have lower than normal testosterone levels. Symptoms in women include poor concentration, depression, low libido and reduced bone strength.

Lastly, the powerful hormone progesterone is like a natural antidepressant, helping to lower anxiety and increase your mood.

Like testosterone, progesterone is found in both women and men. In women, it plays a key role during the menstrual cycle, conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Symptoms of low progesterone include anxiety, depression, headaches and irregular menstrual cycles in women.

Low testosterone can cause irritability and depression in both men and women. #health Click To Tweet
Your thyroid can affect your mood

The thyroid: it can affect your mood, too

The last in our trifecta of tiredness “culprits” is the thyroid. 

The thyroid is a small gland sitting in the base of your neck. It’s small but powerful, playing an important role in controlling our metabolism. 

Metabolism influences how quickly our cells convert nutrients into energy, and that’s why the thyroid affects every organ, tissue and cell in our body, including our brain. 

So it’s not surprising that problems with the thyroid also affect our mood, and it can even mimic the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The more severe the thyroid dysfunction, the more extreme your mood changes can be. 

If you have signs of anxiety or depression, it’s important to see your doctor. It can also be worth having your thyroid hormone levels checked, too. That way, you’ll make sure you have the correct diagnosis and get the appropriate treatment. 

Of course, it’s possible to have both thyroid disease and depression or anxiety, but it’s important to have the correct diagnosis to make sure you get the right treatment.

If you have a thyroid problem that causes physical changes – such as weight gain or hair loss – that can make you more susceptible to low mood, too. 

Two of the main thyroid conditions are: 

Hyperthyroidism an overactive thyroid. If you have hyperthyroidism, you might have symptoms similar to anxiety such as: 

  • Feeling anxious or nervous 
  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia 
  • Feeling irritable and impatient 
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Shaking and sweating 
  • Weight loss 
  • Feeling hot 

Hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid. Your hormone levels are low, which means your organs and body’s systems slow down. This condition gives you symptoms similar to depression, including:

  • Low mood
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling tired and sluggish 
  • Slower heart rate 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weight gain 
  • Feeling cold 

Your risk of a thyroid disorder increases as you get older, and women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid problem than men. If you’re concerned, see your doctor.

Check your thyroid hormone levels at home with a simple blood spot test. #health #thyroid Click To Tweet

Concerned by any symptoms?

If any of the symptoms we’ve listed above ring true for you and you’d like to find out more, then see your local doctor.

If you’re concerned about any of the signs we’ve listed for thyroid disease, you can also do an easy at-home thyroid test. The MyHealthTest Thyroid (TSH) Test is a simple, fingerprick blood test that can be ordered online and done easily from home. You can discuss the results with your local doctor if you have any concerns.

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