Expert Advice

How Can I Feel Less Irritable?

It may be more than the hot weather that’s shortening your fuse. Three integrative experts share refreshing solutions.

How Can I Feel Less Irritable?
Pin it Martha Rich

A naturopath says: Food allergies may trigger irritability. When you’re allergic to a certain food, the body releases histamine, which can make you feel stuffed up and cranky. Even a sensitivity to a specific food can make your blood sugar levels rise more quickly, creating agitation. Treatment: The best way to find out if particular foods bother you is to go on an elimination diet. For two weeks, avoid anything suspicious, as well as wheat, dairy, corn, soy, nightshade vegetables, citrus and meat. Then reintroduce the targeted foods for one or two days, a little bit at every meal, and see if there is a reaction. During the summer, we tend to feel best when we eat cooling foods (think salads and fruits). Big, heavy meals slow digestion, which can also make you feel tired and cranky. — Paul Anderson, N.D., faculty member at Bastyr University’s School of Natural Medicine in Kenmore,Wash.

An integrative doctor says: The hormones at play in both premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) often cause irritability. The more physical symptoms associated with the onset of PMS, such as back pain, bloating and cramping, can make you grumpy. PMDD makes you more sensitive to everything—noise, emotions—adding to your short fuse. Treatment: In addition to regular exercise and relaxation practices, supplements can make a difference in your mood. Vitamin B6 is an antistress vitamin; take 50 to 100 milligrams a day to get on a more even keel. St. John’s wort (take 300 to 600 milligrams three times daily) or the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (take 200 to 300 milligrams in divided doses of 100 milligrams) are also effective remedies. — Shelley Wroth, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. 

An Ayurvedic doctor says: In Ayurveda, there are three doshas—vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth)—that govern everyone and everything. During summer months (pitta time of year), these doshas can get imbalanced; this is especially true for those with predominantly pitta traits. A person’s internal heat, combined with the weather, can produce inflammation in the body, causing irritation. Treatment: First, look at your lifestyle. Pittas tend to overextend themselves—a recipe for burnout. Second, choose cooling drinks, such as coconut water, and mint, chamomile and lemon balm teas. Sitali breathing can also help: Make an “O” shape with your mouth and curl your tongue, inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose. Do this for two to five minutes a day. — Hilary Garivaltis, dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, Mass