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Easily irritated? Here’s what could be causing it

Last updated on October 27th, 2022

When we get irritated, we tend to look externally for answers. We blame our particularly challenging day, the extra hour we spent stuck in traffic or our partner or children leaving their belongings all over the floor for us to pick up. Yet, the truth is, if it were these things that were irritating, everyone would react exactly the same way and that is just not the case. We are all irritated by different things and have an individual level of tolerance before irritation kicks in. This is, in part, due to our natural temperament, yet there are biochemical, emotional and nutritional factors that may influence it.

If you’re finding yourself snapping at loved ones more often than usual or have noticed your patience is wearing thinner than it used to, here are five things that may be playing a part.

1. Sex Hormonal Imbalance

If your crabbiness coincides with the lead up to your period, your sex hormone balance could be the culprit. Irritability is a well-known symptom associated with our menstrual cycle. It can follow us into our perimenopausal and menopausal years too as low progesterone levels (which are common across all life stages once menstruation has commenced) are often at the heart of it. Sex hormone imbalances are usually fairly easy to rectify through nutritional and lifestyle changes alone.

If you suspect your sex hormones may be out of balance (and if you regularly experience menstrual or menopausal symptoms that’s an indication they are), start by reflecting on your stress levels. If you identify as ‘stressed’ or ‘anxious’ adopt lifestyle changes that help to support your nervous system. This may look like making more space in your schedule for rest or relaxation time, saving your perception of pressure and urgency for when you really need it, considering whether your meaning maker is running rampant or adding in a daily breathwork or meditation practice. Some women may also benefit from additional medicinal herbal support while others will need to significantly reduce stress levels before they will see any results. 

2. A Sluggish Liver

An overwhelmed liver is generally the result of consuming too many “liver loaders” (alcohol, trans fats, refined sugars and synthetic substances) and a lack of nutrients to keep up with the load. I have also met countless people who have not consumed much in the way of liver loaders yet have diabolical menstrual cycles/menopausal symptoms or an ongoing challenge with irritable bowel syndrome or constipation, and often exhibit what I consider to be distinct signs that their liver needs support. Passing clots while menstruating is a classic sign of liver congestion, as are many skin conditions, elevated cholesterol, poor sleep, easily bloating or overheating, a short fuse, bad temper and gritty, impatient behaviour.

Thankfully, the liver is a highly resilient organ that responds well to small adjustments. The best way to support your liver is to decrease your intake of liver loaders while increasing your intake of whole real foods, particularly bitter greens which the liver loves. For more, read this article on how to care for your liver.

3. Unspoken Needs

Bottled up or unexpressed emotions and needs can come out as snappy, irritable behaviour. Maybe you feel unappreciated or undervalued for all you do. Perhaps you feel as though you could use more support. Often we expect loved ones to know what our needs are without us having to communicate them. In some circumstances this may be true, yet expressing to those around us what we need is often the only way to ensure they understand what is important to us. Consider whether there is an unmet need within you that is contributing to your irritability and share it with whoever needs to hear it.

4. Too Flexible Boundaries

If you say yes when you really want to say no or just generally aren’t firm enough with your boundaries, it can lead to a resentment that can show up as irritation. Often, we are more irritated with ourselves for not being stronger with our boundaries, yet we project that anger at those around us. You will know in your heart whether you could benefit from strengthening your boundaries. This article may help.

5. Poor Sleep

Nothing tickles our irritation bone quite like fatigue. Sleep is a biological human need and without 7-8 hours of consistent, quality sleep, it will begin to take a toll on our health and energy. If you have been trying to squeeze too much into your day and cutting into your sleep time, or if your sleep is not restorative due to regular wake ups (for reasons other than small children which is something beyond our ability to change) or trouble falling asleep, it may be time to focus on improving your sleep. Start with these supportive sleep hygiene habits.

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