Did you know that irritability is a classic symptom of depression … If you suspect depression and you live in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Milton, Burlington, Hamilton or Niagara, you might consider our advanced clinical nutrition approach.

Irritability tends to reveal itself in situations where there is emotional ‘rigidity’ or the lack of emotional expression.

Irritability can be mild in nature and or it can be severe and interfere with your daily activities.  In some cases it can be extreme and lead to outbursts of anger.  Irritability is often a sign that you are not coping well in life.  A surprising number of mood disorder patients report irritability as a chief complaint.  Irritability is also common in males that do not freely disclose their emotions.  It is also a sign of stress and is commonly seen in PTSD.  Often we also see kids with depression reporting irritability rather than sadness as the chief complaint

Nutrient Correlates of Irritability


Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is associated with irritability, agitation, ADHD (hyperactivity, reduced attention), reduced self-control, hair-trigger stress release, sleep problems, heart disease, depression, menopause symptoms, PMS, increased urinary frequency, and shortness of breath.

Magnesium is a calming nutrient that tames excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and NMDA receptor associated pathways.  With over 300 functions in the body, magnesium is involved in neutralizing homocysteine and also works at the COMT gene level to prevent norepinephrine accumulation which can make you feel stressed out.

Magnesium is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world.  Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, rice, beans, nuts, chocolate, fish, avocado, bananas, soy, and yoghurt.


Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

In hypoglycemia, we often see: 1) irritability when hungry; 2) tiredness after meals; and 3) feeling better after venting emotions.

High quality protein at mealtime is good because it provides us with an even supply of glucose to the brain, the lack of which can cause mood lability, behavior vacillation and in severe cases, perceptual dysfunction.  Erratic or criminal behavior is often associated with hypoglycemia, especially when heavy metals are present.

The sugar mentality is a dietary mindset that is maintained by a large number of North Americans who crave high carbohydrate low protein foods (junk food, fast food, cane sugar, etcetera).


Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are damaging to brain cells and result in behavior and mood dysfunction.  Mercury and Lead are top among the heavy metal exposures seen in clinical practice.

Mercury exposure in humans is associated with irritability, nervousness, poor memory, anxiety, depression, ADD, OCD, and psychosis or schizophrenia.  Mercury can cause rapid fatigue, headaches, migraines, nausea, stomach aches, general decline in well-being, weight loss, increased susceptibility to allergic reactions, and infections (secondary to associated zinc deficiency).

Sources of mercury include dental amalgams, broken thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, exposed fish, animals and plants, and thiomersal from some vaccines and flu shots.

Lead exposure is associated with irritability, learning difficulty, poor appetite, indigestion, colic, weight loss, fatigue and sluggishness (‘leaden’ feeling), sleep disturbance, anemia / pallor, kidney damage, bone pain, blood vessel spasms accompanied by nausea, disturbances in vision and hearing, optic nerve damage, and abdominal pain.

Sources of lead include paints, print colors, rust protectant, leaded gasoline, automobile emissions, lead batteries, leaded glass, lead alloys, and drinking water in houses with old water pipes.

Heavy metal removal is best accomplished by boosting thyroid function in advance of metal elimination.



MindCheck provides in-depth information on Orthomolecular and Naturopathic approaches to achieving general and mental health.  Clinical approaches are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.  This series by Dr. Ray Pataracchia ND is endorsed by the Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’.

Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment.  We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.