For the majority of women transitioning into menopause, moods can be a struggle. It is more prevalent with women who have a history of anxiety or depression but it can affect anyone.
Mental health concerns in women tend to peak in puberty and again in peri-menopause. Common feelings include being angry, feeling unable to cope, anxiety, irritability, feeling isolated, depression, being tearful, feeling flat, and being unable to enjoy life. That doesn't sound like much fun.
This article will discuss a few hints and tips to help you enjoy life again but I also want to encourage you to reach out for extra help if you need it. There is no shame in seeing a counselor or psychologist. Most of us use coaches of some kind and it seems only logical to also have a mental health coach on your team.
Mood changes are more frequent in peri-menopause as ovulation has stopped or is reducing, the act of ovulation produces progesterone. Progesterone is converted to allopregnanolone in the brain and this is known for its calming, anti-anxiety and memory enhancing effects. Another problem is that estrogen modulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, and a decrease in estrogen can cause your moods to come crashing down. But the reverse is also true, serotonin can increase estrogen levels and this is why anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed in menopause.
Have you heard of the gut-brain axis? This is the connection between what you eat and how you feel. The biological signals that take place between your gut and the central nervous system. Did you realise your digestive system actually makes the majority of your neurotransmitters? The ones involved with your mood include serotonin, GABA, noradrenaline, dopamine, glutamine, and acetylcholine. Serotonin has been coined your "feel-good" hormone and 90% of it is produced in your digestive system. Therefore digestive issues can reduce the amount of serotonin available from our gut and this can change your mood. Just to complicate things there is also a Brain-Gut axis, this is where your thoughts affect your digestive function. Most of us have at some point have experienced butterflies before an important event or even had diarrhea. This is a 2-way street.
You need to consider your diet. If you need more information about dietary changes I have previously written many articles on diet for menopause and this one is the best one to start with. Click here. Once you have cleaned up your diet I would consider adding in a mood specific probiotic. Alternatively names psychobiotic. They are a family of probiotics that enhance the gut-brain axis and specifically improve mood.
Mood changes can be thought of as a brain on "FIRE". Quinolinate is a direct marker of brain inflammation. It can be tested for in an organic acids test, also called an OAT test. This is a functional test and is only available from Naturopaths or other Functional Doctors. Quinolinate is known to cause mood disorders, fatigue, sleep, withdrawal, absent libido, appetite changes, cognition issues, and an inability to experience joy. If your levels are high, your brain is definitely on fire! This kind of mood disorder does not respond to traditional antidepressant medication. Instead, it needs an anti-inflammatory solution, you better call the fire department. I often use fish oil and herbs in this case. My favourite herbs for this situation are turmeric and saffron but not in food form as it's so poorly absorbed, I use high dose therapeutic strength supplements. These herbs both put out the fire and protect the brain from the flames.
Another functional test worth considering is an HTMA or a hair tissue mineral analysis. This checks for toxic metal contamination and mineral imbalances. The key mineral imbalance I think about with menopausal moods is your zinc to copper ratio. Issues with this ratio are linked to depression, social withdrawal, anxiety, and memory issues. Toxic metals can also change moods. Just think about mercury and the mad hatter!
If you are struggling with moods its so important to get outside and get moving. There is no pill that can improve your moods like a walk outside in nature with the fresh air and sunshine. For other lifestyle tips to improve your mood, click here.
I tell my women to turn off the news, stop watching, listening or reading all the bad news happening in the world. It's time to bombard yourself with inspiration, joy, and happiness. That can be listening to music that brings you joy, watching uplifting documentaries or even funny animal clips.
Additional herbal medicines to consider for menopausal moods include:
* Kava - this herb helps with stress, anxiety, and insomnia
* Lavender - helps with relaxation, sleep, and headaches
* Motherwort - if you are also experiencing cardiovascular symptoms with your anxiety
* Passionflower - anxiety, headaches and nerve pain
* Lemon balm - anxiety with digestive upsets
* St John Wort - this is the big gun for depression, but it can also be used for anxiety, nerve pain, viral infections, and insomnia. Warning it interacts with several prescription medications so speak to a practitioner before starting it.
* Black Cohosh - can reduce anxiety and depression when related to hormonal changes. It's one of the specific menopause mood herbs I use.
* Valerian - reduces anxiety and improves sleep.
* Zizyphus - one of my favourite anxiety herbs. It may also reduce menopausal symptoms such as night sweats.
* Oat - if your depression is accompanied with exhaustion
* Rosemary - depression, mental impairment, and headache
* Rhodiola - stress and mental fatigue
* Rehmannia - stress, anxiety, memory, and fatigue
* Skullcap - depression, insomnia, headache and nerve pain
* Withania - my ultimate chill out herb. Great for stress, especially if also exhausted.
I'm providing this information not so you can self prescribe but to let you know there are healthier, safer and effective options out there to help manage your menopausal moods. If you would like to try one of these options you can book an online appointment with one of our practitioners or you can look for a Naturopath or Medical herbalist in your area.