Many women notice that feeling stressed triggers their hot flushes. This occurs as the adrenal gland produces extra stress hormones. Cortisol, adrenaline (ephedrine) and noradrenaline (norephedrine). The stress hormone I'm going to focus on today is noradrenaline. But before we move on to talk about that, you should also be aware that the adrenal gland takes over the production of your reproductive hormones after your ovaries hit retirement age. An overworked adrenal gland is going to prioritise the production of stress hormones over the production of estrogen.
Noradrenaline helps to regulate body temperature. It regulates body temperature by narrowing the thermoneutral zone. If your temperature moves above the upper threshold of the thermoneutral zone you still start sweating, if it goes below this threshold you start shivering. So, the more stressed you are, the more noradrenalin you produce and the narrower your symptom-free zone is. The more prone to flushing and shivering you are. Hence the hot, cold movement in menopause, jacket on-jacket off syndrome. Noradrenaline is a fight or flight hormone. In the short-term, it can help you escape a life or death situation, but in the long-term, it shuts down maintenance of your body and is linked with insomnia, loss of libido, digestive issues, lower resistance to infection, slower healing times, depression and addictions.
Enter serotonin (the happy hormone); this neurotransmitter works in opposition to noradrenaline. It increases the thermoneutral zone and reduces hot flushes. It is also involved with regulating mood, digestion, sleep, memory, and libido.
Estrogen increases serotonin levels and when estrogen drops so does serotonin, and this can increase most of the symptoms of menopause and not just temperature control. This is why anti-depressant use seems to be all the rage in treating menopause these days. And I agree, it is an option, but not the first option in my opinion, as it has lots of possible side-effects and it’s very hard to wean off afterward. Especially when there are other ways to increase serotonin levels with stress management techniques, such as exercise, massage, acupuncture, breathe work and meditation.
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