The Menopause FAQ: Blog 3
Over the next few blogs I am going to have a look at the wide array of symptoms that can be linked to the menopause and peri-menopause. This week I’m discussing mood issues, including mood swings, low mood and anxiety: the hormonal causes, and the natural remedies which can help.
The Hormonal Causes of Mood swings, Low Mood & Anxiety
For more information on the hormonal cycle, refer to my ‘Introduction to the Hormonal Cycle’ earlier in this series.
Oestrogen has a natural anti-depressant action, whilst progesterone is known to have calming effects. This means that as the levels of these hormones drop women lose those anti-depressant and calming benefits. This can result in the mood symptoms which are associated with the menopause & peri-menopause.
Natural Remedies to support Mood Issues
If accompanied by other hormonal symptoms…
During the Peri-Menopause:
The herb Agnus Castus may be helpful, particularly if there are heavy or painful periods. Agnus Castus is a traditional herbal remedy which is used for the relief of pre-menstrual symptoms, including mood swings, irritability, bloating and cramps. It is thought that Agnus Castus helps by increasing LH and Progesterone production.
During the Menopause:
Red Clover or Soya Isoflavones may be helpful. Red clover & soya both contain isoflavones, which are often referred to as ‘phyto-oestrogens’. This is because they have the same chemical structure as oestrogen, so can sit on the oestrogen receptor sites in the body. This action allows phyto-oestrogens basically to ‘con’ the body into believing that oestrogen levels are higher than they are, which can put a stop to uncomfortable symptoms. It is important to note that phyto-oestrogens are NOT actually oestrogen, and are NOT linked with an increased risk of hormonal cancers.
If not accompanied by other hormonal symptoms…
Low mood may be helped by taking St Johns Wort, which is a traditional herbal medicine used for low mood and mild anxiety. (It is important to note that St John’s Wort should not be taken alongside conventional anti-depressants or The Pill or HRT.)
- 5-HTP offers an alternative to St John’s Wort. 5-HTP is used by the brain to make serotonin, so may help to increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is one of our ‘feel good’ chemicals, so increasing serotonin may help lift the mood.
Anxiety and worry may be helped by botanical ingredients such as Passiflora, Lemon Balm & Avena Sativa. Each of these herbs has been used to support people with anxiety and can help to promote feelings of relaxation.
Poor sleep may be helped by the herb Valerian. Valerian is a traditional herbal medicine which is used to promote a better night’s sleep. Valerian helps to increase the production of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps people to feel more relaxed – thus making it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Mood Swings & Brain Fog:
This problem can actually be helped by a combination of specific good bacteria and B Vitamins.
The specific good bacteria which will help include: Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria Bifidum. These strains have all been extensively researched for their action on mood and memory.
The B Vitamins which would be particularly helpful include B6, B12 and Folic Acid – nutrients which are all involved in homocysteine metabolism. Raised levels of homocysteine are linked with depression, anxiety and memory issues, which is why these 3 B vitamins are so important. Vitamin B5 can also be supportive, as it plays a role in mental performance and assists in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
In our next blog in this series we will look at vaginal dryness.
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)