That Moody Menopause

Navigate rough territory.

Turbulent times

Peri-menopausal and post-menopause is often accompanied with emotional turbulence, hot flushes and weight gain. Better understand the impacts of the swings in hormones and get the help you need to live a more balanced life.

Anxiety

Peri-menopausal anxiety or irritability can come from estrogen excess or progesterone drops. This imbalance in the two major female hormones can make some feel like they want to crawl out of their own skin. As a female ages, the number of eggs decline and it becomes more difficult to stimulate a follicle release. Repeated tries of stimulation means surges of estrogen, like rushes of waves hitting the shore then receding. The rise and fall of estrogen can allow adrenaline to build up and alter the serotonin balance. This often causes irritability, especially for those whom you love. Natural treatment includes supportive measures for estrogen clearance, homeopathy, progesterone building herbs, regular moderate exercise, a healthy diet and stress management.

Post-menopausal anxiety can also be a direct result of declining estrogen and progesterone. Because estrogen and progesterone contribute to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) synthesis and receptor activation, falling hormone levels can leave women in short supply of this calming neurotransmitter. Lower levels of estrogen also affect serotonin, another calming neurotransmitter associated with mood.

Fortunately there are many natural options that can help restore GABA levels within the brain. Isoflavones in soy, and coumarins red clover and flax act as mild phytoestrogens and they can help raise GABA levels when taken in supplemental form. New research in inositol, a form of B-vitamin shows positive relations to increased GABA.

Depression

In addition to anxiety, mood changes in menopause can also lean towards depressive states. Symptoms that suggest the need to modify the stress response include crying, fatigue, headaches, feeling overwhelmed or out of control, and difficulty sleeping. Adaptogenic herbs may be helpful to support the stress response. Estrogen interacts with the microbiome and changes suggest probiotic support may be helpful. Chinese and botanical medicine formulas that include nerviness, anxiolytics and antidepressants can be a helpful choice in treatment. Certainly, nutraceuticals may also be helpful to modulate levels of serotonin, GABA, and dopamine and thyroid hormone levels should also be monitored, especially if the periods that do occur, are heavy. Neurotransmitter hormones can be evaluated with take home urine tests called Organic Acid Tests (OATs). 

Rough territory

HOT flushes

Estrogen and serotonin interact at the vascular membranes to control sweating.  Flux in estrogen levels during menopause, together with elevated norepinephrine, may impact multiple components involved in maintaining temperature homeostasis. Women have found relief with a number of things: balancing formulas with estrogen and progesterone, phytoestrogens like soy and flax or evening primrose oil. Progesterone builders like sunflower and sesame seeds or the herbal vitex can also be helpful. Lots of green vegetables, adrenal health, inflammatory control and stress management are also critical in the role of hot flush reduction. Even the wise old sage has been known to help reduce the heat.

Insomnia and Weight Gain

Serotonin levels are lower when estrogen drops and this not only causes mood drop but also carb craving, insulin dysregulation, weight gain and insomnia.  Sleep loss alone can contribute to weight gain. Magnesium can be helpful, as well as eating well balanced, regular meals and practice good sleep hygiene. Regular weight bearing exercise, lower carbohydrate intake may be helpful. Thyroid levels need also be monitored. Finally, herbal formulas are also available that include the likes of hops, valerian, lavender, melatonin, passionflower, tryptophan, Chinese medicinal formulas and natural anti-inflammatories. It is best to consult an expert in natural medicine and hormone balance to find what is the best fit for you. Hormones may be evaluated in blood chemistry and dried urine analysis. Naturopathic doctors are well educated in laboratory analysis, hormone balance, acupuncture, plant medicine, nutraceuticals and lifestyle therapies.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace individual medical advice.

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND is a registered naturopathic doctor with a functional medicine approach.  She has advanced training in pharmaceuticals, is a certified HeartMath Practitioner and a Certified Gluten Free Practitioner  and holds the designation of ADAPT Trained Practitioner from Kresser Institute, the only functional medicine and ancestral health training company.

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