Mood swings are very common for women going through the menopause. Many women start to feel low, a little sad and tearful. They can also feel that they have less control in their lives and can start to feel very irritable. Couple these feelings with the everyday stresses of modern life and you can understand why many women report that they no longer recognise who they have become. And they really find this symptom one of the most debilitating ones to deal with.
So, why does this happen?
During the perimenopausal years, oestrogen levels start to fluctuate and eventually decline. And oestrogen plays an important role in regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin which is associated with mood. With lower levels of oestrogen, it becomes more difficult for you to produce and uptake serotonin. This is because one of the roles of oestrogen is to stop the breakdown of serotonin, your happy hormone. And if the oestrogen receptors in your brain can no longer do this, your serotonin levels drop, and you start to experience low mood and mood swings.
In addition, during this time progesterone levels drop away. And progesterone helps to keep you calm and so low levels can contribute to you feeling just not like yourself.
And of course, there are all the other menopause symptoms such as sleepless nights, hot flushes and low libido which also contribute to feelings of sadness and irritability.
Once you are aware that this is the root cause of your moods, then it is possible to do something about it.
Talk to your doctor about HRT
For many women, HRT will be beneficial. This is because HRT will help to rebalance your oestrogen levels. If you prefer a more complementary therapy, herbal remedies may be useful too. St John’s Wort has been shown to be helpful for mood swings. But as it can interact with other medicines, it should only be taken under the guidance of a professional.
But it is also possible to support and improve these feelings of low mood and emotions all over the place through lifestyle and dietary interventions.
Get out and exercise
Try and get daily exercise into your weekly routine. Exercise is a great way of lifting your mood. It releases endorphins and other feel good chemicals from the brain which just make you feel so much better and less irritable, tearful and grumpy all round.
Consider taking some supplements
Magnesium is known to relax the muscles and can help with mood, relaxation and sleep. Vitamin D is particularly important if you don’t get a lot of sunshine. It helps with low mood.
And B vitamins are good for brain function, mental sharpness and mood.
Ditch the sugar
Avoid foods such as alcohol and sugar which send you on the blood sugar roller coaster and can increase mood swings. Instead include protein and healthy fat in every meal to keep your blood sugars and mood stable.
Alcohol can also act as a depressant and interrupt sleep which is not what you need when you’re already feeling a little low.
Get enough sleep
If you are not getting enough sleep, then mood swings and irritability may increase. Try and establish a good night time routine. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, switch off gadgets a couple of hours before you go to bed and keep the room cool and dark.
Eat hormone loving foods every day
A portion of food high in phytoestrogens will help to regulate oestrogen levels and manage some of the symptoms. Good examples include soya, flax seeds, chickpeas and lentils. These will help to increase oestrogen levels and reduce symptoms.
Also include some cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cabbage. These will help to breakdown and eliminate your hormones effectively.
Learn to relax
Research has shown that daily relaxation in the form of meditation or similar can help to reduce symptoms very quickly. It will reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and in turn improve your mood and make you less tearful.
The good news is that mood swings are generally only temporary. And once hormones have re stabilised over a period of time, they tend to fade away. But as this can sometimes take a few years, it’s certainly worth being proactive during your perimenopause to reduce them as much as possible during this time.
If you would like some more personalised support for your hormonal health during your peri and menopause, then do drop me a line. I would love to help. It would certainly worth getting your sex hormones tested to understand whether low levels of oestrogen and progesterone are contributing to your mood swings and making you tearful. And once you know the root cause, it’s possible to plan a protocol which is right for you.