The Emotional Impacts of Menopause
Michelle Dowker, MSc, ND
The hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause do not just affect the physical body. They affect the brain and emotions as well. The alterations in hormone levels during the peri and postmenopausal years can have a negative impact on emotions, leaving some women feeling depressed, anxious, and irritable.
Estrogen and progesterone receptors are located in the brain as well as the body, so hormone fluctuations that occur will not only affect the body, but can affect emotions, focus, and concentration, as well.
The Decline in Hormones and Emotions
Several years before the onset of menopause, the ovary begins to lose its ability to make estrogen and progesterone. This period of time is considered the peri-menopausal years and typically starts anywhere from 36-45 years of age.
This change in hormone production doesn’t happen steadily, and during this time hormone levels will fluctuate. Because there are estrogen and progesterone receptors in the brain, things like cognitive functioning and emotions are strongly affected.
What happens in the brain when the hormones decline is a disruption in the biochemical cascades that make up neurotransmitter pathways, such as the serotonin pathway, the norepinephrine pathway, and the GABAminergic pathway. These are brain pathways strongly associated with mood and emotions.
The result of the disruption of these pathways can include depressive symptoms, mood swings, irritability, and even anxiety. These changes can manifest as emotional highs and lows that are unrelated to what is going on around them. The ovaries sometimes produce too much hormone and, at other times, they produce too little. All of this affects the brain and its neurotransmitters.
Many women in the perimenopausal and menopausal years feel like nothing in life makes sense. One minute they find themselves crying uncontrollably while the next, they feel extremely angry for no reason. There can be an increase in premenstrual syndrome in the perimenopausal years as the ovaries struggle to keep up.
What to do about Menopausal Mood Swings
The first thing is to recognize that this is a normal physiological process and that you are not going crazy. You may feel crazy at times but this isn’t permanent and soon you will return to a normal state.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to combat these changes:
• Stress Management Techniques. Things like deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong can all reduce your perception of stress, which will have a positive effect on your emotions. As well, the production of stress hormone cortisol uses up pregnelolone, which is a biochemical precursor for both progesterone and cortisol. The more you’re able to keep cortisol production under control through stress management techniques, the more pregnelolone is available for progesterone production.
• Exercise. Regular exercise can reduce stress and can affect your emotions. Choose an exercise you like to do and that you can stick with for fifteen to thirty minutes at a stretch over most days of the week. Even mild to moderate exercise can improve sleep and can help you stave off mood swings.
• Sleeping. You need at least 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep in order to have a stable mood. This can be accomplished by maintaining a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep habits. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and comfortable. Keep the lights dim in the evening, and avoid electronics use for at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
• Bioidentical Hormones and natural supplements. This is a safe and gentle approach to increase and balance the level of hormones in your body. Speak to a qualified health practitioner such as Dr. Jay to see if bioidentical hormones or natural supplementation is right for you.
Not every woman experiences emotional changes as a result of menopause. If you find yourself with emotional changes in menopause that you can’t tolerate, try one of the tips above.
If you’re still struggling or would like personalized support or targeted supplementation, we’re here to help.
Dr. Jay has a special focus on providing effective supplement and bioidentical hormone support that can help you feel like you again.
Michelle provides personalized coaching to help you with stress and anxiety management and can help you troubleshoot and fine-tune your dietary and lifestyle choices to help you feel your best during this time of hormonal transition.
Click here to learn more about how we can help you feel like you again, only better!