In the process of gradual, menopausal change, your hormone levels will rise and fall until they find a new equilibrium. During this time, your moods are likely to fluctuate, too – sometimes dramatically.
Mood swings, when emotions suddenly swing from a stable contentment to irritability, anxiety, and sometimes depression, are among the most common symptoms of menopause. Scientists believe that one reason for this might be that estrogen affects how serotonin (the feel-good hormone) operates in your body. When estrogen levels begin to fall, so levels of serotonin fall, leading to dips in mood. When estrogen levels rise again, so serotonin rises. In addition, blood-sugar imbalances and fatigue (perhaps as a result of night sweats) can also trigger dramatic shifts in emotions and temperament. Once your body’s estrogen levels have plateaued and you’ve reached menopause itself, mood usually levels out again.
For any symptom related to menopause, your doctor will typically recommend HRT. Although this can ease mood swings for some women, it can also cause them, along with a number of other side-effects and health risks. If your symptoms are extreme, your doctor may offer you antidepressant drugs.
Follow the hormone-balancing diet. Ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to ease symptoms of menopause by eating lots of fresh, unrefined foods. Follow all the dietary recommendations in natural menopause to make sure your hormones stay in balance, and – crucially – you keep your blood-sugar levels stable.
For mood swings, the following supplements are the most important of all the recommendations in the natural approach to menopause.
• B-complex (containing 25mg each B-vitamin, daily) The B-Vitamins work together to support the nervous system. They can help ease depression.
• Magnesium (300mg, daily) Known as “nature’s tranquillizer”, magnesium has a calming effect on the muscles and nervous system, helping to relax you.
• Omega-3 fatty acids (1,000mg fish oil, containing at least 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA, daily) EFAs are important for healthy brain function. (Use flax seed oil if you’re vegetarian).
• Agnus Castus (Vitex agnus castus) This herb helps ease tension and mood swings. It’s one of the best balancing herbs. Take 1 tsp. tincture in a little water, or 200-300mg in capsule form, twice daily.
• St John’s Wort This herb is a well-known antidepressant for moderate depression. Take 1 tsp. tincture in a little water, three times daily; or 300mg in capsule form, two or three times daily.
• Siberian Ginseng This herb helps combat the effects of stress on your mood. Take 1 tsp. tincture in a little water, or 300mg in capsule form, twice daily.
Other Natural Treatments
Massage, meditation, yoga, reflexology, and acupuncture are all natural therapies that have had good amounts of success at combating mood swings. See registered practitioners in each field to talk about the possibilities. In the meantime, try the following therapies at home.
Homeopathy It is recommended that you see a registered homeopath to tailor your treatment to your constitution, but in the meantime try Bryonia, Lachesis, and Sepia (all at 30c, twice daily), which are often advised for mood swings.
Aromatherapy The best essential oils for leveling out mood swings are clary sage and geranium. Add about seven drops of each to your bath. If you’re feeling down, lavender, bergamot, Roman or German chamomile, and rose can all help boost mood. Add a few drops of each to your bath water or use them in massage. Make sure you dilute the oils in a carrier, such as sweet almond, before applying them.
How to avoid comfort eating
It’s very easy during this transitional period in your life to reach for comforters to help you feel secure. For some people, comforters may be supportive cuddies from a loved one; for others a comforter may be doing the gardening. For many women, though, food seems an instant fix. There’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you don’t’ have food cravings for under-nutritious foods.
Problems with food occur when your body and brain don’t communicate effectively and the brain doesn’t produce enough “calming” chemicals to satisfy food cravings. Put simply, your brain dictates what foods you crave. However, although brain chemicals play a part.
Psychological factors are also important. Many women eat when they feel lonely, angry, sad, or even happy. Food is seen as both a comfort and a reward. If you’re a comfort eater, it’s import to:
• Know your triggers: Do you eat when you’re sad, lonely, or bored? Look at what else you could substitute instead of food. Find a new hobby, phone a friend, read a book, or busy yourself with some DIY.
• Don’t link food and certain activities: Do you automatically open the fridge when you get home or reach for a packet of crisps when you watch TV? Awareness of what you’re doing and when is the key. Think, stop, and ask yourself if you really need to eat right now.
• Go for unrefined complex carbohydrates: Found in rice, potatoes, millet, wheat, rye, oats, and barley, these can help keep your blood-sugar levels balanced, so you don’t get food cravings.
• Eat little and often: If you leave a large time lapse between meals, your blood-sugar levels drop and your brain triggers food cravings.
• Be realistic: as long as the main foundation of your nutrition is good, it’s fine to treat yourself now and again to chocolate or foods you might consider “naughty”. If you deny yourself, you’re more likely to end up comfort eating.