Article by Dr Marion Gluck
Dr Marion Gluck, founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic, explores the link between mental health and hormones, and while for women going through the menopause feeling low can be a common symptom, it doesn’t need to be the case!
Whilst it is completely normal that everyone has moments that they feel low or down, especially if they are dealing with difficult circumstances or events, it is important to make the distinction between this and depression. The latter is a condition which requires appropriate treatment and is a state of ongoing low mood irrespective of circumstances that can lead to feelings of pessimism, despair and an inability to cope. Those who suffer from depression find that it often affects many areas of their lives, interfering with their ability to work, sleep, eat well and enjoy activities which they would otherwise find fun or pleasurable.
During perimenopause and menopause, levels of estrogen, testosterone and progesterone decline and eventually cease production. As all three hormones improve mood, the decline in production during this time in a woman’s life can bring about low mood and depression. Some women may also experience other psychological side effects of perimenopause and menopause, such as ‘brain fog’ (mental confusion), forgetfulness and increased anxiety, which may contribute to the severity of depression.
Hormones when well-balanced control every function in the body; from sleep, metabolism, fertility, energy, weight management, moods and intellect, just to name a few. However, hormones in disarray cause havoc in our life, from symptoms of premenstrual tension such as mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain and fatigue to the extremes of post-natal depression, severe anxiety and panic disorder to paranoia and psychosis.
At the Marion Gluck Clinic, we see many patients going through perimenopause and menopause who have been diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication such as antidepressants by their GP or a mental health specialist. But low mood around the time of menopause is very likely to be hormonal. In some cases – usually where there is no prior history of depression – antidepressants may not be the most effective treatment. A lot of women going through perimenopause and menopause are misdiagnosed with depression and can feel a lot better on bioidentical hormones treatment.
Although antidepressants regulate certain hormones that affect mood, they do not address the hormones associated with perimenopause or menopause. Essentially, taking antidepressants during this life stage would be like taking a painkiller for a sore throat during a bout of flu – you would be treating the symptom, rather than the cause.
Nutrition to help boost low moods
Serotonin makes us happy and reduces anxiety, grief and hunger. We can boost our serotonin levels by adding more foods containing l-tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin.
Oats with their complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre can slow the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream and increase serotonin. Cacao can help stimulate the brain into releasing neurotransmitters, which can in turn release feel-good hormones, including phenylethylamine (PEA), a compound more commonly known as the ‘love drug’ thanks to the feeling of calm it invokes. PEA can also help to enhance mental focus and concentration, counter depression and anxiety and improve our moods in general. On top of its PEA levels, cacao is packed with l-tryptophan. Do not get mixed up with cacao and cocoa! Cocoa is cacao (usually in powder form) that is roasted at high temperature and this reduces the enzyme content which lowers the overall nutritional value.
Brazil nuts are loaded with selenium. Research has shown a connection between low selenium levels and depression, making brazil nuts a perfect snack for anyone with a low mood. Bananas are packed with l-tryptophan and B6 (B vitamins support the breakdown of stress hormones and the build-up of serotonin). As stress will deplete the body’s potassium reserves, the potassium found in a banana can provide a boost that can actually lower stress. Milk and yogurt both contain vitamin D and yogurt is high in protein and calcium, which can also ease anxiety and mood swings.
How to treat menopausal depression with BHRT?
In order to treat someone suffering from menopausal depression using bioidentical hormone replacement a full patient history is the first step. This includes appropriate tests to discover whether a hormone imbalance could indeed be the cause of a patient’s depression. If this is diagnosed as being the case, a bespoke treatment plan of bioidentical hormones can then be prescribed along with appropriate support and participation from the patient.
Felling low for long periods of time is not normal and no woman should have to just make do because of the menopause, take some time out to understand your hormones. Make them your allies and learn how to balance them and optimise your mental health and physical wellbeing, and if this doesn’t improve things, seek help. Feeling well and happy is your right, make sure you get the help you need.
Dr. Marion Gluck
Dr. Marion Gluck has gained global acclaim for her work in women’s health and bioidentical hormone balancing therapy which can help reduce menopause and perimenopause symptoms. The Marion Gluck Clinic is the UK’s leading medical clinic that pioneered the use of bioidentical hormones to restore and maintain optimal health and hormone balance for patients. Headed up by Dr. Marion Gluck herself, the clinic uses her pioneering method of bioidentical hormonal treatment to rebalance hormones to improve wellbeing, quality of life and slow down ageing.