Let’s not underestimate how difficult it is for you and for those around you, as you become tearful, snappy, less tolerant and less like yourself. “My Ever Changing Moods…” indeed they are. The Style Council song captures the emotional roller coaster experienced by many women, as moods swing erratically through peri-menopause and menopause.
Oestrogen works by blocking the breakdown of the happy hormone serotonin. As your perimenopause takes hold and oestrogen levels fall, the oestrogen receptors in the brain no longer do their job and serotonin levels drop. Add to this, the psychological, physical and emotional impact of other menopause symptoms, and your mood can start to dip. You feel more emotional, angry, irritable and overwhelmed. Some women’s own personal psychological history may make them more prone to the impact of fluctuating hormones on their moods.
The best ways to deal with menopause mood swings We think that mood swings are a chart-topping menopause symptom. You start to feel less like you. Your moods and manner can have an impact on your relationships across the board, with; partners, family, friends and work colleagues.
What to eat to help with mood swings
Let’s go Mediterranean The right diet may lessen the impact of some of the symptoms caused by hormone fluctuations. Certain foods are linked to good brain function, regulating blood sugars and raising serotonin levels, all of which may improve your mood. The healthy ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is loaded with nutrients, vitamins and omega 3, in fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish etc. Olive oil replaces unhealthy fats and processed food is off the menu. Research shows that this type of diet can lower levels of depression. Let the Mediterranean come to you.
Omega 3: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, tuna, sardines and tuna. Snack on pumpkin, chia and sesame seeds, walnuts and well, just about all nuts.
Calcium: milk, yogurt, sardines, leafy greens, broccoli. Magnesium: nuts, wholegrains and leafy green vegetables.
Tryptophan: bananas, walnuts, turkey, sunflower seeds, milk, eggs, cheese, brown rice, chicken and fish.
Essential Amino Acids: cheese, eggs, lean meat, fish, quinoa, soy products
B6 & 12 Vitamins: leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, salmon
Vitamin C: strawberries, oranges, kale, sprouts, broccoli,
Vitamin D: eggs, oily fish, fortified cereals and margarine and spreads.
Vitamin E: almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, broccoli, red peppers
Complex carbohydrates: brown rice, oats, whole-wheat breads & pasta, high fibre vegetables (beans & peas)
Chromium: whole wheat, oysters, eggs, meat, potatoes
Folic acid: leafy greens, lentils, citrus fruits, broccoli, bananas, peas, and beans.
Fibre rich foods: apples, kiwis, tomatoes, beetroot, red peppers Iodine: seaweed contains iodine, add it to smoothies, soups and salads, try Wakame from Tesco. Also, Nori, found around sushi rolls.
What to avoid to help with mood swings
Why Monster Munch won’t help It's a simple truth for lots of us; mood swings can make us over-eat the wrong foods. When you’re feeling down, will you reach for a comforting mouthful of Kale, a bag of Monster Munch or a comforting cookie? Those refined carbs; lovely soft white bread, pasta, chips and maybe your favorite guilty pleasure, savory brightly packaged fried corn snacks, contain trans fats and sodium, both substances to avoid. Refined carbs can cause a speedy increase in blood sugar levels causing high and low mood swings, weight gain and fatigue.
Alcohol An end of a day alcoholic drink feels good in the short term, but the flip side is that it can affect the quality of your much needed sleep, increasing the number of night sweats and your sense of anxiety. Alcohol lowers the levels of the mood regulating chemical serotonin.
Caffeine Ban If hormonal imbalance is causing your mood to swing, caffeine may exacerbate the problem. Eliminate or reduce caffeine intake. If you can’t go cold turkey, drink it as early as possible in the day so that it doesn’t scupper your chances of getting to sleep when you need to, further affecting the mood pendulum. Drink caffeine-free soft drinks and herbal teas; peppermint, chamomile, fennel.
Big Meals Eat smaller meals, regularly, to avoid the blood sugar fluctuations that may lead to mood swings, irritability or tearfulness. Eat lots of colourful food and banish the beige! These foods are more refined and processed.
Lifestyle & wellbeing to help with mood swings
Exercising for 30 minute periods releases endorphins, those potent feel good brain chemicals, that lift your mood. If you’re not one of life’s natural exercise lovers, it might be time to think about taking up a low impact activity. Cycling, yoga or even brisk walking could help you to feel more positive, manage your mood swings and be beneficial to your overall health.
Try a cold splash
Not for everyone, take a deep breath and consider cold water swimming. A survey in the Czech Republic found that daily swims increased the levels of testosterone and oestrogen levels in men and women. Cold water helps boost your immune system, helping to release dopamine and endorphins. Swimming in an outdoor pool, the open sea, or a lake could lift your mood. It’ll certainly wake you up!
Mindfulness and making time for you
A daily dose of mindfulness can help to train your mind to change the way you see things. Try the ‘Headspace’ App for a ‘healthier, happier and more enjoyable life using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques’. You may see how negative thinking influences your moods. If this isn’t for you make time each day that is just for you, where you can relax,
breath slowly and just be quiet for a few minutes.
Sleep If you’re getting poor quality sleep, interrupted by night sweats, insomnia or anxiety, it’s no surprise that you’re struggling to maintain an even mood. Try to follow the same bedtime routine throughout the week, avoiding late meals, caffeine and alcohol. Avoid catnaps late in the day to help you get the best quality sleep. Maybe take a warm bath and burn a sleep-inducing essential oil such as Vetiver Oil. Use calming techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness or visualisation to get to sleep or back to sleep.
Supplements worth trying for mood swings
It’s essential that you talk to your doctor as supplements may interact with other medications and/or have time limits as to how long you can take them for.
B vitamins: Especially B5 may help with production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and other stress-busting hormones.
Agnus Castus: for perimenopausal women, who have irregular periods and associated mood swings. - St. John's Wort: a popular choice for mood swings. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say that it has been shown to be ‘efficacious’ (their lovely word) in dealing with mild to moderate depression.
Valerian: a calming phytoestrogen, may balance hormones, helping you to sleep
Siberian Ginseng, Black Cohosh and Ashwagandha: these adaptogenic herbs containing phytoestrogens that may deal with the hormonal imbalance impacting on mood swings.
Passion flower: believed to help with sleep problems, anxiety and to regulate moods.
Menopause products may boost your mood. Try Wild Nutrition’s Botanical’s Menopause Complex, A.Vogel’s’ Menopause Support or Jan de Vries’ ‘Mood Essence Combination Flower Essence, or Menolife Day and Night.
Alternative help for mood swings
Acupuncture and Chinese Traditional medicine
The British Acupuncture Council say that acupuncture may help menopausal symptoms by regulating hormones, and raising endorphins for the feel-good factor. A practitioner will compile an individual treatment plan addressing your hormone imbalance. Many studies conclude that acupuncture has no discernible effect and that any benefits are purely a placebo effect. Who cares? If you feel better after treatment, you won’t care how it works just that it has.
Smells can be mood-enhancing, helping the brain to produce endorphins. Try these essential oils burnt in an oil burner, dropped onto a tissue, added to hot water to make a vapour or added to a bath to soothe and relax:
Lavender: calming properties may help enhance sleep and relaxation, soothe the mind and body. Frankincense: promotes relaxation and a sense of peace, satisfaction, and serenity. Good for anxiety Ylang Ylang: helps to reduce tension and stress Orange: potent, citrusy scent, may boost energy and lift mood
Vanilla: linked to reducing anxiety.
An aromatherapist or a reputable essential oils supplier will be able to advise you on the safest way to use these oils (many cannot be applied directly to the skin without being mixed with a base oil)
When to see your doctor about mood swings
If your mood swings are getting you down and affecting the quality of daily life, it may time for a chat with your doctor. Prescription medications including beta blockers and anti-depressants may be available to get you through this period.
CBT Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful for low moods triggered by menopause. The NICE position on CBT is that it ‘is an effective non-hormonal intervention for managing vasomotor symptoms’ (night sweats and hot-flushes) which may be a contributory factor in your mood swings. CBT aims to replace negative thought with positive ones, and includes counselling and advice on sleep and relaxation. A study published by the North American Menopause Society in 2013 found that self-help CBT ‘was as effective as 8 hours of group CBT’.
And there’s always HRT…
Debilitating mood swings are no joke. If your mood swings are caused by hormonal imbalance, HRT may help. You need to talk to your doctor about your options. As always the Positive Pause caveat, there are pros and cons to taking HRT.