Menopause Transition, Mood and Food
“The woman in menopause, who is becoming the queen of herself, finds herself at a crossroads of life, torn between the old way she has always known and a new way she has just begun to dream of” From a new path another voice beckons, imploring her to explore aspects of herself that have been dormant during her years of caring for others and focusing on their needs She is preparing to give birth to herself, and as many women already know, the birth process cannot be halted without consequences”. Christiane Northrup
This can be in essence a positive time in a woman’s life from this perspective. However, the menopause can for some women be a very daunting and a stressful experience. Oestrogen and progesterone fluctuations can bring about changes in mood, bring about identify crisis and uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
However, it does not need to be this way. These symptoms and mood changes can be lessened if we learn how to manage our stress levels with food sources and relaxation practices.
One organ that is worthy of note and is relied heavily upon during the menopause is the adrenals (tiny organs that sit on top of the kidneys. The main role of your adrenals is to help your mind and body cope with stress amongst other functions. During the menopause, your ovaries start to produce less progesterone and oestrogen. It is a subtle dance and a seesaw effect between progesterone and oestrogen.
The ovaries will eventually stop producing oestrogen and progesterone and the adrenals is the back up. - 15% of females oestrogen and progesterone will be produced by the adrenals. It is important to support your stress levels as the adrenals are compensating.
Oestrogen and progesterone can affect mood. Why? One particular reason is that Oestrogen is important in the production of Serotonin. Serotonin is what is called a happy hormone, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger). Therefore, if oestrogen is fluctuating and when low, this equates to low serotonin. Oestrogen is strongly connected to serotonin because oestrogen is necessary for the manufacturing of serotonin in the brain. Low serotonin can disturb mood, appetite, sleep patterns and can be a factor in depression. Serotonin also produces Melatonin (sleep hormone). Therefore during the menopause phase sleep can be very much disturbed. Serotonin also helps support healthy eating and digestion. Impaired serotonin has also been linked to panic attacks and anxiety also.
Progesterone also has a calming effect on the brain and helps to enhance your memory. Progesterone in the right balance is also attributed to a feeling of tranquil well-being, a sense of well-being. Progesterone also has a sedative effect, not drowsy, more of a relaxed but tuned in and aware feeling.
Another chemical messenger called Dopamine, is controlled by oestrogen. Therefore, low dopamine with fluctuating oestrogen can affect our memory causing forgetfulness and lack of motivation and focus.
What steals Progesterone ? – Stress
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and when you feel anxious and fearful, your adrenals produce cortisol, and cortisol is known as the progesterone steal. Therefore it is vital to manage stress well to support this transition.
What can we do about this.?
How can we support the adrenals ?
Vitamin C: WHY – It is needed to produce adrenal hormones. The more you experience stress, the greater vitamin C is utilised.
Food sources; Strawberries, Parsley, Blackcurrants, Lemons, Kale, Pineapple, Oranges, Kiwi, Brussel sprouts, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, fresh Thyme, Biona Organic Acerola Cherry Pure Pressed Juice, (too much however can cause bowel disturbance – diarrhoea), goji berries, pineapples, grapefruit, mango, cranberries
Iodine: in moderation can help balance oestrogen
Food sources; Kelp and wakame (seaweeds), cod, shrimp, Himalayan salt
Boron: is a mineral – essential to balance Oestrogen.
Food sources; Apples, pears avocado, chia seeds, dried apricots, chickpeas, prunes
Magnesium: a mineral (a spark plug for your adrenals). It is reduced by the adrenals and our cells during times of stress. It helps with relaxation to help switch on what is called your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The feeling of relaxation, calmness and safety.
Food Sources; brown rice, sea veggies (seaweed, such as – nori, edible seaweed used as a wrap for sushi), dulse comes in flakes and you can add to other foods., Kelp (kombu – dried snacks and in flakes and powders that you can add to smoothies and drinks or used as stock powder for soups) watercress, spinach, kale, dill, coriander, almonds, avocados, dark chocolate (cacao), flaxseed, bananas, artichokes, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, cashew nuts, brazil nuts
Good fats: Why – Fats support absorption of certain vitamins such as ADEK, these help your hormones function adequately. Your brain contains up to 60% fat. This is important as your brain manufactures hormones (neurotransmitters) and instructs your hormone pathways.
Food Sources; Chia Seeds, flaxseeds, Olive oil, coconut oil, oysters, walnuts, salmon, pumpkin seeds, wakame (on salads or soups), mackerel, avocado, nut butter, salmon.
B vitamins are used up when you are feeling stressed very quickly or in long term stress and play a part in feelings of anxiety, sleep, depression, energy. B vitamins are vital to support the adrenals, however, Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5) is essential to support the stress response. It can help with staying energised and support memory and the ability to focus. B3 is also vital to support the adrenals. B3 can also help with fatigue, anxiety and poor sleep patterns.
B5: - Food sources; Sweet potato, cauliflower, Shitake Mushroom, sweet potato, cauliflower & broccoli, Split peas, egg yolk, lentils, Raw honey (contains an array of B vitamins)
B3: – Food sources; Nutritional Yeast, (teaspoon), food based, Hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, chicken breast, turkey, brown rice, quiona, liver.
Calcium: Low levels of calcium can affect your mood, anxiety, mood swings, and impact on your sleep pattern.
Food sources; Cabbage, Oats, Salmon, Almonds, Asparagus, Dandelion green, Yoghurt
Cacao powder (natural chocolate)- is a superfood, not the confectionary unnatural form, Kale, Broccoli, almond milk, sesame seeds, dried figs
Vitamin D: Your body relies on magnesium to make Vitamin D absorbable and the body cannot absorb calcium from food or supplements without adequate intake of vitamin D.
Food sources; Wild caught salmon, Mackerel. Shitaike and Portobello mushrooms, herring, sardines, Cod liver oil supplements, egg yolk, beef liver, trout, tuna, egg yolks
Caffeine: Replace caffeine consumption with herbal teas, to minimise stress on the adrenals, such as skullcap tea, oatstraw, aniseed, white tea, Lemon balm, Chamomile, Marshmallow, Caffeine also robs the body of magnesium affecting mood.
If we can master relaxation by supporting the adrenals through food sources it can harness a gentle transition. The Menopause stage in a woman’s life in modern medicine is viewed as a negative phase in decline and an illness as opposed to a natural process. In contrast to naturopathic medicine circles it is deemed as growth, a shifting of energies, to transcend and improve.
The Mayan Women view this as a time to look forward to. In their culture, it is an advance in their status. Within their communities this brings feelings of freedom and liberation. When shifting into the menopause, the indigenous people reserve a place in the community and these women are then known as spiritual leaders.
In freedom from ill health and astounding joy
For the years passed cannot retreat from the feminine stand
Purity in adversity and beauty’s hand
Angels never wither or diminish with time
Yet transcend still