In Part 1 of my series on mood, I covered the difference between mood swings and mood disorders as well as how hormones influence our mood. Today’s article will dive deeper into these concepts and specifically explore challenges women face with hormonal changes throughout the lifecycle.
Then, we’ll dive into some natural approaches for supporting mood. I’ll cover some broad strokes to get you started and then you can personalize your plan to address individual root causes with your functional medicine provider.
Let’s jump in!
Breastfeeding, Pregnancy, Menstrual Cycle And Mood
Changes in hormones during times of transition or stress impact our moods in many ways, both positive and negative. Let’s explore some of the common hormonal mood swings that I see in my patients at various times throughout life.
- Menstrual cycle – For a woman who is cycling, some amount of mood change is very common and even welcome. Women tend to feel more social, motivated and positive during the estrogen-dominant first half of the cycle and more introverted and calm during the progesterone-dominant second half of the cycle.
Mood swings prior to menstruation might be mild or more pronounced as in the case of PMS or PMDD, and might be an indication that estrogen and progesterone are out of balance.
- Perinatal period – Pregnancy and the postpartum period are also a time of hormonal transition for women. During pregnancy hormone levels are high and emotions may also be heightened. While we see an increased risk for depression in the months after childbirth, onset during pregnancy is also possible.
During the postpartum period, hormonal levels drop quickly and woman may experience the “baby blues” or in more extreme cases postpartum mood disorders including postpartum depression and anxiety that affect an estimated 10-15% of moms. Mood swings or disorders may be exacerbated by sleep deprivation.
- Perimenopause – The perimenopausal period, which may encompass up to seven years prior to the last period, is marked by fluctuating hormones and often referred to as “reverse puberty.” Women may experience anovulatory cycles that lead to estrogen dominance, heightened PMS-like symptoms, anxiety and irritability. There may also be times of lower estrogen that correlate with hot flashes and lower moods or depression.
Functional medicine dives deeper than simply treating or suppressing a symptom and we aim to address the root cause. Often, hormonal imbalances play a role in mood swings and symptoms at different times in a woman’s life.
Supplements To Balance Hormones And HRT
I can’t stress how important it is to understand your unique hormone profile before throwing a bunch of supplements (or medications) at the symptoms. At The Fork Functional Medicine, we use standard testing, advanced hormone testing and a thorough intake and medical evaluation to understand root causes. Then, we address accordingly, often with natural remedies or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Testing, instead of guessing, is key.
Supportive herbal medicine and supplements to balance hormones may include:
- Adaptogenic herbs
- Specific vitamins, minerals and fatty acids
- Nervous system tonics
- Anti-inflammatory herbs
- Gut health and microbiome support
- Amino acid therapy
In addition to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and supplements, here are some additional hormonal mood swings natural remedies:
- Balance blood sugar. Since high, or low, blood sugar triggers changes in mood, balancing blood sugar helps to support stable hormonal levels and less “hangry” or irritable moments. Balance blood sugar by eating regular meals, composed primarily of whole foods with a balance of protein, fat and fiber. Forget about fad diets that restrict one or several of these important food groups!
- Meet your nutrient needs. Dietary nutrients are the building blocks and cofactors for hormone and neurotransmitter production. If you aren’t eating enough of certain things, or aren’t digesting and absorbing it well, this may affect your mood. Micronutrient testing as well as stool testing for the microbiome are helpful here and leads to personalization of the diet and supplement protocol.
- Don’t forget the importance of sleep. If you’ve ever had a newborn or burned the candle at both ends, you know how sleep deprivation affects your energy, focus and mood. Sleep is a key piece of the daily circadian rhythm, which influences hormone levels and neurotransmitter production as well. Science shows getting to be by 10PM can do wonders to optimize your deep sleep. Try some reishi or chamomile tea and start to wind down after sundown.
- Move your body. Exercise and movement supports a healthy mood and helps to lower symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Research shows exercising in the morning not only increases your mood but it helps better regulate your glucose throughout the day which directly impacts your mood.
- Spend time in nature. Unplug, breathe clean air and look at the beauty around you. Scientific studies show that time in nature helps to reduce anxiety. The Japanese have a name for this practice called Forest Bathing. Spend 10 minutes or as long as you can ideally daily, or at least a few times a week basking in the abundance of nature – take in the sound of birds or insects, the sight of a beautiful tree canopy or just feel the sensation of your bare feet on the Earth’s soil.
As you can see, a functional approach to mood symptoms and mood swings is comprehensive. We build the foundation with solid nutrition and lifestyle habits and then address each individual’s hormonal health and biochemistry with personalized recommendations, nutrients and herbs. Ready to improve your mood? Give our office a call today!
- Bei, B., Coo, S., & Trinder, J. (2015). Sleep and Mood During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Sleep medicine clinics, 10(1), 25–33. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26055670/
- Brummelte, S., & Galea, L. A. (2016). Postpartum depression: Etiology, treatment and consequences for maternal care. Hormones and behavior, 77, 153–166. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26319224/
- Carek, P. J., Laibstain, S. E., & Carek, S. M. (2011). Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. International journal of psychiatry in medicine, 41(1), 15–28. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21495519/
Song, C., Ikei, H., Park, B. J., Lee, J., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2018). Psychological Benefits of Walking through Forest Areas. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2804. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313311/