Have you ever heard the team “menopause blues?” This phrase refers to the feelings of depression and anxiety which plague millions of women during menopause (1) and occur because of rapid changes in the levels of certain hormones that are responsible for mood regulation.
These changes, however, do not only occur to women during menopause. Anyone, male or female, of any age, can suffer from depression and/or anxiety brought on by hormone imbalances. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is often associated with emotions such as sadness, frustration, irritability, and even rage.
To understand how hormone imbalance can have a negative effect on your mental health, we must first understand the relationship between your hormones and your mood.
How Your Hormones Affect Your Mental Health
As we explained in a previous post, the word estrogen is shorthand for a group of several different but related hormones that perform similar functions within the body: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3). Estrogen is responsible for the development of your "sex characteristics," breasts, curvy hips, pubic hair, as well as other functions: maintaining the menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus for pregnancy. Estrogen also plays a role for men in supporting healthy cholesterol, brain function, and bone health. It is also thought to increase serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that boosts mood.
Estrogen deficiency during peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause may cause a decline in serotonin (2) that contributes to mood swings or depression as evidenced (3) by:
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable crying
- Difficulty making decisions
- Increased need for sleep
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Attempting suicide
But estrogen isn’t the only hormone that can influence your emotional state.
The hormone progesterone is the precursor of estrogen, testosterone, and other corticosteroid hormones. Progesterone is produced in both the ovaries and adrenal glands. (4) It promotes regular sleep patterns, prevents bloating, maintains the libido, stimulates bone building, and thickens the uterine lining to promote survival of a fertilized egg (ovum). In men, progesterone regulates blood sugar, builds bone mass, regulates brain activity and is a natural antidepressant.
Progesterone also has a calming effect on the body similar to that of serotonin. Low levels of progesterone in the body can lead women (and men) to experience anxiety.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms (5) include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Let’s explore the relationship between estrogen and progesterone further.
Estrogen & Progesterone: Two Sides of a Seesaw
Together, Estrogen and Progesterone are two hormones that operate like two sides of a seesaw, shifting up and down throughout the course of a woman's monthly cycle. When your body produces the optimal amount of each, you feel healthy and balanced. As you get older, the amount of estrogen and progesterone your body produces can change from month to month and year to year.
Due to the influence of stress and "environmental estrogens," hormonal fluctuations can occur at any age (as early as a woman's late 20s or early 30s). When your progesterone gets low, that side of the seesaw hits the ground, and negative symptoms arise: for women, that typically means poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, heavy periods, weight gain, uterine fibroids, irritability, and even rage. (This is commonly defined as “PMS”.)
Men in their 40s or older, also experience fluctuating hormone levels called “Andropause” which can lead to estrogen dominance.
But how does estrogen dominance work?
How Does Estrogen Dominance Work?
The result of low progesterone is a condition called "estrogen dominance." This is what happens when the progesterone side of the seesaw gets "stuck" on the ground: the estrogen side is "elevated," relatively speaking. It's not (necessarily) that your estrogen level is high -- it's that your progesterone level is so low that estrogen effectively "dominates."
In men, progesterone is produced in the adrenal and testicular tissue. As men get older, falling progesterone levels lead to a drop in testosterone levels. As both progesterone and testosterone decline, the levels are not enough to balance out the circulating estrogen, and men can also become "estrogen dominant”.
The following physical symptoms of depression and anxiety can all be caused by estrogen dominance:
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Stomach ache
- Digestive problems
- Problems with sexual function
- Frequent urination
- Sweating, especially in the palms
- Muscle tension
Estrogen dominance can result in serious negative physical and emotional side-effects, but there is hope.
What’s the Solution?
The best high-impact solution to resolve estrogen dominance in women and men is balancing estrogen levels with bioidentical progesterone cream.
A "bioidentical" progesterone treatment is identical to the kind your body naturally produces! Bioidentical progesterone is derived from a plant molecule found in wild yam, which is synthesized in a lab to be identical to naturally produced hormones. The synthesizing process ensures that these hormones have the exact molecular structure and duplicate the exact same function as the hormones made by your body. When you use bioidentical hormones, the cells of your body recognize them as familiar and know how to put them to best use.
Many people have found relief during menopause from their depression and anxiety symptoms with Dr. Randolph's over-the-counter formulation of Bi-Est Cream and Natural Balance Progesterone Cream. For PMS, or estrogen dominance, Dr. Randolph’s Natural Balance Progesterone Cream (for women or men) can be a game-changer.
For more severe hormone imbalances, the best approach is to have your hormone levels checked.
Our clinicians evaluate your health and lifestyle issues, check your hormones with a simple blood test, and write prescriptions for exactly the hormones that YOUR body needs. Restoring hormone balance is intricate endocrinology, and often there are several imbalances at play. Each bioidentical hormone formulation we offer is compounded at our on-site pharmacy and can be picked up or shipped as needed.
We’d be happy to help you on your physical and emotional wellness journey!