This month we speak to Andrew Petrou, a practising Osteopath and registered Dietary Counsellor based in London. Andrew has over 10 years of experience working in the health and fitness industry.
Women enter menopause after going 12 months without getting their period. The years leading up to menopause are called perimenopause where many start to notice their periods becoming irregular. These changes are caused primarily by shifting oestrogen and progesterone levels as your body prepares itself for menopause.
Oestrogen helps to regulate several hormones, which may have mood-boosting properties and include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Oestrogen also helps to support certain types of brain functioning, such as cognition. When oestrogen levels change, your mood may change with it. The decrease in oestrogen can also cause some women to have occasional episodes of forgetfulness, or “fuzzy-brain,” which may lead to frustration, negatively affecting mood.
Sadly, the mood changes of the menopause are predominantly attributed to hormonal changes and women are often given the wrong treatment with antidepressants. In the UK, NICE menopause guidelines state that due to lack of evidence, antidepressants are not recommended to treat low mood in menopausal women who have not been diagnosed with clinical depression. It is important to note that those women who do have clinical depression can however be treated with antidepressants.
Can you do anything?
A recent study suggests that eating a healthy, balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet and avoiding inflammation-producing foods may protect against depression. A high intake of Omega 3 (from oily fish such as salmon or mackerel) coupled with good fats such as olive oils would have numerous benefits, notwithstanding dampening inflammation, benefiting heart health and indirectly, and in the long term, help with brain health (over half our brains are made up of DHA, a component of fish oil).
Several scientific studies have confirmed the link between gut microbes and state of mind, with one study suggesting that probiotics (so-called ‘good’ bacteria) could be cautiously recommended to help with mood changes. Increased intake of fibre can help as well as supplementing with a probiotic.
Increasing your frequency of (vigorous) exercise can have an overall benefit for physical and mental health. Small scale studies point to how aerobic activity has been shown to help with night sweats, anxiety, and forgetfulness.
It’s important to discuss any changes in how you’re feeling with a healthcare professional. There are many forms of support out there for women dealing with menopausal symptoms, and it is essential we keep talking and breaking down those barriers.