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A woman experiencing anger or low mood

Menopause mood changes and what you can do about them

If you’re experiencing changes to your mood around menopause, you’re not alone. Mood swings, irritability, low mood, and even feelings of anger or rage, are common – especially during perimenopause when your hormones are in a state of flux.

For some women, this may feel like the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but with less predictable timing.

Along with hormone changes, poor sleep, worse blood sugar control and the increased stresses and strains of life at this time can also contribute to both mood swings and low mood.  

We’ll explore these causes in more detail below. We’ll also look at things you can do that may help to stabilise your mood, including lifestyle changes, mindfulness practices, herbal remedies and supplements and prescription treatments like HRT.

One way to manage a range of menopause and perimenopause symptoms is with targeted probiotics. The strains of friendly bacteria in The Better Gut probiotic supplements can improve your mood, reduce mood swings and lower your risk of depression.

Find out more at The Better Gut. And get 10% off your first order with the discount code WELCOME10.

Does menopause cause mood changes?

As you enter perimenopause – the transition to menopause – your risk of developing symptoms like mood swings, low mood and depression increases.

Fluctuations in reproductive hormones like oestrogen can make you more sensitive to stressful situations. In fact, some studies suggest that the more your oestrogen levels vary over time, the worse your mood symptoms could be.

Scientists believe this may be partly due to the impact oestrogen has on hormones responsible for mood.

As oestrogen goes up and down, so does the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin.

Oestrogen also impacts the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that increased oestrogen in perimenopausal women leads to higher levels of cortisol and worse mood symptoms.

Poor sleep

Sleep problems are a common menopause symptom and are linked to depressed mood and anxiety.

Although mood symptoms like anxiety can themselves contribute to sleep problems, research suggests that poor sleep has a much bigger impact on mood than the other way around.

Studies have also shown that getting better sleep can significantly improve your mental health.

Blood sugar changes

Oestrogen helps maintain your body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that keeps your blood sugar levels stable. As oestrogen levels drop, your blood sugar control can get worse, increasing your chances of larger blood sugar spikes and dips after you eat.

These ‘crashes’ can lead to low mood and increased irritability. If you notice that your mood swings tend to be worse after eating – perhaps mid-morning or mid-afternoon – this could be the reason. In the section below, we’ll look at how you can adjust your diet to improve things.

Life stresses

Menopause often comes at a time of increased life stresses and responsibilities. You may have children and older parents relying on you, as well as extra work pressure.

Hormonal changes can make this worse. Studies have shown that increased oestrogen fluctuations can lead to more severe mood symptoms if you’ve also been dealing with a greater number of stressful life experiences.

How to treat mood swings and low mood during menopause

Here, we’ll look at lifestyle changes, therapy and mindfulness options, medical treatments, and herbal remedies and supplements that could help with your mood swings and low mood.

Dietary changes

Following a healthy, balanced eating pattern like the Mediterranean diet can help to improve your mood during menopause.

That means including a wide range of vegetables and fruits, legumes, such as beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, whole grains, plenty of extra virgin olive oil and some oily fish.

Not only will this provide you with all the fibre, healthy fats and vitamins you need, it will also deliver high levels of plant compounds called phytoestrogens, which mimic some of the functions of oestrogen.

The Mediterranean diet also involves eating fewer refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods. This could help to prevent blood sugar crashes that can lead to mood swings and irritability.

If you regularly notice symptoms like these a couple of hours after eating, try to limit the following foods and drinks:

  • white rice, bread and pasta
  • processed breakfast cereals
  • sugary drinks and fruit juice
  • biscuits, cakes and chocolate bars

Regular exercise

Regular exercise can boost your levels of stress-relieving endorphins and give you a break from thoughts that could make you feel uptight or anxious.

Studies involving menopausal women have shown that four 50-minute sessions of aerobic exercise each week can significantly reduce irritability and mood swings.

Aerobic exercise includes things like brisk walking, running, cycling and swimming. For the greatest benefits to your all-round health and wellbeing, trying to include some resistance work too, like weight training or bodyweight exercises.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a kind of talking therapy. It can help you to break out of negative thought patterns that can affect your mood and how you behave.

The UK’s Menopause Charity says CBT can help with mood swings and anger, while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also recommends it for menopausal women with low mood.

If you live in the UK, you may be able to get CBT on the NHS.  

Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices – like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga – help you to be ‘in the moment’, focusing on your thoughts, feelings and sensations in a non-judgemental way.

This can help you to balance your emotions, which could prevent negative reactions, as in the case of mood swings. Mindfulness techniques can also lead to physiological changes, like lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Better sleep hygiene

Poor sleep can quickly lead to low mood, increased stress and irritability, while getting better sleep can boost your mental health.

One way to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep is by improving your bedtime routine, sometimes called your ‘sleep hygiene’:

  • Go to bed, and get up, at the same time each day
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day
  • Don’t use your phone or other devices in the hour before bed
  • Keep your room cool, dark and quiet
  • If you’re prone to hot flashes, keep water and a fan by your bed

You might also like to read our article on herbal remedies, supplements and other lifestyle changes that could improve your sleep.

Drink less alcohol

If you’re feeling anxious or uptight, you may find a drink helps you to relax. But alcohol is actually a depressant.

It disrupts the balance of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine in your brain, affecting your mood. Over time, it reduces the levels of these chemical messengers, which can lead to continuing low mood.

It’s no surprise, then, that drinking less could improve your mental health.

If you need help cutting down on your drinking, your doctor can suggest support options.

Quit smoking

If you smoke, it may feel as if having a cigarette improves your mood. But that’s only because it relieves the stress and irritability caused by nicotine withdrawal.

Over time, smoking actually increases tension and anxiety – and if you smoke, you’re much more likely to have depression.

In fact, research suggests that stopping smoking can be as effective for improving your mood as taking pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Quitting smoking can be challenging so it’s important to get support. In the UK, the NHS can help you find a clinic near you where you can get help.

Supplements and herbal remedies

  • Ashwagandha: The root of this shrub is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. There’s evidence that it helps with depression, stress and anxiety, and specific studies have found that it significantly improves low mood and irritability in perimenopausal women.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are friendly bacteria with a range of health benefits. Specific strains used in The Better Gut probiotic supplements can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, boost mood and improve mood swings, as well as helping you sleep better.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in the functioning of your limbic system, the part of your brain that deals with emotional responses. Low oestrogen leads to low magnesium. Studies have shown that magnesium supplements can reduce depression symptoms.
  • St John’s Wort: This yellow-flowering plant has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Research suggests it can help with mood disorders, mild to moderate depressive symptoms and mood changes during menopause.

St John’s wort may interact in an unsafe way with certain drugs, including antidepressants. If you’re on medication, it’s important to check with your doctor before taking it.

Hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a prescription treatment that uses tablets, gels or skin patches to boost your levels of hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. HRT can help with a range of menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and sleep problems.

Studies have shown that HRT – particularly forms that use skin patches to deliver oestrogen into your bloodstream – may also prevent mood disorders or help to treat women who have been diagnosed with mood disturbances.

Antidepressants and menopause mood problems

The NHS says pharmaceutical antidepressants can help with mood symptoms if you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or depression during menopause.

However, the UK’s Menopause Charity says that doctors aren’t always aware that mood problems at this time can be caused by hormonal changes and that there’s no evidence antidepressants can actually help in this situation.

The charity says that, according to menopause guidelines, antidepressants should not be the first treatment offered to women with menopausal mood symptoms.

How long do menopause mood changes last?

It’s during perimenopause, rather than after menopause, that your risk of developing mood problems and depression increases most.

In fact, some research suggests you’re no more likely to experience these symptoms once you pass menopause than you are prior to perimenopause.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t get mood swings or low mood after menopause but it does suggest that if your symptoms are caused by the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause, they could improve or disappear altogether as you head towards menopause.

Perimenopause usually lasts for around 4 to 8 years, but the greatest fluctuations in hormone levels happen during the early and mid-perimenopausal phases. Although that could still mean several years with mood symptoms, some of the lifestyle changes and other remedies we’ve looked at could improve things.

The Better Gut probiotic supplements can help you with your perimenopause and menopause symptoms now – boosting your mood, improving mood swings and lowering your risk of depression, as well as reducing hot flashes and helping you to sleep better.

Summary

Fluctuating levels of hormones can lead to mood swings and low mood during perimenopause. Other menopause symptoms, like poor sleep and worse blood sugar control, can be contributing factors too, as can increased life stresses.

Lifestyle changes like improving your diet, getting regular exercise, following a good bedtime routine, cutting down on alcohol and quitting smoking could all help to stabilise your mood.

Cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness can improve mood issues during menopause too. Some herbal remedies and other supplements might also help.

Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy for menopausal mood changes.

For help with a wide range of menopause symptoms, including mood swings, anxiety and depression, try The Better Gut probiotic supplements.

Get 10% off your first order with the discount code WELCOME10.