Experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and a general sense of unease during perimenopause is a common occurrence, often overlooked or misdiagnosed. However, by comprehending the changes taking place in your body during this phase of life, you can empower yourself to take action and alleviate these symptoms. Hormones act as chemical messengers within our bodies, regulating various aspects of our chemistry. When one hormone declines, it can have a cascading effect on others.
Let's delve into the science behind it.
Oestrogens play a vital role in regulating our metabolic system, governing energy levels in both our bodies and brains. They stimulate neurons to burn glucose and produce energy, keeping our brain functions optimised. As oestrogen levels decline, neurons slow down and age faster, which can contribute to feelings of sluggishness and mental fatigue.
Serotonin, a key mood regulator, is influenced by oestrogen levels. Oestrogen promotes healthy serotonin levels in the central nervous system, activating regions of the brain responsible for emotional stability and cognitive function. Low serotonin levels can lead to feelings of flatness and low mood. Interestingly, it's worth noting that serotonin is predominantly produced in the gut, emphasising the importance of maintaining excellent gut health.
Progesterone, on the other hand, plays a role in producing GABA, a neurotransmitter known for inducing a sense of calmness. Insufficient GABA levels can leave you feeling restless and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Now, what steps can you take to mitigate these side effects of hormonal changes naturally occurring in your body?
- Nourish Your Gut: Cultivating a healthy microbiome can significantly improve mood, reduce brain fog, enhance concentration, and promote overall balance.
- Support Serotonin Production: Incorporate tryptophan-rich foods into your diet, such as cheese, chicken, milk, eggs, turkey, pumpkin seeds, and tuna. A diet rich in vegetables and whole grains also supports the body's ability to absorb and synthesise neurotransmitters effectively.
- Address Vitamin D Deficiency: Menopausal women often experience deficiencies in vitamin D, which is crucial for mental health, bone health, and immune function. Consider getting your vitamin D levels checked by a healthcare professional or through a home finger-prick test. Since sunlight exposure in the UK is limited, supplementation may be necessary, especially for those who struggle to produce adequate levels of vitamin D.
- Boost Zinc and Magnesium Levels: These essential minerals play a vital role in neurotransmitter production and numerous other bodily processes. Many women have lower-than-ideal levels of zinc and magnesium. Magnesium, known as nature's tranquilliser, can improve sleep quality when taken as a nighttime supplement. Zinc supports immunity, healing, and various bodily functions. Include foods rich in these minerals, such as nuts, seeds, meat, fish, seafood, pomegranate, green leafy vegetables, bananas, avocado, and dark chocolate, in your diet.
- Relax and Unwind with Herbal Tea: Lemon balm and sage tea can provide a soothing effect. Steep sage leaves with half a teaspoon of lemon balm tea at home. Both herbs are renowned for their calming properties, with lemon balm stimulating GABA receptors.
By taking proactive steps to manage neurotransmitter imbalances and prioritise your overall well-being, you can navigate the perimenopause journey with greater ease and find relief from stress and anxiety. Remember, self-care is key, and you deserve to embrace this phase of life with confidence and tranquillity.