Neurotransmitters are powerful brain chemicals responsible for regulating physical and psychological health. For example, dopamine supports emotional responses and memory while serotonin governs aggression, mood, and impulsivity.
Another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, helps control how you react to stress (“fight or flight response”) and may also be implicated in depression, panic and anxiety disorders.
Too much or too little dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine can cause a variety of mental health issues, ranging from short-term depression to clinical depression, panic disorder, and even bipolar disorder.
How Do Hormones Influence Neurotransmitter Levels in the Brain?
Progesterone and estrogen are known to increase serotonin uptake in the brain, an action shown in hundreds of research studies to support improved mood, memory, and sleep.
In addition, estrogens promote formation of new synapses (structures between neurons allowing them to communicate electrochemically), increase the number of serotonin receptors and maintain normal neurotransmitter levels by eliminating enzymes that interfere with the ability of estrogen and progesterone to improve mental health.1
Further studies have shown that estrogen helps regulate brain function in relation to mood. Fluctuating or low estrogen levels correlate directly with depression and generalized anxiety suffered by women going through perimenopause, menopause and even postmenopause. By replacing lost estrogen with bio-identical hormone therapy, women increase neurotransmitter uptake in the brain and naturally relieve mental health problems like depression and anxiety. 2, 3
While estrogen tends to have excitatory effects on your brain, progesterone offers the perfect counterbalance to estrogen by providing calming effects on your mental and physical well-being. Progesterone has been shown in clinical studies to act on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain to reduce anxiety and restlessness.
GABA is another neurotransmitter involved in sleep, feelings of calmness and mood moderation. Falling progesterone levels experienced during perimenopause and menopause interact with reduced estrogen levels to cause women to suffer bouts of depression and/or generalized anxiety.
Women are diagnosed with major depressive disorders more commonly during menopause than any other time in their lives. Although doctors do not fully understand how ovarian hormones precisely influence mental health, they do think that hormone fluctuations interacting with derived neurochemicals interfere with the functioning of certain endocrine glands by GABA. This means that loss of estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause and menopause increases a woman’s sensitivity to stressful events and reinforces her susceptibility to clinical depression. 3
Testosterone, Neurotransmitters and Mental Health
Testosterone, like estrogen and progesterone, plays an important role in regulating brain neurotransmitter levels. After age 40, men’s testicles start producing less testosterone. Eventually, between age 50 and 70, most men experience a nearly 40 percent reduction in the amount of testosterone they produced during their 20s and 30s.
In addition to a lower sex drive, low testosterone also causes fatigue, a decline in cognitive abilities, decreasing muscle mass and weight gain. And, like women experiencing loss of estrogen, men with reduced testosterone may also suffer moodiness, depression, and anxiety. 4
A recent study examining the effects of testosterone treatment to relieve anxiety and depression found that testosterone increased serotonin reuptake in the brain by improving the ability of serotonin receptors to release this neurotransmitter. The authors of the study say that given the vital role of serotonin in treating depression disorders, more research should be conducted to better understand the mechanisms of action involving testosterone and serotonin. 4
Bio-Identical Hormone Therapy May Help Relieve Depression, Anxiety and other Mental Health Problems Related to Loss of Hormones
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat depression, panic disorder, and anxiety when no physical reason exists for mental health problems.
Unfortunately, antidepressants only increase serotonin and sometimes norepinephrine levels in the brain but do nothing to replace estrogen, progesterone or testosterone. Most people who start taking antidepressants remain on them for years because the underlying reason for their depression and anxiety is not being addressed.
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy offers a proven, safe method of treating both psychological and physical symptoms of low estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. BHRT involves painless insertion of small pellets containing the right amount of replacement hormones under your skin to provide continuous release of bioidentical hormones.
Unlike synthetic hormones, bioidentical hormones are made with natural, plant-based ingredients designed to mimic the molecular structure of hormones produced by the body. Consequently, bioidentical hormones do not raise the risk of breast cancer and heart disease like synthetic hormones.
To schedule a consultation appointment about receiving BHRT, call us today at any of our three convenient locations across Virginia.