Understanding the correlation between hormones and mood begins with understanding what a hormone actually is. Ovaries, testicles, the thyroid, and other glands produce hormones, a special type of signaling molecules transported by the bloodstream to other areas of the body. Hormones primarily regulate behavior and physiology by facilitating communication between tissues and organs.
Examples of what hormones regulate include respiration, metabolism, digestion, sleep, stress, reproduction, growth and mood. In fact, hormones are so important to making us “human” that mammalian biologists claim we would be nothing but emotionless, unmotivated robots without hormones.1
Perimenopause, Menopause, Hormones, and Mood
Around age 40, a woman’s ovaries begin making less estrogen and progesterone as the body prepares to stop producing eggs for fertilization by male sperm. The most potent hormones affecting brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) implicated in mood and motivation (serotonin and dopamine, for example), are progesterone and estrogen.
A steady decrease in the level of blood hormones throughout a woman’s 40s and 50s means dysregulation of neurotransmitters is inevitable, leading to classic symptoms of perimenopause and menopause such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and irritability.2 Replacing low levels of estrogen and progesterone with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a safe, effective way to alleviate mood and emotional issues associated with perimenopause and menopause.
Estrogen is the “Happy” Hormone
In addition to supporting developmental and sexual health, estrogen is also a unique kind of neurostimulator presenting antidepressant properties. Estrogen levels also exert an “up-down” effect on moods and brain chemistry when it is too high or too low. When “estrogen dominance” occurs (too much estrogen and not enough progesterone in the body) feelings of stress and anxiety may intensify.3
Alternately, not enough estrogen tends to make women predisposed to depression and moodiness.4 BHRT helps regulate estrogen levels so that women experiencing significant hormone fluctuations feel more positive, energetic and alert, both physically and mentally.
Progesterone as the Moderator of Estrogen
Maintaining a progesterone/estrogen ratio is essential for reducing or preventing moodiness and depression in menopausal women. One study discovered that deficiencies of progesterone are implicated as a major factor in the development of anxiety patterns.5 Doctors have noted that high estrogen levels coupled with low progesterone levels often lead to extreme moodiness, such as fits of anger followed by feelings of guilt and self-defeat.
Results of research studying the effects of progesterone on mood are not surprising since the majority of progesterone receptors in the brain are located in the limbic area.6 The limbic area contains organelles implicated in rage, aggression, and motivation. Progesterone calms activity in the limbic area, which suggests a lack of progesterone can cause various levels of irritability and anxiety, depending on how bad the imbalance is.
Why Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Laboratory-made hormones (Premarin or Prevara are commonly prescribed synthetic hormones) are not chemically or molecularly similar to hormones produced by your endocrine glands. Consequently, these hormones have been clinically associated with side effects such as increased risk for blood clots, stroke or cancer.
Derived from plants and their phytonutrients, bioidentical hormones do not raise your risk of side effects because these hormones are almost duplicates, both chemically and molecularly of hormones made by your body. Easily accepted by cell receptors, bioidentical hormones assimilate safely with your body’s chemistry to stabilize fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone occurring during perimenopause and menopause.
In addition to improving mood and overall sense of well-being, BHRT also reduces your risk for osteoporosis, minimizes or eliminates hot flashes, may help keep cholesterol at a healthy level and enhance memory, concentration and focus.7 Some ongoing research results are indicating that BHRT may even contribute to brain health and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in people with a familial history of AD.
If you are a woman over 40 who are experiencing depression, moodiness, and anxiety, it could be your hormones fluctuating wildly has your body prepares to enter menopause. Call Renew to learn more about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and how it can help improve your emotional health.