The Connection Between Hormones and Mood Swings

While making light of a woman's mood swings is a common occurrence in movies and on television, the reality is not so humorous. In fact, more women than men suffer from a mood disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), chances that women will develop depression are double that of men.

While there are a number of possible reasons for the gender discrepancy, NAMI cites important correlations between female sex hormones and mood swings. Women seem to be particularly susceptible when hormones are in flux. Research has shown that rates of mood disorders are similar between boys and girls prior to puberty. However, after menstruation begins, rates for depression change and the differential remains through menopause. Up to 40 percent of menstruating women report mood and behavioral changes, while four to 10 percent report premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a syndrome associated with impaired behavior and depressed mood. Up to 15 percent of women suffer from clinical depression during pregnancy or following the birth of a baby, and nearly 38 percent of women in menopause report mood swings. These statistics seem to indicate that hormones play a large role in the regulation of mood and that there is a definite connection between hormones and mood swings. 

Circadian rhythms may also explain differences between men and women when it comes to mood. These complex biological rhythms regulate activity and sleep over a 24-hour period, and it has been determined that excessive sleep and low energy is higher in depressed women than in depressed men. Some experts feel that imbalances in hormones like estrogen can affect sleep cycles and disrupt circadian rhythms, which could affect mood in women. Conventional treatments for hormonal fluctuation usually come up short when it comes to improving mood. Women with PMS frequently end up taking a medication for each symptom, often without relief. Synthetic hormone replacement therapy for women in menopause is full of controversy, and many women look to natural alternatives.

Hormones, Mood SwingsNatural Alternatives for Fluctuating Hormones and Mood Swings

Fortunately, women do have options when it comes to hormones in flux. Here are several natural alternatives.

Eat a healthy diet.

Avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined carbohydrates, preservatives or added sodium (salt), as all of these ingredients contribute to hormonal imbalance. Choose whole, organic foods if possible, and use sea salt in place of table salt. Take a daily multivitamin or eat sea vegetables to get needed levels of healthy iodine.

Add cruciferous veggies to the diet.

Vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound that helps in the production of diindolylmethane (DIM). Both of these compounds are thought to help regulate estrogen levels in the body.

Supplement with maca powder.

Rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins B1, B2, C and E, maca is full of nutrients that support healthy hormones. This natural product from South America stimulates the body to produce hormones in order to restore balance instead of adding hormones to the body. Trace minerals like zinc and selenium make it a great product for dealing with menstrual issues, lack of libido, infertility, and changes in mood associated with hormonal fluctuations.

Try deep breathing.

A number of clinical trials have shown that 15 minutes of deep breathing, twice per day, decreases hot flashes and night sweats and enhances the mood for women in menopause.

Practice yoga.

Yoga has a greater impact on improving mood and reducing anxiety than any other form of exercise. The endocrine system is made up of glands that regulate the secretion of hormones, and practicing yoga helps boost the function of this system. In addition, according to an article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the practice of yoga may boost levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps control nerve activity.

Get enough sleep.

Lack of sleep disrupts hormone production, which can affect serotonin levels in the brain. Most people need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night for good physical and emotional health. Promote good sleep by dimming lights and scaling down activity one half hour before bedtime.

Due to fluctuating hormones, mood swings are a common symptom of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can relieve mood swings and improve overall health in many women. Try some or all of the natural methods above to keep your mood swings in check.

By guest contributor Jillian Fritsen

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