Have you got a case of the mid-life blues? It’s not unusual to start noticing a change in your mood and periods in the time leading up to the menopause. Some common symptoms that may be experienced throughout the perimenopause are low energy, low mood, anxiety and even depression. Let’s take a more detailed look into some of the factors that may trip up your mood.
The fluctuating hormones that occur as a woman transitions through the perimenopause are often associated with unpredictable periods. Initially, periods could become heavier, long and closer together. This heavy and frequent bleeding may impact on iron status, especially if the diet is low in foods rich in iron. Some of the signs of iron deficient anaemia include shortness of breath, fatigue, low mood and depression. Eventually the periods should settle down and become lighter and less frequent and eventually stop. But if the heavy bleeding continues for too long or is too extreme then it’s worth checking this with your doctor.
"Eating refined carbs and sugary snacks might provide short bursts of high energy but these may typically be followed by longer lows for energy and mood."
It’s the delicate balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that contribute to the way the brain generates different moods, emotions and feelings. One of these neurotransmitters called serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness. Researchers have discovered that oestrogen may, for some women, have a role to play in serotonin balance. When oestrogen levels fall, as they do in the perimenopause, this may correlate to a drop in serotonin which in turn could impact mood. Nutrients that may help contribute to normal serotonin balance include zinc, B-vitamins and tryptophan.
A sense of loss
Whilst many women feel completely liberated by the absence of periods, it’s also perfectly normal to experience a range of mixed feelings and emotions. This phenomenally significant landmark event may drum up sadness about the loss of fertility, regardless of whether you have children or not. Women who don’t have children have to face the finality of their situation and may feel a deep sense of loss and bereavement regarding a future without children or grandchildren. It’s good to deal with these emotions as they arise.
If you don’t, they may fester under the surface and contribute to bouts of menopausal blues. Talking to friends who are also going through the change is a good way to air your concerns and you may discover that they have similar worries. If your concerns run deeper or are more troubling, then a course of counselling could help you find some resolutions.
Carb check – eating refined carbs and sugary snacks might provide short bursts of high energy but these may typically be followed by longer lows for energy and mood. Instead, focus on complex carbs such as wholegrains, pulses and lentils which may help deliver a more sustained energy and mood.
Red meat is naturally rich in the mineral iron, which could pose a problem for some vegetarians and vegans. Plant based foods that contain iron include parsley, dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, watercress), blackstrap molasses, eggs, lentils, beans, cashews, prunes and pumpkin seeds. However, vegetarian alternatives may not be as rich a source of iron as meat.
Foods such as bananas, oats, yoghurt, cottage cheese, avocados, turkey, chicken and fish contain tryptophan. So why not start including these in your weekly shop and think about ways to incorporate them into your meal planning. A banana and oat smoothie for breakfast and turkey and avocado wholegrain sandwich for lunch are a couple of ideas to get you started!
Reaching for a glass of wine to unwind at the end of a stressful day could be an easy habit to get into. However, alcohol is a known mood depressant so it may be advisable to swap wine for a relaxing cup of camomile tea.