A while ago the Daily Mail ran a whole feature on how women are reporting anxiety, mood swings and depression not just at menopause but also in the run up to it.
For the first time I can remember they also said that progesterone was helpful for all these conditions, as indeed it is, but there are also some very helpful alternative treatments as well.
What causes depresssion?
There are very many causes from a genetic predisposition, to hormone imbalance, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and poor relationships. Post part depression is now well recognised and conditions such as MS can also affect your mood and ability to cope.
If you are sleeping longer than usual and have no energy or interest in doing things that is a warning sign as is increased sensitivity to comments that you would normally take in your stride.
If you are depressed it is often harder for you to recognise than for those around you to see the signs. It is important to not just recognise your state, but to seek help as early as possible and pay attention to what friends and family may be noticing.
The usual treatment?
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week.
People struggling with untreated depression are twice as likely to die as those without depression and have worse outcomes for other health conditions.
Your doctor will usually prescribe antidepressants – in fact they are now widely prescribed at menopause instead of HRT. However while they can certainly be helpful in some cases these drugs are linked to diabetes, heart attack and dementia.
These drugs are also known to deplete various nutrients from your body, including coenzyme Q10 and vitamin B12 — in the case of tricyclic antidepressants — which are needed for proper mitochondrial function. SSRIs may deplete iodine and folate.
Exercise even a minimal amount may be enough to combat depression in some people. An 11-year study found people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week were less likely to become depressed.
That is a simple and often sociable way to start tackling anxiety and depression and interestingly people who don’t exercise are 44 percent more likely to become depressed compared to those who did at least one to two hours a week.
If you can also take some exercise outdoors then you will help optimize your vitamin D levels, and that is another factor linked to depression.
In addition to aerobic activity, mind-body exercise like yoga and tai chi have also shown promise in helping anxiety and depression. So incorporating physical exercise and mindfulness meditation are also effective in managing depression.
Magnesium supplements also led to improvements in mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment. Magnesium acts as a catalyst for mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, and research published in 2015 also revealed a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.
A handful of almonds provides 80 milligrams of magnesium so try to eat some on a daily basis.
Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are also crucial for brain health and have been shown to lead to improvements in major depressive disorder.
Best sources are wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies, or a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement.
B vitamins are also important, and low levels of B vitamins are common in patients with depression, while vitamin B supplements have been shown to improve symptoms.
These come primarily from meat and vegetarians tend to have lower intakes of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12 and folate, which could affect depression risk.
In the case of folate, it helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.
Addressing nutrient deficiencies, as well as optimizing your diet, are keys to mental health and should be first-line strategies to treating depression.
Good guys for depression include dark chocolate, bananas, turmeric and even organic black coffee – but all of these in moderation!
Alternative therapies such as counselling, homoeopathy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and others have all been shown to be helpful in many cases. It is a personal choice as to what suits you and makes you feel better.
Your diet affects your mood, not just your weight
We all know the principles of a balanced diet, but when your mood is low you often reach the familiar and unhealthy treats to make us feel better.
Adults consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day are 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years than those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day.
If you have a sweet tooth it is critical that limit sugar to boost your mood and this will also support your gut health, another important factor for mental health.
Eating fermented foods regularly, or taking a probiotic supplement, can also help toward this end.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame in many diet drinks contain the amino acid phenylalanine, which may disrupt serotonin production.
There is no doubt that bioidentical progesterone is effective for anxiety and mood swings, but if your condition is more severe then Dr Jeffrey Dach in the USA recommends that a combination formula of progesterone and oestrogen can be more effective.