Depression and Menopause
How to Treat the Menopause Blues
Depression and menopause hormone changes often occur together. This article gives you treatments for the common “menopause blues”.
How to Treat Your Menopause Depression
Moderate to severe symptoms of depression and menopause require the help of either hormone therapy (if your symptoms are hormone based) or antidepressants – and sometimes both. If your symptoms are mild, natural and holistic options can help.
Lifestyle treatments can and should be used together with any prescription drugs.
However, avoid any herbal or other over the counter supplements when you are on antidepressants because they can influence their effectiveness.
Make sure that you talk to your doctor prior to using any herbal remedies.
For both depression and menopause, the first line of action is stress reduction. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is highly influenced by stress. This is the reason that stress makes your symptoms, including depression, so much worse. Follow this link for information for coping with stress through relaxation.
Exercising is also beneficial. It reduces stress and releases endorphins which counter the hormones that lead to feelings of depression.
Proper nutrition is also important to support the body in fighting depression. Refined carbs (white flour, sugar etc) and highly processed foods have anegative effect on brain chemistry. (We all have experienced the feeling of sluggishness after a meal with lots of carbs followed by cravings for more).
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin B Complex (especially B6, B12 and Folic Acid): shortage of Vit B complex has been linked to depression.
Vitamin D: only 15 min a day of exposure to sunlight is enough to produce enough Vit D. If you cannot get enough sunlight, a Vit D supplement (1,000 IU / day) can help. Vit D deficiency is one of the reasons for seasonal depressive disorder. Have your doctor check for vitamin D deficiency. It is also very important for calcium absorption.
Omega-3-fatty Acids can help to fight depression symptoms. You can get Omega -3 either through fish or fish oil supplements.
Calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc are important minerals that help with the symptoms of depression.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is a molecule that is found in every living thing. Its mood boosting properties have been well established although it is not exactly known how the mechanism occurs (either through neurotransmitters or directly on receptors.)
DHEA is a hormone, a precursor to many other hormones in your body (such as estrogen and testosterone). DHEA levels fall dramatically when you age. There is ample evidence that DHEA can improve depression.
Bioidentical physicians often try to balance DHEA levels to match those of younger women. However, long term use of DHEA is not recommended because of (at least theoretically) the risk that it can increase hormone sensitive cancers.
Herbs for Depression Relief
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perferatum) used for thousands of years to treat depression and anxiety. It is also used for insomnia because of its mild sedative effect.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis) is a very powerful anti-anxiety herb. It can have very powerful effects and can lead to drowsiness. It is best taken at night until you understand the effects on your body. (Valerian is a personal favorite of mine and I use it regularly for insomnia).
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) has great calming powers. It is often used for insomnia and anxiety.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can help with mood swings and menopausal depression due to its activity on specific neurotransmitters. It is a great option for women in menopause because it can help with several symptoms.
Skullcap (Scutilaria lateriflora)is used for a wide range of nervous conditions, tension headaches, anxiety and insomnia. It is even used to help with epilepsy.
Conclusion about Depression and Menopause
Menopause is a time of many changes and symptoms. Depression is one of the many symptoms that can occur. It is also one of the illnesses for which women do not seek help often enough.
You can find great resources and information at the Depression Toolkit of the University of Michigan Depression Center. (It will open in a new window).
Modern medicine has numerous powerful drugs that can help with the symptoms. New research has proven the hormone connection between depression and menopause. It is now very clear that the symptoms are not “in our head” but very real and sometimes debilitating.
Don’t suffer in silence, seek help when your depression interferes with your life.
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