Menopause affects the body’s systems on multiple levels, and even involves the brain. Hot flashes. Night sweats. Vaginal dryness. And of course, dreaded weight gain. These are the classic outward symptoms of menopause, and the most publicly bemoaned ones.
However, in my practice, I regularly see women 40 and older who come in complaining of depression, anxiety, and brain fog. Patients are often shocked to find out that these issues aren’t just an inevitable part of aging, but rather part of how the brain reacts to the hormonal havoc that happens during menopause. They’re even more surprised to learn how easily these conditions can be helped by naturally re-booting the body’s software, or restoring key hormone levels to a more balanced state.
Here are a few things to know about menopause’s mental effects and what you and your doctor can do about them:
Depression during menopause is a complicated issue with several interlocking causes. Hot flashes and night sweats interfere with sleep and lead to extreme fatigue and irritability.
The average weight gain in menopause is 30 pounds, often causing self-esteem to plummet. But depression is also a primary symptom caused by decreased estrogen levels as well as other hormones that affect the thyroid and adrenals during menopause. It’s important to find out the root cause of your depression rather than resorting immediately to anti-depressants. Ask your doctor to perform a complete blood analysis that will giveyou both a full picture of what is going on in your body. This means assessing levels of all key hormones (not just estrogen and testosterone) and determining acourse of action that will re-balance them. Natural supplements and bio-identical hormone replacement coupled with simple lifestyle changes can oftendo the trick.
2. Brain Fog
Forgot where you parked your car, or what you went into the other room to get? Are you finding it impossible to stay on task? Remember a common word? You’re not alone. Brain fog is all part of the cognitive decline that happens due to decreased estrogen and other hormones in menopause. Poor sleep patterns as discussed above can also be to blame. The good news is that this kind of forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating isn’t usually permanent.Try to learn a new language, master a new game, and increase your reading time – anything to challenge and keep the brain active. Most importantly, as with depression, ask your doctor to perform a full blood work up, and to suggest natural supplements that can help regulate the brain’s neurotransmitters and serotonin levels so you get better sleep.
Also associated with the drop in estrogen experienced during menopause and the resulting effects on the brain’s regulation of moods andemotion, anxiety can be a mild annoyance or a major disability. It can also interfere with sleep, which in turn begets depression and lack of energy.
Again, it is important to identify the root cause of your anxiety. Find a doctor who will take the time not only to perform the aforementioned blood analysis, but also listen to you and learn about what’s going on in your life. He or she may suggest natural supplements with ingredients known for their calming, mood-enhancing qualities, in tandem with ancillary strategies like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and caffeine reduction.
I hope the medical community will take more and bigger strides to educate women about the “invisible” symptoms of menopause. With knowledge, we all have the power to enjoy optimal health at every stage of life.
Dr. Prudence Hall
See More: 7 Tips – Eliminate Your Menopause Hot Flashes
Do the After Effects of Menopause Worry You?
Menopause Woes: Did the Ancient Chinese Have the Answer?