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New research shows that women are 40% more likely to experience depression during perimenopause – but what’s the science behind it and can we do anything to boost our mood?

Women’s Health Collective trainer Kate Rowe-Ham says the reason for depression during perimenopause can be multi-factorial. ‘As your hormones dip and dive this brings an array of symptoms which can have a huge impact. The hormones that play a major role in your monthly cycle impact serotonin – the happy hormone. When these levels drop, the same occurs to serotonin and this can lead to increased anxiety and irritability.’

Your sleep can also be affected, which again will have a knock-on effect on your moods: ‘You may also get night sweats and it is this lack of rest and sleep that can lead to further anxiety and stress. Not only that we are faced with many more challenges at this life stage. It can be very overwhelming and you can feel isolated and lonely – especially if you aren’t able to share what is happening.’

So, what symptoms should we look out for? ‘Many women complain of heart palpitations, breathlessness and a feeling of being invisible, or unheard – which of course can make you feel even more anxious. You feel detached and alienated from those around you.’

When it comes to your diet she adds that fad diets and limiting yourself isn’t the way forward: ‘This is not a time to be cutting out large food groups and can further play into your depression as your blood sugar becomes hugely imbalanced, and your body struggles to balance the hormones.

‘Instead, think protein, fibre, good fats and good carbs at every meal and that means 3 times a day. Tofu, eggs, flaxseed, seeds, nuts, leafy greens, brown rice, quinoa, grains, salmon, chicken, avocado, greek yoghurt, and full-fat cottage cheese are all such good foods to have in your diet and feed the gut microbiome.’

She also adds: ‘Try to avoid sugary substitutes and mindless snacking and look at cutting back on or giving up alcohol.’

Good gut health

Can gut health help alleviate some of the symptoms of low moods? ‘There is so much research on the gut-brain axis – meaning the mind responds to what your gut processes. Evidence also shows that 95% of the body’s serotonin, the happy hormone, can be found in the gut.’

‘While an unhealthy gut may also result in bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, sleep deprivation, fatigue and exhaustion all of which again will impact your energy and desire to move which will further impact your mental health.’

Exercise can also boost the mood, with Kate explaining that ‘All movement counts. Getting outside every day for a little walk can be hugely beneficial.’ However, you don’t have to hit 10K steps a day, instead, she says to aim for 4K a day and build it up if you can.

What about other types of exercise? ‘HIIT whilst effective and quick may cause more inflammation in the body – this is because as your oestrogen declines you’ll not only have joint aches and pains but elevated cortisol levels and possibly adrenal fatigue.’

Instead, she says you should look into strength training, as this has ‘much better results in managing stress and is kinder to your body as you navigate this life stage. We need a certain amount of cortisol but too much can cause anxiety. Yoga and Pilates are also fabulous additions.’

When to see your GP

However, Kate goes on to add: ‘If you’ve implemented a regimen of healthy eating and exercise along with rest and recovery and you’re still feeling depressed, I would make an appointment to see your GP and consider taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) alongside.

‘It is important to remember you don’t need to and you shouldn’t have to suffer with any menopause symptoms and you can truly thrive if you get on top of it.’

‘This transition is not linear and you will find that despite putting all these things into place, you may have moments where you feel unstable again. Always seek help and be open about your feelings and symptoms as there is nothing to be ashamed of.’

Do you think you may suffer from Depression and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online ADHD and Depression diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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