Mood swings and PMS?
You are happily attending to your day-to-day business – going to work, driving, taking time out to relax and read or watch TV – then all of a sudden you experience an unexplanatory surge of irritability, low mood and sadness. It’s that time of month again when you just never know how you are going to react to perfectly ordinary events.
Mood swings are one of the most common symptom of PMS, and the cause is often put down to changes in levels of hormones in the lead up to your period. Often the fluctuations in levels of hormones take your mood on the bumpy journey too.
Many women hope that having survived the trauma of youthful mood swings, that their symptoms will now improve and they will enter into a more relaxed, calmer and altogether happier stage of maturity.
The unfortunate truth is that this dream can be so far from reality, and many women report symptoms of PMS worsening with age, in particular as they approach the mysterious peri-menopause.
Is the peri-menopause all bad news?
Throughout a woman’s lifetime, her hormones are constantly changing. We first become aware of this at puberty, (well our parents certainly did!) when the changes are distinct and significant, but after this time, the changes can be much more subtle. In a way, this can make it harder for women, as they are less aware of the changes in their body that are affecting their mood.
It has been found that mood swings, and other symptoms of PMS, worsen when a woman is in her late 30s or early 40s. This transitional period is called the peri-menopause and it can be a disconcerting time for many women who are not fully aware of the changes that can occur.
So far, the outlook has seem rather bleak for women – the hormonal changes over which they have no control are only going to cause their mood swings to become more severe and frequent as they approach the menopause.
Yet it actually need not be this way, as there are many lifestyle improvements we can implement to help us sail through these PMS blues and enter the peri-menopause with our heads held high, full of life, energy and happiness.
What other factors are at play?
Before we can understand what we can do to reduce mood swings, it helps to understand what other factors can contribute to worsening mood swings, aside from the hormonal changes previously described.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of low mood and mood swings regardless of hormonal changes, and the problem with it is that many people do not realise how much pressure they are under until they cast a retrospective eye over the situation.
Stress can come in many forms, and for women of this age, this can be full-time work along with looking after children or dealing with empty nest syndrome of children leaving home. At the same time, worries associated with parents growing older can strike too.
The result – we spend our day running from one ‘problem’ to the other, looking after other people and not giving our own body time to relax and switch off. This emotional drain on the system can make you more susceptible to fluctuations in mood.
2. Diet and exercise
What we eat and how we exercise has more of an impact on our mood than we may initially assume. Certain foods, particularly those high in refined sugar and caffeine cause erratic fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and this results in peaks and troughs in your mood too.
This can be worsened with certain medications, such as antibiotics, which alter the digestive bacteria in your gut. If you regularly experience bloating before your period, along with mood swings, this is an indication that your digestive system is not responding well to your diet, and it is affecting your hormonal balance too.
Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle with little exercise actually results in lethargy and fatigue, which can cause you to feel lower in mood.
3. Unhappy liver
Alfred Vogel is known to have believed that we are only as healthy as our liver, and there is much evidence to back this up. As well as helping to absorb and digest food properly and dealing with toxins which can affect our health, the liver plays an important role with regard to hormones.
Essentially, once the hormones have done their job, the liver deactivates them so that they do not wreak havoc. However, if your liver has not been given sufficient amount of TLC, it struggles to effectively deactivate the hormones, leading to sudden fluctuations in hormone levels which do nothing to reduce mood swings.
Many people underestimate the role and importance of magnesium in the body, but magnesium deficiency is extremely common and can cause general lethargy, cramps and digestive problems. This can all contribute to the general misery of PMS and worsen mood swings. As we age, our body struggles to compensate for nutritional deficiency, making us more prone to the associated symptoms.
What can we do to reduce PMS mood swings?
With a much better understanding of what affects mood swings, we can arm ourselves with all the information we need to make positive changes towards a new relaxed and level-headed future.
Remember to take time to relax. As we approach the peri-menopause our bodies are undergoing changes, so it is important that we take a little time out to allow our body to relax and adapt. This will also help to reduce stress, and generally more able to cope with day-to-day pressures. It can often feel that we have too much to do that we cannot take a holiday or break, but even an evening spent purely on you, just relaxing, can make a world of difference.
Address any dietary issues, such as relying on sugar or caffeine to help you through the day. Instead eat a varied diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, good fats, protein and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates release the energy steadily throughout the day which helps to prevent sudden fluctuations in blood sugar and mood.
A good diet is also the best way that we can protect our liver. It has been found that the amount of alcohol being consumed is ever on the increase, and this directly impacts the liver. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake, and enjoy the benefits of improved digestion, immunity and mood. We can give our liver that little extra support with herbs such as milk thistle, which have a traditional use in helping combat the symptoms associated with over-indulgence.
Make sure that you are including enough magnesium in your diet, found most prominently in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, and if not consider using a dietary supplement. As I’ve said earlier, the correct level of magnesium in the body helps to combat many symptoms of PMS.
Exercise is also a great way to counter mood swings, as it releases the chemical serotonin, which has been nicknamed the ‘happy hormone’. Additionally, exercise uses up excess sugar supplies helping to stabilise mood and also helps to keep weight under control, which can be another stressor.
Are there herbs that can help?
Many people find that herbs are an effective way of reducing PMS symptoms such as mood swings, as they do not take the same toll on the body as conventional medicines.
Agnus castus is a herb with a long traditional use in helping to relieve premenstrual symptoms, such as irritability and mood swings, by influencing and stabilising the hormones.
Additionally, when approaching or in the peri-menopause, a combination of magnesium, hibiscus and soy isoflavones, such as can be found in Menopause Support can help too.