Depression is a symptom of menopause that up to 30% of women will experience during the transition. The root cause is often the hormonal imbalance that occurs as estrogen declines. Because of the hopelessness that depression fosters, some women who suffer from depression may be inclined to believe there are no treatment options available, or that treatment will not help them. Though depression may affect nearly all aspects of a woman's life, it is important to remember that menopause, rather than being an illness, is a natural, normal change and that depression during this time can be successfully treated.
Since estrogen plays a role in mood regulation, as its levels decrease, it can lead toward sadness and depression. Fortunately, this hormonal imbalance can be reversed.
While it was at one time commonplace to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms like depression, the medication's connection to an increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and heart disease has prompted many doctors to reevaluate HRT as a viable treatment option. Instead, a blend of lifestyle changes, healthy adjustments, and therapy is typically suggested to treat depression.
Three Approaches to Treating Depression
When treating depression, three approaches can be taken into consideration: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications and Therapy.It is advised to start with the least-risky stage, lifestyle changes, along with therapeutic counseling. In general, medical intervention should only be turned to as a last resort.
1. Lifestyle Changes
The first approach to treatment entails the lowest risk, but conversely, it requires the most self-discipline. In many cases, minor lifestyle adjustments can help improve depression in addition to bringing a greater level of overall mental and physical health. These lifestyle changes are three-pronged: regular exercise, dietary improvements, and good habits.
Often, exercise is the last thing that a woman may want to do when she is feeling depressed. However, it is vital for a woman suffering from depression to lead an active lifestyle. The physiological and physical benefits of regular exercise will help ease the symptoms of depression.
Exercise is not a magic cure, but it can often relieve mild forms of depression. Once the initial inertia has been overcome, many women find it easy to stick to a weekly exercise regime. As little as three 30-minute sessions of exercise a week could improve symptoms of depression. Increasing fitness and taking part in sporting activities such as swimming, walking, golf, biking releases feel-good endorphins, relieves muscle tension, reduces stress, and can aid sleeping patterns and improve body image.
It is common for women suffering from depression to become isolated, which can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Joining a gym or a sports club is a great way of meeting new people and of sustaining a healthy social life.
Even if regular exercise does not fully banish symptoms like negative thoughts, it is still worthwhile, since only positive health benefits can be gained.
Diet can also help relieve symptoms of menopausal depression. Some foods help because they boost the production of serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter, while others help by raising estrogen levels. The following nutrients are recommended as an addition or increase in the diet:
Complex carbohydrates. Found in whole grains, these nutrients up the production of serotonin.
Vitamin D. A deficiency of this vitamin can also lower serotonin levels. It is found in fortified orange juice and dairy products.
Folic acid (vitamin B9). This nutrient - found in chocolate, lentils, and avocado - helps to regulate serotonin levels.
Phytoestrogens. These plant-based estrogens can help increase estrogen levels. They are found in tofu, apples, flaxseed, cherries, and rye, among other foods.
In addition, it is important to eliminate some foods and habits in order to avoid worsening the symptoms. For example, alcohol may provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but in the long term, it tends to worsen depression. In addition, smoking often increases stress and anxiety levels. High amounts of sugar and caffeine can also leave one feeling anxious.
Simple Lifestyle Changes for Depression
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Sleep seven to eight hours per night
- Consume vitamins B9 and D Practice breathing exercises Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated
Though lifestyle changes are a healthy and holistic way of combating depression, they may be difficult to put into practice. In addition, most changes do not address the root hormonal imbalance that is the cause of many cases of menopausal depression. Fortunately, alternative medicines can alleviate depression by correcting hormonal imbalances in a safe and effective manner. Continue reading to learn more about natural treatments for depression.
2. Alternative Medicine
There are many possibilities in the field of alternative medicine that can help relieve the symptoms of menopausal depression. Herbal supplements are the most common, but some women opt for other treatments like massage, guided meditation, and biofeedback. However, most consider herbal treatments to be easier to follow, less expensive, and in addition, they are the only method that can address underlying hormonal imbalances.
In terms of herbal supplements, two types can be taken to treat hormonal imbalances: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating herbal supplements:
Phytoestrogenic supplements - e.g., black cohosh, soy
These supplements work by introducing phytoestrogens - or plant-based estrogen compounds - into the body to raise estrogen levels. In this way, they can compensate for an estrogen deficiency. However, if they are used for a long period of time, the body may become less able to produce natural hormones, resulting in a decline in the long run.
Hormone-regulating supplements - e.g., Macafem
These supplements do not contain any outside hormones. Rather, they function by providing the hormonal glands with ample nutrients to stimulate natural hormone production. This balances not only estrogen levels, but also those of progesterone and testosterone. These supplements carry virtually no side effects, so they are safe to use as long as necessary.
From “Nature and Health Magazine”, Dr. Chacon says:
“Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production, by inducing the optimal functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands”. Read and learn more about Macafem.
A combination of approaches - namely lifestyle changes plus alternative treatments and counseling - is frequently the most effective method. However, in cases of severe depression, medications may be called for. It is important to first understand the risks and benefits before undergoing any medical treatment.
3. Medications and Therapy
In many cases, treatments for depression include therapeutic methods, such as counseling ("talk therapy") or other cognitive therapies. Carrying out these treatments together with a professional helps a woman play an active role in her recovery and the management of her emotions. Therapy is often done alongside natural methods, i.e., lifestyle changes and alternative medicine.
Medications for depression are also available, but they involve the most risk and usually the greatest expense. These include:
- Mood stabilizers
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
In the U.S., the most commonly-prescribed medication for menopausal depression and other symptoms of menopause is HRT. While this can be a fast and effective way to manage depression, it also carries the risk of side effects, such as heart disease and an increased risk of certain cancers, as revealed in the study below.
In 1991, The National Institutes of Health launched the Women's Health Initiative, the largest clinical study carried out in the U.S. to this date. Its goal was to identify the risk and rewards of HRT, but it was canceled in 2002, at which point it was established that the use of synthetic hormones raises the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Dr. James Liu , chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MacDonald Women's Hospital, elaborates on the risks of HRT: "If you take medium to higher doses of hormone therapy, you are at increased risk of stroke. If you are on estrogen, the risks of clotting abnormalities are slightly increased versus if you are not on estrogen. So, the risk of stroke is increased.
Antidepressants may take some time to begin working and can also have side effects. Fortunately, there are different classes of antidepressants, so the medication or its dosage can be adjusted to minimize side effects and produce the best results. The main types of antidepressants include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications increase serotonin activity. Common side effects include low libido, upset stomach, and drowsiness.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. This type of antidepressant increases both serotonin and norepinephrine. The main side effects are nausea, insomnia, and low sex drive.
Tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs work similarly to SSRIs but typically have more side effects.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. This type of antidepressant is prescribed as a last resort due to its stronger side effects and the interactions it can have with some foods.
It is important to keep in mind that these medications may carry their own risks or become less effective over time. It is important to discuss the options with a doctor while also receiving counseling in order to determine the best course of action.
These three approaches are not mutually exclusive. Many women combine them as necessary, along with counseling, to ease symptoms. More and more are finding that a combination of herbal supplements, lifestyle changes, and counseling is the most effective way to fight menopausal depression.
A Safe Way of Treating Depression
Implementing lifestyle changes:
- Eating a diet rich in vitamins B9 and D
- Consuming estrogen-containing foods
- Taking part in team sports
- Joining a support group
- Alcohol and tobacco
- Excessive consumption of caffeine and sugar
And taking hormone-regulating herbal supplements:
- Support a healthy hormonal system
- Completely natural and high in nutrients
A good option is Macafem - learn more about it.
- Amin, Z. , Canli, T. & Epperson, C.N. (2005). Effects of Estrogen-Serotonin Interactions on Mood and Cognition. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 4(1), 43-58. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886402
- Fava, M. & Mischoulon, D. (2009). Folate in depression: efficacy, safety, differences in formulations, and clinical issues. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 70 Suppl 5, 12-17. doi: 10.4088/JCP.8157su1c.03.
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause and mental health. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-mental-health/
- Spedding, S. (2014). Vitamin D and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Studies with and without Biological Flaws. Nutrients, 6(4), 1501-1518. doi: 10.3390/nu6041501
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2015). Depression. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/depression
- Young, S.N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 32(6), 394-399. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/