Hormones and Female Mood
(Reach for progesterone, not Prozac) by Dr. Berkson (author of Hormone Deception and SEXY BRAIN, drlindseyberkson.com)
Women have been known to have changeable moods, one day sweet, one day not. Semonides, a Greek philosopher, said: “Women were one day all smiles … but the next … she’s in a frenzy to both friend or foe.”
It used to be commonly accepted that this was woman. A bit nuts.
Various societies feared menstruation. Early Hindus made menstruating women go into seclusion for three days while bleeding. The Koran described menstruation as an illness.
Then came the hormone theory. Her hormones make her do it.
The role of hormones and aberrant behavior was highlighted early on in English law. In 1845 a woman was acquitted of shoplifting because her lawyer convinced a jury that she was temporarily insane because she was a few days ahead of getting her period. A few years later in 1851, two women successfully used the defense of PMS to get away with murder. The jury was convinced that PMS made them temporarily insane and capable of killing someone.
Today it is well accepted and any woman can tell you that hormones dictate moods. It’s not uncommon for women, prior to their period, to become irritable, angry, and down right hard to live with. PMS is the nickname or acronym for premenstrual syndrome. This is now the official term for all kinds of nasty or uncomfortable symptoms from one day to two weeks prior to the onset of menstruation.
PMS was first described as a recognized medical entity in 1953. But the connection of PMS to hormones really got put on the medical “map” by Dr. Katharina Dalton. She is the gynecologist credited with linking PMS to progesterone and nutrient insufficiencies (not enough for proper function of the body and brain), which were the root cause of severe mood issues in women before the onset of their period (another term for menstruation).
Dr. Dalton published “The Premenstrual Syndrome and Progesterone Therapy” in 1978, which called for use of natural progesterone, along with vitamins and minerals to help make the progesterone work better. Dr. Dalton even recommended dietary guidelines. Before Dr. Dalton’s book, women continued to be accused of being unclean, having the “vapors,” or prone to explosive personality changes merely because this was the plight of all things woman. Today’s women are indebted to Dr. Dalton, and later Dr. John Lee, for making the early connections between hormonal imbalances and mood complexities.
For many years I have been writing in my blogs and books, like Safe Hormones, Smart Women and my new book, SEXY BRAIN, that much of depression and anxiety, especially in middle and older age, is secondary to hormonal and nutrient imbalances. It’s well documented that women who get individualized testing and balancing with hormone replacement are often able to avoid mood and sleep medications that most women tend to start using when they enter peri- and post-menopause. What a shame that women are handed antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds more comfortably than being recommended to have their hormonal personal footprint tested and treated.
Research from Johns Hopkins now adds to our understanding of hormones and mood. In a study on women with previously diagnosed mood disorders, Johns Hopkins researchers report that lower levels of the hormone allopregnanolone (which is the major metabolite or breakdown product of progesterone) in the second trimester of pregnancy is associated with an increased chance of developing postpartum depression in women. Why? These women were prone to not having enough progesterone before and also during their pregnancies. These women were, like Drs. Dalton and Lee discussed, low or insufficient in progesterone, which is the parent molecule of alllopregnanolone.
In clinical practice, in-the-know practitioners can prescribe progesterone and/or allopregnanolone replacement to improve sleep, PMS, memory, focus, and brain fog issues and to improve overall mood. It can be used in both men and women and sometimes even for short periods of time in young boys and girls.
In today’s toxic environment, progesterone is under attack. There are many environmental pollutants that disrupt or alter our natural progesterone function. These are referred to as “anti-progestins.” Diverse chemicals lurk in everyday life that can block normal progesterone function, from birth control pills to ozone and even some common over-the-counter pain medications. The class of pain relievers called NSAIDs, were first shown to disrupt and block normal progesterone signaling in 2006. In 2015, scientific studies replicated this. It was shown that healthy women taking NSAID analgesics for only 10 days, only at the dosage recommended on the label, had blocked progesterone signaling sufficiently to make these ladies unable to ovulate and thus infertile. How many women are going through expensive and possibly unhealthy fertility treatments because they are taking medications or exposed to toxins that block their own progesterone that is critical for healthy pregnancy?
Progesterone gets its name from its function. Progesterone makes pregnancy possible, so it’s supportive or “pro” pregnancy. Another way to refer to pregnancy is “gestation.” Putting the terms “pro” and “gestation” together gives us the name progesterone, the hormone that supports birth. It also supports our brain function and moods. Nature wants women to be able to create the next generation but to also be able to be a happy fit mother to do a good job at it.
Progesterone also tamps down unhealthy inappropriate inflammation that threatens our brain, central nervous system, and more. But with only 10 days on over-the-counter pain meds, NSAIDs, the pro-gest function of progesterone was blocked. That’s how powerful and nastily fast acting anti-progestins, like NSAIDs, can be.
Hormones protect our brain, gut and mood, they are not just about reproduction. Often individual testing and replacing of necessary hormones improves cognition, perception of hope or loss of it, our ability to get pregnant and even to avoid mood issues linked to pregnancy like postpartum depression. Individualized and appropriate prescription of hormone therapy often improves mood and allows you to avoid expensive and dangerous drugs. It’s better to treat the root cause of the mood issue rather than pharmacalize the treatment of these conditions.
Your brain is basically a bag of healthy fats along with B vitamins. It is flush with hormone receptors, which are proteins in the shape of satellite dishes that receive healthy signals from hormones. These hormones — progesterone, along with estrogen, testosterone, oxytocin, and more — help keep a brain happy, calm, and able to achieve restorative sleep. They keep you energetic and sane.
If you find yourself in a life scenario where you are anxious, depressed, or can’t sleep, before knee-jerk reflexing to prescription meds, work with a practitioner who knows how to test and use hormone replacement in safe and appropriate ways. This is usually not endocrinologists. Recently an elderly patient of mine, who wanted to initiate hormone replacement therapy, was sent by her family doctor to an endocrinologist. Of course, this doctor said hormone replacement was dangerous and not for her. As Dr. Roger J. Williams, author of Biochemical Individuality reminded us, humans tend to be down on what they are not up on.
Remember, the answer you get from any expert is based only on what they know or don’t know. Endocrinologists treat thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and diabetic problems, but not sex hormones, so if you ask them about going on hormones you are apt to get wrong answers. It’s hard to accept this, but it’s reality.
If you are blue, irritable, anxious, or can’t sleep, consider that your hormones, nutrients, and diet might need tweaking more than you need to expose your tissues to dangerous and pricey medications. Remember, estrogen therapy has now been vindicated to protect breasts against breast cancer, and the brain against cognitive decline, when given in the right way, to the right women, at the right time. So hormones rule mood and mentation and, at the same time, protect breasts.
When having mood issues, and in doubt, get your hormones tested.
BMJ 2004;329:1048. Katharina Dorothea Dalton BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https/ (Published 28 October 2004)
Katharina Dalton, The Premenstrual Syndrome and Progesterone Therapy, 1978, 1984, Mosby Elsevier Health Science
Australian Institute of Criminology, №31. “Women and Crime: Premenstrual Issues Trends and Issues in crime and justice” April 1991, Patricia Weiser Easteal
Hamline Law Review, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 183–91, Trimble, Jane & Fay, Margaret 1986, “PMS in Today’s Society”
Indiana Medicine 1987, “Premenstrual Syndrome: A Critical Review of the Literature,” vol. 80, no. 4, April, pp. 378–82.
Safe Hormones, Smart Women, Berkson, 2010 Awakened Medicine Press
Sexy Brain, 2017 Berkson, Awakened Medicine Press
Int J Pharm Compd. 2013 Jan-Feb;17(1):74–85. The effects of compounded bioidentical transdermal hormone therapy on hemostatic, inflammatory, immune factors; cardiovascular biomarkers; quality-of-life measures; and health outcomes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
ScienceDaily, 29 March 2015. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “Ozone air pollution could harm women’s fertility.”
J Nutr Environ Med 1998; 8:105–116. The pill, hormone replacement therapy, vascular and mood over-reactivity, and mineral imbalance.
J Clin Pharmacol. Delay of ovulation by meloxicam in healthy cycling volunteers: A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. 2006 Aug;46(8):925–32.
Medscape. Dec 23, 2015. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Infertility.
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (16), pp 10155–10164. Environmental Progestins Progesterone and Drospirenone Alter the Circadian Rhythm Network in Zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017; 79: 116 Lower allopregnanolone during pregnancy predicts postpartum depression: An exploratory study.
JAMA. 2002 Nov 6;288(17):2123–9. Hormone replacement therapy and incidence of Alzheimer disease in older women: the Cache County Study.
DrLindseyBerkson.com The Unjustified Fear of Estrogen