Reproductive hormones—estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA-S
Reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and testosterone can also affect your mood. Estrogen is the main hormone involved in the menstrual cycle. It helps regulate periods, fertility, and pregnancy. When it’s too high, it may lead to a condition called “estrogen dominance,” which is when there’s too much estrogen relative to progesterone. This can cause PMS, irregular periods, weight gain, anxiety, and depression.
Progesterone is another hormone involved in the menstrual cycle. It’s responsible for preparing the uterine lining for pregnancy. Low progesterone or an insufficient ratio of progesterone to estrogen can cause anxiety, sleep disturbances, irritability, and other mood symptoms.
In both men and women, low testosterone causes a dramatic decrease in energy, motivation, and libido.
Read more: 7 Signs of Low Progesterone
Stress depletes hormones
Chronic stress can lead to cortisol dysfunction, sometimes called ‘adrenal fatigue’, which happens when the body’s response to stress becomes dysregulated. Researchers think that prolonged exposure to cortisol effectively creates a “resistance” to it, similar to the mechanisms of insulin-resistant diabetes (2). This can cause a domino effect, leading to hormonal imbalances and fatigue that can be difficult to treat.
Stress also affects the way your body metabolizes hormones. One review found that stress at any age depletes estrogen and testosterone in the body—hormones that are important for your mood (3).
Other factors that deplete hormones and worsen mood:
- Hormonal birth control (The Pill, shot, implant, etc.) depletes certain nutrients that play a role in regulating mood, including zinc, B6, and magnesium (4). Low availability of these vitamins and minerals increase anxious feelings and can create mood instability.
- Poor sleep habits can lead to hormonal imbalances. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to repair and recover from the day’s stressors.
- A diet high in sugar and processed foods triggers blood sugar swings and releases adrenaline and cortisol—stress hormones—and this stress response can feel a lot like anxiety. Sugar can cause spikes in insulin, which can lead to mood swings and irritability (5).
Browse supplements for stress.
Low estrogen is linked to depression, mood swings
Falling hormone levels can trigger mood swings that make you less able to cope with normal daily stressors. If you’re feeling like small things are pushing you over the edge, there’s a good chance these changes in mood are hormonal.
Estrogen is necessary to stimulate serotonin and GABA—two neurotransmitters responsible for well-being (6). Low estrogen levels can occur as a result of:
- Certain autoimmune conditions
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Inadequate nutrition
Women who are going through menopause or have had their ovaries removed (oophorectomy) are at a higher risk for depression. This may be due to the sudden drop in estrogen levels.
How to fix hormonal mood changes
First, it’s important to get your hormones checked by a qualified integrative physician. This will give you a starting point to see if hormones are playing a role in your mood. Then, take a look at how your daily actions affect hormones that regulate your mood:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both things can make anxiety and mood swings worse.
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet. Eat plenty of quality proteins, fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats. Fats are the building blocks of hormones, and it’s important not to deprive your adrenals of these nutrients—especially during stressful situations.
- Spend time outside. Dozens of studies show a positive connection between mood and time spent outdoors (7). As an added bonus, 10-15 minutes of sun exposure can boost vitamin D levels, which have also been shown to support mood and decrease anxiety (8).
- Don’t browse social media before bed. Scrolling your social media feed before bed perpetuates cortisol dysregulation at a time when your brain needs to focus on preparing for sleep. Skip the scroll—pick up a book, or a short journal prompt.
- Address stress. Talk to a therapist if you’re struggling with your daily demands. They can help you develop coping mechanisms and manage your symptoms.
While you work on a healthy lifestyle for hormones and mood, you may also want to give your mood a gentle push in a positive direction.
Supplements for a stable mood include:
- Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and Rhodiola.
- L-theanine – an amino acid found in green tea that can help with relaxation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and support mood and brain health.
- Magnesium – this mineral is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, and low levels have been linked with anxiety.
- Zinc – a deficiency in this mineral has been linked to depression, especially in men.
- Methylated B vitamins – are important for detoxing hormones and supporting the nervous system.
- Inositol is closely related to B vitamins, and is essential for hormone balance, nervous system function, and has been shown to be helpful in reducing general anxiety and panic attacks. Inositol is often recommended at a dose of about 1-2 g daily, though in studies it has been well-tolerated at larger doses (9).
- Bacopa monnieri, also known in Ayurvedic medicine as Brahmi, improves attention and cognition. It also inhibits the release of inflammatory proteins and can protect brain cells from stress-induced damage (10).
For a comprehensive and personalized plan to alleviate hormonal anxiety and mood swings, get the support of an integrative team at CentreSpringMD.
Balance Hormones, Feel Better
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, it might be time to take a closer look at your hormones. Hormonal imbalances can trigger mood swings and anxiety, which only serve to amplify stress levels. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to support healthy hormone function and improve your mood. A healthy diet, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, plenty of sleep, and adaptogenic herbs are a great place to start. Once you’ve got those under control, you can start biohacking your hormones for even better results. Have you ever tried balancing your hormones? What was your experience?