I was recently sent some fascinating information by Labrix (a salivary hormone testing company) about the connection between estrogen and progesterone and mood. We know that women are much more likely to suffer from (or at least own up to the fact that they are suffering with) mood disorders including depression and anxiety. This information helps us to understand how the female hormones profoundly impact brain functioning and thus mood.
The following text is from Labrix:
“Estrogen dominance, a state where there is a greater influence of estrogen than progesterone on the body is alarmingly common in women of all ages. In peri-menopausal women, their progesterone levels fall many years before the decline in estrogen levels creating a state of relative estrogen dominance.
One of the many actions that progesterone has on the body is to calm electrical activity in the brain. The primary mechanism for this is through the metabolite allopregnenolone which activates the same GABA-A receptor as Valium, Xanax and alcohol.
Without the relaxing effect of progesterone, many women find themselves with new-found anxiety or insomnia and may self medicate with one of the above mentioned substances.
Furthermore, estradiol exacerbates the situation by enhancing the excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine, and histamine. The combination of increased excitation and diminished inhibition of electrical stimulation is often enough to push many women over the edge and into addiction.
Although women in the peri-menopausal years is often where we see this phenomenon, please remember that there are many younger women and even adolescents with inadequate progesterone levels that may predispose them to reach for an exogenous source to relax them, or shut down some of their overactive neurotransmitter activity.
As in many situations, too much estradiol (relative to progesterone) causes significant problems, but too little estradiol can also wreak havoc on brain chemistry. Estradiol inhibits the enzyme monamine oxidase (MAO) which is responsible for breaking down serotonin, dopamine and histamine and estradiol enhances the serotonin receptor function in the female brain.
As estradiol levels fall to below optimal levels (as with anovulation or menopause), many women can suffer from anxiety and depression due to diminished serotonin, histamine and/or dopamine levels. There are a number of substances that enhance dopamine and/or serotonin activity in the brain including food, nicotine, alcohol, opioid pain medications and marijuana.”
As you can see, having the “female” hormones out of balance has a profound impact on the body that goes well beyond having babies and periods.
Balancing hormones is an important aspect of health care for both women and men, and always a piece of our long-term care to help people achieve a high-quality life.
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