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Natural Ways To Deal With Mood Swings & Irritability

Hormonal changes can make the menopause an emotional rollercoaster ride. Here nutritionist Karen Newby explains what’s going on and shares some brilliant natural solutions.

Struggling to park the car? Wondering why you invited people over to eat? Hit the menopause and tasks that we used to do without thinking can suddenly seem overwhelming. Add bad sleep into the mix and we’re even more irritable. It doesn’t feel good to be out of control, angry or tearful, often for very little reason. But there are biochemical reasons for this.

Oestrogen helps to support various hormones that have mood-boosting properties, including serotonin (our happiness brain chemical), noradrenaline (our stress hormone) and dopamine (our reward-boosting brain chemical).

When we stop having regular cycles we might not always ovulate. Ovulation is crucial for the body’s main source of progesterone, which is often called our ‘everything-will-be-okay hormone’ – another reason why our mood might shift. And progesterone is directly linked to another calming neurochemical called GABA… so you can see how all this combines to affect our happiness levels.

Areas To Think About

Lows of blood sugar exacerbate irritability and mood swings. As does stress or even perceived stress – suddenly we are flying off the handle because the dishwasher isn’t stacked properly or shoes have been left in the hall. Stimulants (sugar, caffeine, alcohol) can make us feel even more stressed. And serotonin – our ‘happiness neurotransmitter’, most of which is made in the gut – requires support at this time.

Therapeutic Foods To Try

  • Protein-rich foods to help with blood-sugar balancing.
  • Vitamin B6 for progesterone and serotonin synthesis: poultry, fish, wholegrains, eggs, soya beans.
  • GABA-supporting foods: bananas, broccoli, almonds, fish, l-theanine in green tea (opt for decaf) and matcha.
  • Adaptogens: maca, turmeric, ashwagandha, panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea.
  • More magnesium: greens, pumpkin seeds, black beans, Epsom salt baths.
  • Turmeric has been shown to boost serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood.
  • Avoid refined carbs: white pasta, bread and high sugar foods.

Small Shifts That Make A Big Difference

  • Don’t hang off your hormones – eat breakfast, drink water through the day and only have caffeine with breakfast.
  • Keep your blood sugar in check by eating a protein-rich breakfast (eggs, low-sugar granola with almond or coconut yogurt and berries, smoothies with pea-protein powder, maca, scrambled tofu, avocado with roasted tomatoes and mushrooms).
  • If your periods are still regular, you can pre-empt PMS mood swings by eating more protein and warming foods, as well as going easy on yourself.

Easy Lifestyle Hacks

  • Vagal nerve-toning: the vagal nerve is our trunk nerve and, by stimulating it, we can move from fight-or-flight to rest- and-digest mode. Try alternate nostril breathing which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and repair); plus singing, gargling with a little water, and cold-water swimming.
  • Choose exercise that is fun not a chore, which will help you do it more often.
  • Yoga, or even just lying in Child’s Pose or Savasana, helps to ground us to the earth.

Stress SOS

Lisa Cory, hypnotherapist and practitioner of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), swears by this ‘STOP’ mindfulness technique if you feel like your head is going to explode:

S – Stop (pause)

T – Take a breath

O – Observe your thoughts and body sensations

P – Proceed with caution.

Alternatively, one of my favourite breathing exercises to help calm us down is 7/11 breathing: breathe in for 7 and out for 11.

Supplements To Consider

  • Agnus Castus, Cytoplan (an herb to reduce anger when periods are regular)
  • Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Complex, Higher Nature or Ashwagandha Plus, Wild Nutrition (not to be used if coeliac)
  • B Complex Plus, Wild Nutrition
  • Magnesium Complex, Bionutri
  • Maca, Naturya
  • Adreno Complex, BioCare

Cautionary Supplement Advice

If you are taking HRT or birth-control medication or are on any other medication or under medical supervision, consult your healthcare practitioner before taking any food supplement. Please note that the supplement section is merely a selection of suggestions that might help a particular symptom – not all of them are to be taken at once. Do get in touch with a nutritional therapist registered with the British Association for Nutritional and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) for a tailored protocol, taking into account your unique health needs:

Extracted from The Natural Menopause Method by Karen Newby, published by Pavilion. For more information visit

To understand more about menopausal mood swings and other solutions that could help head here

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