Anxiety and the menopause
It’s thought that around 30% of women suffer from increased anxiety during the time of the menopause. There are various reasons for this but it’s also thought that women simply become more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, triggering symptoms. Whatever the reasons, anxiety is really unpleasant and can be debilitating for some women, making them change plans and often having to leave their jobs.
The good news is that there are plenty of foods and herbs that can help you to feel more balanced and, therefore improve symptoms.
Eggs are an easy food to incorporate regularly into the diet. Indeed, eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, containing all the essential amino acids that make up proteins. Most importantly, they’re rich in vitamin B12 which is needed for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Indeed, deficiency of B12 affects the brain and nervous system first.
Eggs in all their forms, make a great start to the day and because of their high protein content, you definitely stay fuller for longer. Plus, their high protein content helps to keep blood sugar levels in good balance which has a positive effect on all hormones and, therefore feelings of anxiety.
Specifically, Portobello mushrooms are high in vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin. In years past, severe deficiency of vitamin B3 lead to pellagra characterised by dermatitis, diarrhoea and dementia. Thankfully, this has now been eradicated but it proves the importance of this nutrient in brain health and for maybe helping banish anxiety.
The great news is that Portobello mushrooms also contain some vitamin D (still widely deficient in the UK), and a lack of which seems to also affect mood.
So, get chopping and add them to stir fries, pasta dishes, on toast with beans for breakfast or simply roasted as a vegetable side.
Top of the list as being one of nature’s most calming herbs, is lavender. Many people report improved sleep after spraying their pillow with lavender. It appears to work in a number of ways on the nervous system, but it certainly seems to activate GABA, one of our relaxing brain neurotransmitters.
Lavender also makes a really delicious tea infusion. All you need to do is pour boiling water over one teaspoon of the dried herb, cover and leave to infuse for about five minutes. You can sweeten with a little honey if desired and you’ll soon be feeling super chilled!
All teas have some health benefits, particularly for their immune-boosting antioxidants. However, green tea contains the amino acid, L-theanine, which, just like lavender, helps promote GABA. Green tea is especially high in epigallocatechin gallate, more easily known as EGCG! This is a particularly powerful antioxidant that works on brain function, also helping to promote GABA. It’s a win-win situation!
If you’re feeling anxious, then it’s good to get into the habit of drinking three cups of green tea daily. It can also help reduce the anxiety-promoting effects of caffeine if you’ve succumbed to that early morning double espresso.
Oats are high in the amino acid tryptophan which is converted into serotonin in the body, our hormone responsible for mood and motivation. Serotonin is then converted into the sleep hormone melatonin; a lack of sleep will also promote more anxiety.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to fall asleep at your desk if you have a bowl of porridge for breakfast. However, oats will provide you with sustained energy throughout the day without any anxiety, plus mood will be lifted from having a boost of serotonin. Interchange an egg-based breakfast with porridge and your week will hopefully run super-smoothly.
Women don’t need to suffer in silence with unpleasant symptoms of anxiety; nature can help provide a sense of calm.
 Peir Hossein Koulivand et al. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013;61304