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How Hormones Affect How we Think

Moody, hormonal, bitchy, weepy, emotional, PMS'ing... women have heard it all - pretty much before we even get our first period.

The History of Hysterical Women

From wandering wombs to a 'hysteria' diagnosis, women have have been maligned in medical care since ancient Egypt. Our bodies - and the amazing feat of childbirth - has led to women being labeled as crazy, when in fact, we have a lot more hormones to manage.

Women experience dynamic fluctuations in hormones and neurotransmitters throughout various life stages, profoundly influencing their physical and mental well-being. During the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels undergo intricate changes. The follicular phase, marked by rising estrogen levels, contributes to improved mood, cognitive function, and energy. As ovulation approaches, a surge in estrogen and a rise in serotonin can enhance mood and well-being. However, the luteal phase sees a decline in estrogen and an increase in progesterone, potentially leading to mood swings, irritability, and changes in sleep patterns. Pregnancy brings about a surge in hormones, including human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone. These hormones play pivotal roles in maintaining pregnancy, fostering fetal development, and preparing the body for childbirth. The postpartum period is characterized by a dramatic drop in pregnancy hormones, coupled with sleep deprivation and the stress of new motherhood, which can contribute to the "baby blues" or postpartum depression.

Menopause marks a significant hormonal transition in a woman's life, characterized by the decline in estrogen and progesterone. The hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause can lead to a myriad of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and changes in libido. These changes also impact neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, potentially contributing to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Hormone replacement therapy, designed to alleviate these symptoms by restoring hormonal balance, is a common approach for managing menopausal symptoms.

How Hormones Change

It's important to remember that, for women, hormones and neurotransmitters interplay, and they change as we move from pre-pubescent, to cycling, in childbirth, and then in menopause. In women, the decline in estrogen and progesterone, primarily associated with menopause, marks a significant hormonal shift. Estrogen, responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and supporting bone health, decreases, leading to symptoms like hot flashes and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Progesterone, crucial for maintaining pregnancy and a sense of calm, also decreases, potentially contributing to mood swings and anxiety. In men, testosterone levels gradually decline with age, impacting muscle mass, bone density, and libido. This decline may result in symptoms like fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and changes in body composition.

The neurotransmitter melatonin, responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles, experiences alterations with age. Melatonin production tends to decrease, contributing to disruptions in sleep patterns and an increased prevalence of insomnia among older individuals. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, also undergoes changes. While cortisol levels may remain relatively stable, the body's response to stress may become less efficient, impacting overall stress resilience and potentially leading to conditions such as adrenal fatigue.

The intricate interplay between hormones and neurotransmitters in aging individuals goes beyond mere physical manifestations. Changes in these chemical messengers can influence cognitive functions, mood, and overall mental well-being. The decline in certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, is associated with an increased risk of mood disorders like depression and anxiety in the elderly. Furthermore, hormonal imbalances may contribute to cognitive decline and an elevated susceptibility to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

The Role of Hormones on the Brain

Hormones, like neurotransmitters, are essentially chemical messengers, and they play a key role in neurocognitive health and function. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone work directly with the nerve cells in the brain and contribute to blood flow of the brain, protecting against loss of memory and the progression of dementia. Plus, hormones like cortisol and melatonin are key to regulating sleep wake cycles, stress, and brain functioning - and they are all connected - so, once one gets out of whack, it is easy for others to become imbalanced.

Hormonal function is important in maintaining the development of human growth and cognitive function. Neuronal networking is still being researched in regard to the exact pathway for how hormonal changes can directly affect cognitive abilities such as memory, thinking, problem solving, spatial ability and even emotion. (1)

Mood? Moody? In the Mood...?

Hormones and neurotransmitters play a crucial role in shaping an individual's libido, sex life, and overall intimacy. Testosterone, commonly associated with men, is a key hormone influencing sexual desire in both men and women. Adequate levels of testosterone contribute to a healthy libido, and its decline, often associated with aging, can lead to reduced sexual motivation. Estrogen, predominant in women, also influences sexual response by maintaining vaginal lubrication and enhancing blood flow to the genital area. Fluctuations in estrogen levels, such as during the menstrual cycle or menopause, can impact sexual desire and comfort.

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, plays a central role in the brain's reward system during sexual activity. Oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," is released during physical touch and orgasm, promoting emotional bonding and intimacy. Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, is involved in mood regulation and can affect sexual desire; imbalances may lead to sexual dysfunction. Stress hormone cortisol can negatively impact libido by diverting resources away from reproductive functions. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders can also influence the delicate balance of hormones and neurotransmitters, affecting sexual well-being.

Secret (not so special) Sauce

The presence of certain chemicals, excessive sugar consumption, and exposure to xenoestrogens in food and beauty products can have profound effects on mood and overall mental well-being. Chemical additives, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners found in processed foods may contribute to inflammation and disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, potentially leading to mood swings, irritability, and fatigue. Excessive sugar intake can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, impacting energy levels and contributing to mood instability. Xenoestrogens, which are synthetic compounds mimicking estrogen, can be present in food additives and some beauty products. These compounds may interfere with the endocrine system, potentially leading to hormonal imbalances and affecting mood regulation. As the skin absorbs substances, chemicals in beauty products can enter the bloodstream, adding an additional route of exposure.

Dream Cream(s)

Of course, as we've mentioned, hormone therapies have become more common place as women seek solutions for these - which is why things like DHEA, Progesterone, and even neurotransmitter creams, can all play a role in helping us feel more mentally balanced.

ReBounce DHEA can help with things like mental focus, clarity, and energy. This is due to the conversion to testosterone, which can in turn help boost mental function.
Vibrant Third Progesterone can help stabilize mood, making us feel less chaotic from up and down moods, but also helping alleviate brain fog.
Chaos Calmer, with GABA, a neurotransmitter, can help the brain feel calm and focused, otherwise known as in the zone, making it easier for us to both relax AND focus!

Check them out in our shop page.

The Science > https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC64225...