Many women experience premenstrual anxiety and depression in a moderate or severe form. Typically these are hormonal imbalances which are driven by nutrient deficiency and/or excess, which when resolved can lead to calm, uneventful, natural cycles.
OT was 33 years when she got in touch with me seeking help for her long-standing daily anxiety and depression, which became much worse before her period. She felt low 80% of the time and even worse in the week before her period, where she would have an emotional meltdown. She had tried all kinds of approaches to manage her low moods including counselling, anti-depressants and hormonal birth control, none of which were successful.
“I have suffered with anxiety and low grade depression for as long as I can remember although I only realised that there was a name for how I felt when I was in my late teens. Whilst at college, I hit my lowest point and had some counselling but I think i only had a few sessions. The counselling did not work for me as it felt very “standardised” rather than looking to help me work through my own personal issues. I struggled with my mental health all through university but managed to distract myself with friends and work.
Recently I made positive changes to my diet, but I still suffer with anxiety and depression. I started taking sertraline as I again hit rock bottom. I stopped taking sertraline around 8-12 months ago as I was having bad side effects including severe night sweats. My anxiety and depression is also heightened a week leading up to my period and I am now looking for a more natural way to manage my symptoms as I hate how I feel most of the time. This state of being can be so frustrating at times as I know that I am very fortunate in my life but my mood is always low.
I believe my menstrual cycle has an effect as I have a few days around the time I am ovulating where I feel “normal” or better than I usually do.”
- regular cycles every 28-29 days
- severe premenstrual anxiety, irritability, crying spells, mood swings, depression and lethargy
- premenstrual food cravings, fatigue, headaches and breast tenderness
- periods are light
- periods last 2-3 days,
- feels much better once period has ended for the next 3-4 days
- then mood goes back to baseline, low but functional
- mood better around ovulation
- vaginal dryness
- stomach upset by greasy foods
- cravings for fat and meat before her period
- High carbohydrate breakfast e.g. apple and cinnamon porridge with oat milk
- Low on protein
- Low on vegetables
- Low on fat
- Has 3 meals a day but they are quite small
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Folate deficiency
- Low iron
- Omega 6 too high
- Omega 3 too low
- Blood sugar too high
Root cause analysis
OT’s mood was low in general, which indicates a deficiency of serotonin and dopamine, and this was confirmed by a neurotransmitter questionnaire.
Depressive, anxious syndromes can be caused by nutritional deficiencies from poor diet, including
- 5HTP derived from animal protein which creates serotonin
- tyrosine derived from animal protein which creates dopamine.
Additionally, it was very clear that her low mood was cyclical, improving at ovulation when oestrogen is higher, and crashing premenstrually. It was also clear that her oestrogen was too low in general and progesterone was too high premenstrually, as evidenced by
- light periods
- short periods – 2-3 days
- breast tenderness
- vaginal dryness
Factors contributing to low oestrogen in OT included
- inadequate fat intake: steroid hormones such as oestrogen (and vitamin D) are made from cholesterol which is derived from dietary fat, which she could not digest and absorb
- inadequate B vitamins which prevents the synthesis of oestrogen from testosterone
- I recommended a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat nutrition plan which was rich in fish and eggs, with a high level of vegetables and beneficial fats, and personalised to OT’s requirements.
- OT was asked to follow my 7 food rules as closely as possible.
- Vitamin D: calibrated dose of emulsified vitamin D drops
- Gynovite: a multivitamin with high doses of B vitamins targeted for low oestrogen
- 5HTP to increase serotonin
- L-tyrosine to increase dopamine
- Body balance oil to increase fat intake
- I recommended that OT purchase a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp and expose her eyes the bright light every morning. Bright light therapy has shown to help with winter blues, regulating energy in the daytime and the sleep cycle at night.
|Symptom||Score out of 6|
|Depression before period||6|
|Anxiety before period||3-4|
|Meat cravings before period||5|
|Craving for fat before period||5|
Results – follow-up 1 (+4 weeks)
- 4 weeks later OT, for the first time, did not have the usual pre-menstrual emotional meltdown of breaking down and crying, and was feeling emotionally well during the month.
- She did have 2 short depressive episodes, but said that at the same time her workload was excessively stressful.
- Her anxiety had improved slightly, and she was still finding it difficult to fall asleep.
- Her skin had improved a lot.
- Pre-menstrual fat and meat cravings had reduced.
- She was enjoying eating more vegetables and protein, she wasn’t hungry between meals and most significantly she wasn’t having any mid-morning cravings for food.
- The Gynovite supplement caused digestive issues so I switched it to Optivite PMT.
|Symptom||Score out of 6|
|Initial score||Score after 4 weeks|
|Depression before period||6||2|
|Anxiety before period||3-4||3|
|Meat cravings before period||5||2|
|Craving for fat before period||5||2|
Results – follow-up 2 (+8 weeks)
- 4 weeks later and all of OT’s symptoms had resolved.
- Again she had no breakdown before her period and her day-to-day emotional life was absolutely fine.
- She had a couple of anxious moments related to work stress, but that was all.
- All her cravings had gone. She was still having a little anxiety before sleep and I adjusted her protocol to help with that.
- She was finding it difficult to stomach the oil so I switched the oil to capsules instead.
|Symptom||Score out of 6|
|Initial score||Score after 4 weeks||Score after 8 weeks|
|Depression before period||6||2||0|
|Anxiety before period||3-4||3||0|
|Meat cravings before period||5||2||0|
|Craving for fat before period||5||2||0|
“Within weeks of starting my supplement plan, I noticed a significant positive shift in my mental health and I am confident that this will continue going forward.
I can honestly say that with Sandra’s help, my life has changed for the better.”
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. Having tried everything from counselling, antidepressants and even Reiki, I was beginning to feel as though I would have to live with my anxiety and depression forever.
I made contact with Sandra following a recommendation from a friend and I am so glad I did. During the initial call, Sandra made me feel at ease straight away.
Within weeks of starting my supplement plan, I noticed a significant positive shift in my mental health and I am confident that this will continue going forward. I can honestly say that with Sandra’s help, my life has changed for the better.
Thank you Sandra!
Despite the fact that I see significant improvements in client’s health every day in my work, it still sometimes takes my breath away when I see the power of functional medicine in action.
I always expect to see results within 4 weeks, and OT’s progress was no different. She was committed to the process right from the start and did an incredible job of following her plan.
As she said to me, and I agreed – “I wish I could have done this years ago, and I dread to think what my life would have been like if I hadn’t done this work with you”. It saddens me to think of all the women that are suffering through their cycles and not getting the help they need, and I am so pleased to have seen OT recover so quickly.