The internet makes the world a very small place and it wasn’t long before Google Maps told me that Qualicum Beach, where Julie lives, is a small town on Vancouver Island, situated at the foot of Mount Arrowsmith. I knew that Julie had been struggling with motivation and feelings of hopelessness as she had emailed me before starting the MyMT™ Circuit Breaker programme. As she said,
“My self-esteem had never been so low, it seemed like all my joy had been sucked out of me. I had never been so unsettled and imbalanced in my life. Then, I found your website….reading your and other women’s stories made me realise I was not losing my mind and I was not alone. I have a strong faith and I thank God everyday for leading me to you. If it wasn’t for finding this programme and reading other women’s comments and struggles I think I would have been walking to my Drs office to simply medicate myself with antidepressants. NOT what I wanted to be doing.”
The link between depression and menopause has been known for years and for many women, anti-depressants during menopause are an important intervention. It’s why if you are feeling down and out, then always seek support from your medical specialist as well, however, there are other powerful solutions to help your depression including aerobic exercise, turning around sleep and for women, maintaining social connection is high on the list of important healthy ageing strategies. When Julie told me she had joined a local walking and running group for the first time ever, I was so excited for her – social connection is a powerful determinant of women’s health as they age.
I visited my own GP about my moods and feeling low, but before deciding to go on medication, I wanted to understand the link between depression and menopause more thoroughly. I was curious to understand why I had been so happy, motivated and healthy all my life, but hitting peri-menopause sent my moods and feelings of worthlessness into a tail-spin. From my work and studies about sport and exercise science over the years, I also knew that exercise is a recognised treatment for mild to moderate depression. But there is a big difference between the various types of exercise these days, so I also wanted to better understand the most beneficial exercise for women to engage in as they transition menopause that helps with mood and motivation, which Julie had also discovered was lost somewhere in her late 40’s.
I spent hours and hours researching how depression manifests specifically in menopause (not clinical depression that is diagnosed differently), so here’s what I learnt:
- When Hot Flushes are more than 5 an hour, our body overheats and becomes inflamed. This inflammation then exacerbates a decrease in SEROTONIN, which is your ‘happy hormone’. When oestrogen is lowering in menopause, serotonin follows it and decreases as well, but when we have too much of our chronic stress hormone called CORTISOL in our body, which has built up over time, then this causes more inflammation which disrupts serotonin levels even more.
- Sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night, is positively associated with worsening depression.
- Low Vitamin D3, depression and worsening inflammation go hand-in-hand. Vitamin D may be low in menopausal women because we have numerous oestrogen receptors in skin cell target tissues which also lose oestrogen and the ability to convert sunlight to Vitamin D. (Lerchbaum, 2013).
- When Liver inflammation is present in cells and tissues or if women are putting on belly fat and have poor gut health, then B vitamins are not absorbed and metabolised very well. Low Vitamin B6 and B12 increases depressive episodes (Feraj, 2017). This is why, for women who want to improve their moods and motivation during menopause, it’s important to turn around gut and liver health and I cover how to achieve this properly in the MyMT programmes.
- The gut-brain connection is also important during menopause. Over decades our gut health has changed and too often women develop Gut Dysbiosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or Diverticulitis when they reach their 50’s. With researchers now understanding the powerful connection between our immune system and our gut, this has a profound effect on our mental health if our gut health is impaired, because gut inflammation impacts on the absorption of a protein called Tryptophan, which helps to make serotonin.
If we have any inflammation that sits within our gut we experience more brain fog, more lethargy and more depression. It’s so important to turn gut health around in menopause and I have Gut Health Renewal plans as part of the MyMT™ programmes too. [Although this isn’t to replace professional diagnosis if symptoms persist].
When Julie told me that she wasn’t sleeping and had worsening hot flushes, mood swings and feelings of hopelessness, I knew she would benefit from the programme. Not a regular exerciser, you can also imagine my surprise when Julie got hold of me after she finished the programme and told me she had just completed her very first 10km walk/ jog.
“The old Julie is beginning to show herself again and the joyful positive me is slowly returning.”
I have noticed a drastic change in my body since I have become more focused on the dietary advice you have on the programme too. I also began a 12 week walk/run programme as part of understanding your advice about depression, and it has really helped me take time for myself, solve my symptoms with the programme information and get fit all at the same time.
I even ran my first 10km in a local event – almost coughed up a lung, but I completed it. [Julie sent this photo as proof at the end of her run].
The early morning runs have been a wonderful way to get the morning sun in my eyes, the fresh air in my lungs, quality time with my four legged companion Deja and just some amazing solo time.
Since doing your MyMT™ programme, I’ve realised that I’m worth fighting for and it is time for me to become selfish and focus on me for a while so I get back to the old me. I still have a long way to go but I am celebrating every small slice of improvement since coming on board and I now understand how to get through this stage of my life. Just wanted to thank you so much for your passion and dedication to the women of the world.”
Julie Starkey, Qualicum Beach, Canada