Does menopause cause anxiety? What about stomach troubles and gut bacteria? We looked into the research to help you when anxiety pops up.
While I am generally feeling chill AF lately, I have been journeying with my old mate anxiety for decades. As such, there are some things I have discovered along the way.
Why am I sharing this? Because there’s some cool science out there about why you might be feeling anxious, including WAYS TO FIX IT.
Anxiety is your body and brain’s way of trying to protect you (THANKS GUYS), so there is nothing actually wrong about the experience of anxiety. It’s just normal survival stuff.
Anxiety only becomes a problem when you are anxious about things that are not a threat to your survival. That’s an indication there’s something going on.
I love me a solution, so read on for some stuff that’s handy to know if you are going through an anxious patch.
Joy of joys. The end of menstruation. Oh hang on. There’s also a truckload of side effects including insomnia, vaginal dryness, irritability, hot flushes and YES, ANXIETY. If you’re feeling a bit jumpy and you’re in the right age bracket, it could be this old bastard doing its thing.
If you are experiencing anxiety during menopause, here are some tips to manage it.
If you’re physically wound up – taking shallow breaths and experiencing extreme muscle tension – there’s a good chance your vagus nerve (that big sexy nerve that runs from your brain to your gut) – is telling your body that something is wrong.
Rather than just copping it, why not do some DEEEEEP BREATHING and yogic stretching. That way you are sending a message that everything is OOOOOOKAAAAAYYY.
We humans evolved in tribes. When the people around us got jittery, there was usually a reason for it (i.e. Vikings in the neighbourhood, hungry bears, incoming potato famine, etc). Subsequently, our brains and nervous systems have evolved to take cues from people around us. If you are hanging out with anxious people, guess what? YOU WILL PROBABLY BECOME MORE ANXIOUS.
Hierarchy of needs
If you don’t have food, water, shelter or safety (or are experiencing challenges getting these things – i.e. financial problems, employment issues) you are going to feel anxious. Why? Because your brain structure prioritises getting your basic needs met. If you feel a threat to your basic security, your brain sends in the anxiety army to motivate you to sort it out, ASAP.
The problem is that while having a run-in with a colleague at work, or receiving a letter from your landlord may not actually result in homelessness, on some level, your subconscious thinks it will. That’s why anything associated with a failure to meet basic needs will result in a big old anxiety party.
Gut bacteria and serotonin
If you’re a dirty b*tch who loves Dr. Micheal Moseley as much as I do, well, you’re probably all over the gut – brain axis and the role of microbiota in regulating mood. HOWEVER, if you direct your attentions to other doctorly dudes, there’s a chance you may not be aware that if your gut bacteria is anxious, so shall you be.
This has been nominally proven by faecal transplants in mice. Happy poo from a happy mouse, when transferred to an angsty mouse with sad poo, equals a HAPPIER ANGSTY MOUSE. More on this whole fascinating phenomenon here.
See also: serotonin.
If you have IBS, or any kind of runny poo trouble, there’s a good chance that the serotonin your hard-working gut bacteria is pumping out is not being absorbed. HENCE ANXIETY.
If you improve your microbiome with prebiotics, probiotics and diet, and treat your tummy trouble, you may start feeling less anxious.
Have you experienced anxiety during menopause? Has improving your gut resulted in a happier brain? Come and share your top anxiety tips with our Wild Women Community.