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Oestrogen and Dopamine

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How Oestrogen affects your brain

Oestrogen is like a multitasking superhero for your brain. It protects brain cells, helps you remember and learn, balances important brain chemicals, improves your mood, reduces anxiety, and keeps the structure of your brain in good shape. All these actions make oestrogen crucial for keeping your brain healthy and functioning well, especially during different stages of life like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

Protects Your Brain Cells

  • Cell Survival: Oestrogen helps keep your brain cells alive and healthy. It acts like a shield, protecting cells from damage and death.
  • Fighting Damage: Oestrogen helps your brain deal with harmful substances called free radicals, which can damage cells.

Boosting Memory and Learning

  • Better Connections: Oestrogen helps your brain form and maintain connections between cells. This is especially true in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s crucial for memory and learning.
  • Learning and Memory: By strengthening these connections, oestrogen helps you learn new things and remember information better.

Improving Mood and Reducing Anxiety

  • Mood Booster: By increasing serotonin and dopamine, oestrogen helps lift your mood and reduces the risk of depression.
  • Calming Effect: Oestrogen can also help reduce anxiety, making you feel more relaxed.

Balancing Brain Chemicals

  • Excitatory Signals: Oestrogen increases the activity of a brain chemical called glutamate, which is important for learning and memory.
  • Inhibitory Signals: Oestrogen decreases the activity of GABA, another brain chemical that usually slows down brain activity. This makes your brain more alert.
  • Mood and Happiness: Oestrogen boosts serotonin, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy and calm. It also increases dopamine, which is related to pleasure and motivation.

Supporting Brain Structure

  • Myelination: Oestrogen helps with the growth of myelin, a protective layer around nerve fibres that speeds up communication between brain cells. This keeps your brain working efficiently

Growing New Brain Cells

  • Neurogenesis: Oestrogen encourages the growth of new brain cells, particularly in areas important for learning and memory.

Regulating Reproductive Behaviours

  • Reproductive Health: Oestrogen influences parts of the brain that control reproductive behaviours and functions, helping regulate menstrual cycles and sexual health.

 

Oestrogen and Dopamine

Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that plays a big role in how you feel and act. It’s often called the “feel-good” chemical because it helps you experience pleasure, motivation, and reward. It’s also involved in movement, learning, and attention.

How Oestrogen helps dopamine

Increases Dopamine Levels:

Oestrogen helps boost the amount of dopamine in your brain. This means you can feel more motivated, happy, and ready to take on challenges.

Reduces Breakdown of Dopamine:

Your brain constantly breaks down dopamine after it’s used. Oestrogen slows down this breakdown process, so dopamine stays around longer, keeping you feeling good for a longer time.

Enhances Dopamine Effects:

Oestrogen helps make dopamine work better by increasing the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. These are the parts of brain cells that respond to dopamine. With more sensitive receptors, the effects of dopamine are stronger, so you feel more of its positive effects.

When Oestrogen fluctuates

Menstruation

The menstrual cycle is typically around 28 days long and is divided into several phases:
Follicular Phase (Days 1-14)- Rising oestrogen boosts dopamine and serotonin, leading to improved mood, motivation, and emotional stability.
Ovulation (Around Day 14)- Peak oestrogen levels enhance dopamine and serotonin activity, making you feel energised, motivated and positive.
Luteal Phase (Days 15-28)- Rising progesterone and fluctuating oestrogen reduces dopamine and serotonin levels, leading to mood swings, reduced motivation, and PMS symptoms
Menstruation (Days 1-5 of the next cycle)- Low oestrogen and progesterone levels can cause mood swings, irritability, and low energy.

When Oestrogen fluctuates

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause, typically starting in a woman’s 40s but sometimes earlier. It can last several years and is characterized by significant fluctuations in hormone levels.

Perimenopause experiences
Mood Swings
Anxiety and Irritability
Sleep Disturbances
Cognitive Changes
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats

When Oestrogen fluctuates

Menopause

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods permanently stop, marking the end of reproductive ability. It is diagnosed after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, usually in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s.

Menopause experiences

Mood Changes, irritability and increased risk of depression and anxiety
Decreased motivation, pleasure and interest in activities.

Increased Anxiety and Irritability

Sleep Disturbances: Disrupted sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or poor-quality sleep.

Night sweats and hot flashes can also contribute to sleep disturbances.

Cognitive Changes: Impact on cognitive functions like memory, attention, and focus, leading

to forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

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