Have You Met My Friend Sarah Tonin?

by Georgie Watts

She’s an elusive bugger at times, turning up unannounced – which you are most grateful for but then effing off again without so much as a warning when you absolutely need her the most.

She’s getting even more flaky these days, not just when you are expecting your period, (I mean who wouldn’t GTFO at times when you want to chuck bowls at people getting in the way in the kitchen?), but leaving at other unexpected and increasingly random times too.

As an example, you’ve just settled down into bed and having read a chapter or two of a nice relaxing non-exciting book, you’re now feeling sleepy. You turn the light off and snuggle down, are the absolute divine next-level of comfy and BAM! Sarah’s off and now you’re laying there wondering whether you are going to die in the night, or tomorrow, why any of us die and indeed how long any of us have left. When you’re all set to go to work which you don’t hate, or your hobby or see friends and family, especially when you are most definitely looking forward to it, Sarah Tonin is now finding ways to escape at the last minute, making you want to retreat and cancel and generally stay in by yourself crying.

Sarah Tonin, what is WITH you lately? You know you love seeing people and having a laugh, you know you feel loads better and want to stick around longer when we’re doing sociable things, so why go away when we need you the most. And by we I mean women in midlife.

Sarah Tonin has been known to hang out quite abit with that bird Easter Jen, goddess only knows why she’s called Easter but I’m guessing she used to be called something like Oestre and has something to do with fertility and eggs right? Anyway, these two like to have a merry ol’ time and whiz about female cells generally being the boss of things like blood platelets for clotting, pain tolerance, temperature regulation, bone production, heart health, urine production (mega sexy) and mood amongst other things (please feel free to google search to verify all this but I will put a few references in at the bottom).

Okay, so right now it’s probably time to stop the silly names (temporarily) in this post and get down to the nitty gritty.

Human males generally have more serotonin in their bodies than women. The bad gyal scientists haven’t quite worked out entirely why yet but I’m going to postulate in an entirely unscientific but intuitive way here, an idea:

Oestrogen is derived in human males and females from the steroid hormone testosterone. Both males and females have both testosterone and oestrogen in their bodies and surprisingly (or not surprisingly eh?) a post-menopausal woman will actually have almost the same level of oestrogen in her body as a man of a similar age.

Throughout their lives, males are known to have higher levels of serotonin in their their bodies than females, thought to account for the higher incidence of depression in women than men. Is this because they have more testosterone freely available throughout their lives than women? Does serotonin rely quite heavily on having testosterone to hang about with in order to do it’s bit in making the male not depressed as well as all the other important functions? When males don’t have enough testosterone in their blood, we know that they can suffer all manner of nasty symptoms, including depression. So it looks to me like serotonin does need her mate testosterone and the converted friend oestrogen together to make the good things happen.

As human females, we make oestrogen from it’s precursor testosterone using an enzyme called aromatase in our ovaries and adrenal glands. When we are young and we are having menstrual cycles, we usually have optimum levels of oestrogen in our bodies helping us to complete our fertile cycles and hopefully conceive a baby. Within our cycles we can all track when our moods are better than when they are not …. when the merry dance of oestrogen is just right, our serotonin generally is too and we usually feel happy, sociable and up for fun times. They dance together making us feel strong, our pain tolerance goes up and we feel can take on the world. When perimenopause begins (often late 30’s onwards), our cycles go abit wonky and our moods tend to dip or surge depending on the dose of oestrogen our bodies kicks out in attempt to complete our cycles. Some cycles become anovulatory (no egg is released) and we then have imbalances caused from not having enough progesterone in our blood.

Gradually (or suddenly for some women), our levels of oestrogen drop until we begin having symptoms. Yes we are all familiar with the hot flushes and night sweats but the symptoms most troubling to perimenopausal women are poor sleep/insomnia, frequent urination and mood problems including for some, very debilitating depression and anxiety.

Current NHS NICE guidelines state that women should NOT routinely be given anti depressants when presenting after the age of 45 with perimenopausal symptoms as they have not been shown to be wholly effective alone at treating these symptoms. What does seem to ameliorate the effects of low mood at this time is oestrogen as part of the HRT regimen. When women are given HRT, they usually find their moods improve, thus oestrogen being given is helping the body to make serotonin without the need for an antidepressant.

Of course I haven’t begun to address those women who do not seem to do well on oestrogen, whether it’s part of their natural cycle or when they are pregnant, or if given as a hormone replacement. I can only suppose that what they have is either a physical problem with the synthesis of oestrogen in their bodies or that they have too much, sensitive to fluctuations or have been given a higher dose than their body can deal with at that time. I am certainly not an expert at all and I have only personal experience to speak of in this sense. I have personally struggled with huge changes in oestrogen but I also find now that my own levels of estriol are dropping I am also affected with the low moods. I have yet to be prescribed estriol as part of HRT therapy because the NHS is very reluctant to prescribe this for under 45’s (currently 43) but I will of course report when and if I do, how I feel on that.

So in essence what I am realising and indeed generalising as a laywoman, is that if your mate Sarah Tonin has gone AWOL, it’s probably time to look for her bedfellow Ms.Easter Jen. We might be able to do this by using very well researched oestrogenic herbs or bio-identical estriol as well as making sure we keep up activities that encourage our bodies to make testosterone, eg. Exercise and eating enough protein in our diets etc. For me, I’ve been whacking in the old sage leaf tea with some honey to give me a boost on my low days as well as forcing myself out for plenty of route marches. Cuddling, chatting, eating good grub and watching videos of kitties and bunnies can also go a very long way to helping you out on a bad day too πŸ™‚ take care πŸ™‚

Further reading and references:

Have You Met My Friend Sarah Tonin?