I’ve been attempting to understand hormones my entire adult life. As one who suffered from mood swings with PMS, menopause, and after cancer surgery, I never quite got how estrogen and the other hormones affect our brain.
And then, a few weeks ago, I read Dr. Julie Holland’s Moody Bitches: The Truth about the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. The book is hot off the presses from Penguin Press. With confident and upbeat prose, Dr. Holland explains it all and then some.
Penguin Press sent this list of the book’s major points:
- The stresses and expectations of the modern world interfere with our health and hormones in ways big and small, and the result is the crushing fatigue, low libidos, and anxiety that so many women are feeling.
- Women’s brains have developed to encourage empathy, intuition, and emotionality. We are designed by nature to be sensitive and dynamic. Women’s moodiness is normal. It is a sign of health, not disease—and it is our single biggest asset.
- Our moods are our bodies’ smart feedback system. They provide invaluable information about how we are living and what we need. Not only can we manage our moods, we can use them to live healthier lives.
- One in four women is taking a psychiatric medication, many for years on end. That trend is lowering the bar for all of us, creating a new normal in terms of invulnerable posturing and emotional blunting, and, importantly, it is changing the tipping point for when other women will seek chemical assistance.
- In order to live our best lives (and get off unnecessary medication) we need to better understand our bodies, our naturally cycling hormones, and how modern medicines can affect our exquisitely calibrated machines.
- Medication can have more far-reaching effects than most people realize including blunting some of the qualities that are women’s greatest strength including empathy, passion, and sensitivity.
- Medication can also keep us from making a clear-eyed assessment of our lives. It can make a bad situation tolerable and mask the need for change.
- Our lives are out of sync with nature and we’ve become out of tune with our bodies. In our digital distraction we’ve lost a basic truth: fresh air, sunlight, and movement are crucial to feeling our best. Without these our sleep, relationships, not to mention our overall health, suffers.
- Inflammation can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health and it has many triggers and partners. Stress and inflammation fuel each other as can obesity and inflammation. Sleep deprivation exacerbates inflammation and obesity. Even inflammation and depression are co-dependent.
- Though PMS can make us sensitive, vulnerable, and bitchy, it can also reveal some important truths. The thoughts and feelings that come up during PMS are genuine. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or underappreciated, that you’re taking on more than your partner, or that things are out-of-balance, chances are, it’s true.
- Perimenopause is a primetime for psychiatric complaints. The prevalence of depression is highest in women age forty to forty-nine and lowest in women older than sixty; hence the storm before the calm.
- Women in their early forties often have higher testosterone (relative to other hormones) that can have us feeling flirtier and more sexual.
- If you’re going to replace sex hormones in perimenopause or menopause, testosterone should probably be in the mix. Testosterone supplementation reduces osteoporosis and the risk of bone fractures. It also increases muscle mass. Testosterone may help reduce the risk of dementia and prevent vaginal atrophy as well.
- Even if you’ve never smoked a joint, your body has internal cannabis-like molecules that help to keep you resilient and tamp down inflammation. They are particularly important during menstruation, conception, and delivery.
- Despite long-term studies showing safety and efficacy of testosterone in women, the FDA has not approved any testosterone products for them (compare this to the twenty-six testosterone products currently approved for men!)
- Our diet and lifestyle choices have a huge impact on mood, weight, and inflammation. Stress creates inflammation; stress triggers overeating; body fat creates inflammation; inflammation feeds obesity and depression; and they all imperil our health.
- When estrogen levels fall, we start to slowly transition from self-sacrifice—putting our family’s needs ahead of our own—to a more assertive and less accommodating place. Menopause is meant to be a time where we weed out those who are “toxic,” prioritize, and further hone what is important to us.
- Women are more sensitive to sleep deprivation than men but they are also more prone to insomnia primarily due to hormonal fluctuations. Learning good sleep habits, paying attention to light exposure, and making eight hours of sleep a top priority will go a long way toward reducing moodiness and stabilizing eating habits.
- A healthy, active sex life is important for emotional balance and stress relief.
- Be your own best advocate. You downtime, and pleasure, and your needs matter. Honor your hearty appetites for food, sex, and sleep.
Love this book! Thank you, Dr. Holland.
Giveaway! Penguin Press is offering a copy of Moody Bitches and a BUTTON to TWO Friend for the Ride readers. For a chance to win, simply enter a comment by April 30 saying you’d like to own the book. U.S. only, thanks. Comment link is at the bottom of the post.
Dr. Julie Holland has run her private psychiatric practice in Manhattan for nearly twenty years. Her nationally-best-selling memoir, Weekends at Bellevue, was based on her nine years running the psychiatric ER. Dr. Holland is an expert on drugs and the brain and she has appeared on the Today show numerous times. Moody Bitches is in development at HBO with Oprah Winfrey and Diablo Cody.
Photo of Dr. Holland: The author’s photo was taken by Jessica Hills.
Button Photo: Taken by me in the snow with my polka dot phone. I love buttons and am delighted to add this one to my collection.