Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. But for some women, hormonal shifts can lead to intense feelings of irritability, fatigue, or sadness. "Hormone fluctuations are normal during PMS, perimenopause, or menopause," says Christian Northrup, M.D., the Yarmouth, Maine–based board-certified OB-GYN and author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Bantam, 2006), "but some women are especially sensitive to shifts in levels of estrogen and progesterone and may experience more severe mood swings or even depression."
Herbs and supplements, like St. John's Wort or magnesium, can help—but so can some simple lifestyle changes:
Eat for all-day energy. When your blood sugar is stable, your mood will be stable, says Northrup. Eat a breakfast that has protein, fat, and carbs—like whole grain toast with peanut butter or a breakfast bar—to sustain you through the morning. Then avoid caffeine and sugar later in the day; they can cause a spike in energy followed by a quick crash. Finally, eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, flaxseed oil, and macadamia nuts, which can also help even out your moods.
Take vitamins. Take a daily multivitamin to be sure you're getting the necessary levels of nutrients you need. In addition, be sure you're getting at least 50 milligrams a day (and up to 100 mg) of vitamin B6, which can have a calming effect during hormonal surges, says Northrup. Wheat germ and brewer's yeast are good sources of B vitamins.
Be more mindful. Acknowledge your hormone-driven mood swings instead of trying to push past them, suggests Tracy Gaudet, M.D., executive director of integrative medicine at Duke University and coauthor of Consciously Female: How to Listen to Your Body and Your Soul for a Lifetime of Healthier Living (Random House, 2004). "If you're annoyed by your hormones, you'll feel like you're battling with your body," she says. Instead, try writing down your emotions in a journal, meditating, or taking a quiet walk instead of turning on the TV.