Using your Female Hormones to Biohack your Mental Health – Part 3

By: Ashley Carter Youngblood March 7, 2024 no comments

Using your Female Hormones to Biohack your Mental Health – Part 3

This article series was written for Southwest’s Michigan “Moxie Magazine” (formerly Women’s Lifestyle Magazine). You can read Part 2 of this 4-part series here.

Author’s Note: I reference “femaleness” and gender in this article series. There is a diverse interpretation of how to understand what a “female body” is. If you feel “female,” rock it! Regardless of sex assigned at birth, gender, gender expression, or anything similar, we all have the sex hormones of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone and inputs from other related glands (e.g. Thyroid). Admittedly, this article will be most helpful to those whose bodies are menstruating. However, even for bodies who have not, cannot, or are done menstruating, you can still learn about how the different phases affect a female body to help support other loved ones or help you better understand the behavior of others. Even if you are not, cannot, or are done menstruating, some women find it empowering to use other cycles, like phases of the moon, to unleash their inner fierce cyclical female goddess. Do what works for you!

What this Means

While I have broadly covered the implications of the information about your hormones and health over the course of this article series, there are a couple important foundational points to highlight if you are going to use your female hormones to biohack your mental health. First, STOP BEATING YOURSELF up about your changes! For example, your sex drive IS EXPECTED to be lower when starting menopause. It is due to the general decrease of hormones in your body after you run out of viable eggs for potential pregnancy. And, it is absolutely expected that you WILL NOT feel motivated to do any high-intensity training around the start of or during the menstruation phase given that your body requires more rest and restoration due to the hard work it is doing internally.

Leading from this, the second key implication of all this information is that it is essential to stop living by others’ standards. Again, women are not simply “smaller” men who are only affected by one (i.e. Circadian) cycle. This means that we need to stop living with pressure about what we “should” do based on how others’ bodies work. You are comparing yourself to either another gender, who has totally different biochemistry, or another female who is in a totally different phase of her cycle and life. Besides, if you are comparing yourself to another woman, she probably was actually doing and feeling the exact same way you are when she was at that same location of her cycle.

Specific Implications for your Mental Health

The last two articles in this series on female hormones have taught you how the natural cycle of women’s hormones affects the mind and body. My role as a psychotherapist is now to offer you information about what this specifically has to do with your mental health. It’s time to get specific about that amazing brain of yours and learn how to naturally harness the strengths (and weaknesses) of these phases in a way that helps you to have the best self-care and well-being of your life.

First, let us acknowledge that you cannot outsmart your brain chemistry. Certain sex hormones, like estrogen, tend to either promote or decrease the release of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which contribute to a positive mood and life outlook. For example, a common category of anti-depressant drugs are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (i.e. SSRIs), which means they help to regulate this mood-boosting chemical in the brain.

Furthermore, The Journal of Comparative Neurology (1996) found that the female brain changes up to 25% during the monthly cycle depending on what phase one is in! So, not only are the changes (and the tips we discussed to harness the strengths of those changes) important to consider. But, they have everything to do with our mood and mental health! And, such knowledge (now that you have it) you can use it to your advantage.

What Actually Happens in the Brain


In the first half of the cycle, the increase in estrogen promotes the release of serotonin. So, we usually feel better and have a more upbeat mood. We feel outgoing and hopeful. However, during the second half of the cycle, estrogen decreases, which means serotonin levels fall and can lead to feelings of depression. Progesterone has also been known to lead to feelings of relaxation and a reduction in anxiety. So, as if a decrease in serotonin is not already bad enough, during the second half of your cycle, progesterone also decreases, which can increase anxiety.


During menstruation, the right (“emotional side”) and left (“analytical side”) hemispheres of the brain communicate most effectively with each other. This is why women often feel most intuitive in their menstrual phase – their brains actually are able to take in and integrate all sorts of information better than at any other phase of the cycle. So, “PMSing” and feeling grumpy about that friendship or that job at “that time of the month” may not merely be a symptom of your cycle. It may be your brain telling you that things do not add up to be in your best interest and that it would serve you well to really examine whether such things are best for your well-being.


Have you ever noticed that you do not tend to get sick as often in the first part of your cycle? It is not just you! Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2018) found that the immune system is stronger during the first half of your cycle due to estrogen being a protective factor for preparing the body for pregnancy. However, as your hormone levels decrease during the second half of your cycle, your immune system is not as proactive or able to have as prompt of an inflammatory response to fight off invaders. So, the second half of your cycle is the time to take your self-care even more seriously related to stress management, getting enough sleep, exercise, and choosing supportive foods to eat.


Although you are beautiful just the way you are, if you have a goal of weight loss, the impact of hormones on your metabolism also has everything to do with your mental health. In the first half of your cycle, your metabolism slows, which causes your appetite to naturally decrease. This also means that your body is more inclined to burn fat. So, this is the time of the month to do your high-intensity training because, guess what? If you do your high-intensity training during the second phase of your cycle, when your body needs more rest and has naturally higher cortisol levels, or if over-train in the first part of your cycle, your body becomes too stressed and turns on fat storage and muscle wasting. That is something no one wants! So, do not spent time beating yourself up about why you cannot shed those pounds and thinking it is a problem of mere “will power.” It may just be bad timing.

Gut Health

You probably have heard of the gut-brain connection related to the health of one’s gut microbiome. For instance, we have more receptors for serotonin in our guts than we do in our brains. So, our gut health has everything to do with our mood. Research even has found that, if we compromise the gut microbiome, we can create immediate Depression symptoms. Does it come as any surprise to you, then, that your body has its own hormonal system in the gut, too? It’s called the “Estrobolome”. Its job is to metabolize estrogen in order to prevent excess estrogen recirculating in the body and causing PMS symptoms (e.g. mood swings, cramps, brain fog) due to hormonal imbalance.

Read the next part of this 4-part series here.

~Ashley Carter Youngblood, LMSW, LMFT, CIMHP, CNRC, ADS, NNP

Ashley Carter Youngblood is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional, Certified Nutrition Recovery Coach, Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist, and a Nutrition Network who has been in the field since 2007. She offers counseling at her woman-owned and -operated business, Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, for those in Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan. She is passionate about her work with clients, whether it’s providing traditional individual counseling, life coaching, acupuncture, or Amino Acid Therapy for mental health symptoms. Her specialties include holistic healing, counseling for women, anxiety, nutritional interventions for mental health, and support for Highly Sensitive People/Empaths.

I welcome you to contact me or leave any questions or feedback you have about this post. Please keep in mind that the above information is the opinion of an individual, should not be considered medical advice/treatment, and is for entertainment/educational purposes only. I write these blogs as an expression of my passion for wellness and with the hope to be able to help as many people as possible. So, for more information about how to safely navigate this website and to what terms you are agreeing upon use, visit my Disclaimer page. And, as always, if you are experiencing an emergency, contact 911 or present yourself to your nearest emergency room.

Thanks for reading.

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