You’re smart, confident and you’re a high achiever. And you’ve worked damned hard to get to where you are in your career.
And then you hit your 40’s. And suddenly things aren’t so easy. Peri-menopausal hormones are raging.
Clues that your hormones are changing
- You feel more tired and grumpy than usual – working long hours and then going out? Forget it…….
- You can't concentrate for long – day to day problems seem harder to solve.
- Things seem a bit more stressful than they used to – did these things worry you so much before?
- Your memory is letting you down – what the hell was that client’s name?!
- You’ve put on a bit of weight and can’t shift it – your dress size is creeping up and you don't feel so great in your clothes these days.
- Your PMS is worse than ever – the mood swings, bloating and painful periods are really getting you down.
- You’re having embarrassing HOT FLUSHES!! – right in the middle of a meeting, or even worse, a presentation – there’s nowhere to hide!
- Your sex drive has disappeared – probably the last thing on your mind as you collapse into bed at night.
Let’s face it, we can’t live without our hormones – they not only make us ‘women’, giving us our curves and feminine features, but are also responsible for our energy levels, mood, brain function, bone health, weight, sex drive and of course our ability to reproduce.
But when you enter your 40’s, your hormones can get really messed up. These are the peri-menopausal years leading up to your periods finally stopping. It’s a bit like going through puberty but without the raging sex hormones!
And these years can be particularly debilitating if you’re in a demanding job or a stressful environment. When you used to be super sharp, energized, confident and powerful, your menopausal hormones can make you feel the opposite. This is not good when you need to be at your absolute best all day long.
Over 70% of women experience symptoms associated with peri-menopausal hormones.
Here’s what’s happening
- PMS – your periods may be irregular or they can be more heavy and painful than ever before – this is often due to a mixture of oestrogen, cortisol and thyroid imbalances.
- Brain fog & memory loss – this is a common symptom of high cortisol, low thyroid and fluctuating oestrogen levels.
- Fatigue – often caused by high or low cortisol levels, low thyroid or micronutrient deficiencies.
- Weight gain – hormones can cause weight loss resistance, in spite of all your efforts to control your diet. Cortisol, insulin and thyroid can all be involved.
- Hot flushes – these happen when oestrogen is fluctuating and messing with your thermo-regulation control. Cortisol (stress) can exacerbate this.
- Mood swings – you can feel depressed, happy, emotional, angry, snappy – all for no apparent reason. Again caused by fluctuating hormones.
- Sex drive – declining oestrogen and testosterone, along with increased cortisol levels, crashes your libido.
- Anxiety – sometimes you can feel anxious about something that never used to bother you. This is often due to an imbalance in your neurotransmitter hormones (stress, thyroid and oestrogen all involved here too!).
- Adrenal fatigue – after years of a demanding job, your stress resilience can suffer. This is a sign that your adrenals are struggling to cope and you need to slow down.
A study in 2011 showed that nearly half of women going through the menopausal years have difficulty coping with their symptoms at work, yet two thirds would not dare to tell anyone about it. With women reluctant to talk about it at work, it is difficult for them to get the support they need.
And going to the Doctor can also be frustrating. HRT seems to be the only option and can be very effective, but comes with risks and potential side effects.
Luckily there are natural alternatives that really do work. Diet, lifestyle and supplements can be just as effective in getting your hormones balanced out and under control.
Tips to get you back to your best;
- Ditch the sugar (and white carbs) – sugar raises insulin (our fat storing hormone), which raises cortisol (our stress hormone) and messes with our sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone). Use more natural sugar alternatives like xylitol, stevia and raw honey. Read more here about the harmful effects of sugar.
- A daily spoonful of seeds – The phytoestrogens, omega fats and fibre in seeds can help rebalance oestrogen levels. Include a mix of flaxseeds (milled), chia seeds, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds in your diet – throw them in smoothies, porridge, yoghurt, salads, soups and stews.
- Eat your broccoli – At least one portion of cruciferous veg (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussell sprouts, watercress, rocket) a day can help with the elimination of excess hormones.
- Daily relaxation – reducing stress levels using deep belly breathing, meditation, yoga, walking, relaxation Apps – whatever works for you, schedule in regular sessions. Herbal adaptogens like rhodiola, panax ginseng and ashwanghanda can sometimes be helpful. Getting a good night's sleep is essential – get to bed earlier, turn gadgets off, make the room dark. Check here for more sleep tips.
- Resistance training – metabolism boosting weight training has been associated with increased testosterone, which helps to burn fat and increase brain health and libido. Look for high intensity and circuit workouts.
- Supplement with a good quality multivitamin (with good levels of B vits, Mg, Vit E), a fish oil (with GLA, EPA and DHA) and a herbal formula (helpful herbs include black cohosh, red clover, hops, sage, dong quai). Get your Vitamin D checked too, and supplement if needed. Always check with your health practitioner before taking any new supplements or herbal remedies.
While general tips can be useful, every woman is different and has a totally unique experience at this time of her life. So if you are suffering, it's really important to get help from a qualified health practitioner, who can test you and put a personalised programme in place.
(The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or doctor or other health care professional)
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Hays B (2010) Female Hormones: The Dance of the Hormones, Part 1. In: Jones D, ed. Textbook of Functional Medicine, USA, Institute of Functional Medicine.
Cagnacci A1, Cannoletta M, Caretto S, Zanin R, Xholli A, Volpe A. Increased cortisol level: a possible link between climacteric symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors. Menopause. 2011 Mar;18(3):273-8.
Newton KM, Reed SD, LaCroix AZ, Grothaus LC, Ehrlich K, Guiltinan J. (2006) Treatment of vasomotor symptoms of menopause with black cohosh, multibotanicals, soy, hormone therapy, or placebo. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:869–79.[/accordion-item]