As your reproductive years are starting to wind down, your hormones move into transition mode. And that means hormones out of balance. It’s natural and it’s inevitable, and the severity of your symptoms depends on your overall health and your knowledge of what is going on in your body and so you can do something about it.
Let’s take a look at hormonal changes that occur at peri-menopause and menopause, and then we’ll look at how to optimize your health and avoid weight gain, memory lapses, hot flashes, moodiness and insomnia.
Menopause is defined as when your period stops altogether, and it happens on average at age 51.
Peri-menopause is the term that defines the 5-10 year period of hormonal fluctuation that leads to menopause. These years and the one or two years after menopause are most challenging. In fact, many women think that peri-menopause is menopause.
During peri-menopause, there are many fewer eggs in your ovaries. That makes reproduction more difficult and causes hormones to get out of whack because the ovaries are not functioning as well. It’s all is a part of normal aging.
But your brain keeps trying to make the ovaries work normally. So some months you ovulate; some you don’t. The varying hormone levels that occur in these monthly attempts to keep cycling are what can cause symptoms.
Tip#1 – Avoid Estrogen Dominance
The main hormone imbalance you’ll experience is sometimes called estrogen dominance. The ovaries produce more estrogen because the remaining eggs are not as responsive. The brain produces higher levels of a hormone called FSH, which is your brain’s attempt to get the remaining eggs to mature.
But often they don’t and the higher FSH levels end up stimulating many small eggs to begin development. Each egg is surrounded by cells that produce estrogen so lots of estrogen gets produced. The egg and surrounding cells is called a follicle.
But many times the eggs don’t ovulate, which is how progesterone is produced. So estrogen levels are higher from the stimulation of many small eggs that are trying to develop, but progesterone is low because none or few of the eggs actually ovulate.
Some women are exposed to additional estrogen because they get exposed to xeno-estrogens (a synthetic chemical that resembles estrogen) from things like plastics and fragrances, or from the production of estrogen from fat cells in your body if you’re overweight.
Estrogen dominance can lead to the dreaded heavy periods, more frequent periods and mid-cycle spotting of peri-menopause.
You can do many things to reduce estrogen. Here are a few:
- Avoid non-organic, processed foods, plastics and artificial fragrances that contain xeno-estrogens.
- Eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetable fibers that nourish your good gut bacteria. Gut bacteria are very active in digesting and clearing the estrogen in your body or estrogen that you take. It’s time to buy and try some new vegetables.
- Manage your weight. An easy way to slim down is to avoid sugars in coffee drinks, alcoholic drinks and treats. Stick to it for a couple weeks and watch your muffin top melt!
Tip#2 – Protect Your Adrenals
As your ovaries slow down and produce less hormone, ideally your adrenal glands will bridge the gap and keep you feeling well. But if you’re stressed out with working, managing a household, and perhaps raising kids or caring for elderly parents, your adrenal glands have been overworked for years as you’ve lived in ‘flight or fight’ mode. “Fight or flight” was intended for emergencies, not for all day every day…it wears you out. No one can stay revved up all the time and feel good.
So now it’s time to really show your adrenals some love! Here’s how:
- Get to sleep by 10 PM. There is a deeper level of restoration that happens when you are asleep in the hours before midnight. Try it each night for a week and notice your energy improve!
- Get vitamin C. Your adrenal glands use a LOT of vitamin C, especially when you’re stressed or dealing with chronic inflammation, viruses, etc. You can use ½ lemon in water first thing in the morning and again in early afternoon. You can also look for a supplement with vitamin C plus bioflavonoids, and take 1,000mg/day twice a day, if you doctor approves.
- Take a break before you have one. Overworked engines burn out and so do overworked people. I know you drive yourself hard. But you have to nurture the nurturer; there is no one else in charge of your care.
Try these two tips: After lunch, take a 10 minute lie down. Yes, lie down flat and just rest or meditate. If you work outside the home, maybe bring a yoga mat to work and find a quiet place, or go to your car. If there is absolutely no place else, sit on a toilet for a few minutes. If it’s nice you can go lie outside. Then as your day closes, but before dinner, take your 1 minute lie down again. A life without pauses is a run on sentence! You’ ll feel the reset when you do take these short breaks.
Tip #3 – Get Enough Sleep.
Many women have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and sleep is super important at this time in life. We produce growth hormone as we sleep, and this growth hormone repairs and rebuilds us; sleep is the fountain of youth!
So here are a few ideas if you’re having trouble:
- If you have a busy mind, take time to wind down at night. Read a book, take a stroll or take a nice hot bath. Avoid television and computer screens and turn down the lights around the house. If you still need help, try drinking a ½ teaspoon of nutmeg in warm almond milk a bit before bedtime. You’ll be surprised how sleepy it makes you! Or take a few minutes and meditate. There are several apps that you can download with meditations of different lengths.
- Try aromatherapy.Dab a few drops of pure vetiver and pure lavender oils under your nose and at your temples. Or use a cold mist diffuser to spread this goodness into your bedroom air.
- Do you wake up during the night? You can still try the above tips, and if it happens a lot, ask your healthcare provider to look at your blood sugar and liver function. You should be able to burn stored energy as you sleep. If your body can’t do this, your body will spike your energy levels to release blood sugar, and you’ll wake up.
Be sure to avoid alcohol, sugar and high carbohydrate foods before bed. Try not to snack between meals and get plenty of healthy fat in your diet from coconut oil, raw nuts, avocados, grass-fed butter or ghee, etc.
According to Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, if you have a great diet, don’t snack, and go to bed early, waking up in the middle of the night may indicate a more complex problem. Talk with your healthcare provider.