This October I turn 45.
The mid-forties are often when we begin holding our reading materials at arm’s length, take a second or two to remember things from time-to-time, and notice changes in our menstrual cycles.
Ahhh, yes. Peri-menopause. Welcome to the 5-10 years prior to post-menopause when hormone shifts start to feel like a roller coaster at Valley Fair. You’re high, then low, and you don’t know what’s up ahead! Then wham – it comes to a screeching halt and the ride’s over. Or at least, that’s what many of us think is going to happen.
What should happen is that you experience minimal (if any) symptoms and then one day, you simply no longer have monthly periods. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case for many women. This perpetuates and contributes to the “agreement” that peri-menopause is going to be horrible except for the “lucky” few.
What plays out for many women is the experience of imbalanced sex hormones, coined “estrogen dominance.” The two hormones that most strongly influence the peri-menopausal experience are estrogen and progesterone and the two of them contribute to quite the balancing act.
When estrogen levels rise, symptoms surge. The symptoms associated with increased estrogen are feeling hot all the time, breast fullness and tenderness, heavy periods (like the super plus tampon every hour kind), periods that come too soon (for some that can be every TWO WEEKS), increased clots, fibroids, and feeling overly emotional (irritable, angry, weepy).
If estrogen is dominant, that means that progesterone is not. When progesterone levels start to fall, a different group of symptoms kick in. Welcome anxiety, insomnia, adult acne, spotting between periods, and night sweats.
But the fun doesn’t stop there.
Eventually, periods stop and as one transitions further into post-menopause, estrogen AND progesterone can decline rapidly. For some, these levels are so low that on blood tests, even the smallest amount the lab can detect isn’t there. Common post-menopausal symptoms include lack of motivation or love for life, depression, dry skin, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, memory decline, decreased libido, and loss of muscle mass – which is only naming a few on a long list.
While the setup may be depressing, the GOOD NEWS is that it doesn’t have to go down that way.
Our sex hormone production is reliant on other hormone conversations occurring in our bodies. There are conversion factors that can influence the balance of estrogen and progesterone we experience through our menstrual age and beyond. Learning how to contribute to healthy hormone production is like learning how to make good investments for retirement. The more you do upfront, the better your likelihood of a good experience. But no worries if you aren’t as ready as you would like to be. There are still some things that you can do to ease your experience and enjoy the female body you were given.
Here’s how I’m investing in my future hormone health:
- Keep my BIG hormones balanced (insulin and cortisol) as they have the greatest influence on my small hormones (estrogen and progesterone). This means eating low glycemic meals like meat, legumes and vegetables, avoiding sugar, alcohol and minimizing grains. I also strive to keep my stress in check by making choices that result in stress reduction and implementing lifestyle habits like exercise and leisure time to help balance it.
- Support my estrogen detoxification pathways (especially in the early years) to prevent “estrogen dominance.” First, free up the detoxification pathway by removing things like caffeine and alcohol that compete with estrogens for detoxification. Ensuring 30 grams of fiber daily and having the right microbial balance in my gut can help remove the estrogens out via stool. Since I’m a pretty light eater, I’ll often take a fiber supplement like MetaFiber or Herbulk along with a probiotic like Ultra Flora Balance if I don’t think I’m achieving that through my diet.
- Seek supplement support if estrogen dominance starts to show. Should I start experiencing any symptoms associated with estrogen dominance I would add in Estrofactors – a nutritional supplement that targets the enzymes involved in estrogen detoxification so I can can clear the estrogens more effectively. This product works GREAT especially for those experiencing periods coming too soon, spotting between periods, or heavy periods. Estrium is a medical food that also support estrogen detoxification but in the form of a medical food which also help balance glucose and insulin levels.
- Maintain an optimal body composition. Body fat is where all the extra estrogen hangs out. Less body fat means less estrogens and an easier transition. I tend to run low on the body fat average which I work at every day to maintain. For the average female – body fat should be at about 20%. Not sure where you’re at? We can test that for you using our InBody machine. Already know you’re a little higher than that? We’ve JUST rolled out our new 4 weeks to weight loss TransFOURmations program that can help! Contact Jenn for the details.
So far, I’m symptom free – I think because I’ve done most of the above for many years now. Regardless, I feel empowered to know I am not at the mercy of my hormones. I know what symptoms to look for EARLY, so I can move into action to have the best peri-to-post-menopause ever as I wish for all others in their 4th and 5th decade.