Both peri-menopause and menopause, which span the 40s and 50s, are normal events in a woman’s life. While it is normal to suffer from occasional periods of feeling down and although most women gain some weight as they age, relentless, unpleasant symptoms and excess weight that accompany these hormonal transitions is not normal. Statistically normal perhaps, but not the way you were designed to function as a woman.
The average age of menopause onset is 51 years, but the best predictor women can use is their mother’s menopausal age as a good indicator of their own. If you are over 40 and haven’t had a period for one year, you’re officially post-menopause. There really is no other way to know, nor is it important (unless you are trying to get pregnant).
Although symptoms like weight gain, brain fog and hot flashes are often referred to as “menopausal”, the perimenopausal years are typically rockier than actual menopause, and it’s in these years (anywhere from 35-55) that many women start to see their health decline.
This midlife period of a woman’s life presents the perfect opportunity to take stock and attend to her needs. Unfortunately, the majority of women enter this phase of life with some degree of low vitality and thus experience unpleasant perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
I believe symptoms are a gift because they afford us an opportunity to improve. They are signals that the body hasn’t received the needed nutritional, lifestyle and sometimes even spiritual support required to flourish.
The important thing is to recognize that symptoms, at any age, are the body’s way of telling you that it is not getting what it needs for optimal function. These are not things that can be permanently cured by popping a pill or exercising harder. Symptoms are a clarion call to look deeper .
4 Things Every Midlife Woman Should Know About Hormone Balance
The following are the 4 things every woman needs to do before going the hormone replacement therapy route even if it is the more natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapy:
1. Nurture the adrenals
Healthy adrenals make for healthy aging. Since our adrenals take over for the tiny bit of estrogen and progesterone we will produce after menopause, we would do well to not make them work overly hard for us. A few ways we tax our adrenal glands is when we are not living a mindful life, when we ignore stress reduction and we eat foods that we have a known sensitivity to. So, to nurture your adrenals, make sure you’re reducing stress wherever and whenever possible, and eat foods that you know your body tolerates well.
2. Ensure balanced blood sugar
When we eat too many refined carbohydrates, it can cause wide fluctuations in our blood glucose levels. The pancreas is then called into action to secrete insulin and ferry the blood glucose into our cells where it belongs. The problem with chronically high insulin levels is it causes us to store fat. It also causes women to make too much estrogen because insulin up-regulates the enzyme aromatase which is responsible for estrogen production. When we eat too many carbohydrates (and this is different for each person), we cause a surge in insulin. This causes midlife women to pack on the pounds and possibly have imbalanced estrogen levels. Because we are evaluating our habits and desires in midlife, you may need to re-evaluate your carbohydrate intake.
3. Love your liver
The liver both affects hormones and is affected by hormones. The metabolism of estrogen takes place primarily in the liver through Phase I (hydroxylation) and Phase II (methylation and glucuronidation) pathways, which allow the estrogen to be detoxified and excreted from the body. If the liver is unhealthy, you may cause spent estrogen to recirculate in the bloodstream, leading to unpleasant symptoms and poor health. Milk thistle has a long history of usefulness for improving liver health and simple, every day practices like drinking dandelion tea can boost liver health.
4. Embrace fun movement (aka, exercise)
Most midlife women are at a point in their lives that allows for more social activities than in their 20s and 30s when they were busy raising a family or pursuing a career. Many of us also lose our love of natural movement as we age and become more sedentary. Socialization is awesome, but socializing in this age stage almost always includes rich food and fine drink. Finding movement you enjoy and doesn’t feel like work can do a lot to keep you healthy as you enjoy the benefits of socializing in midlife.
With the decline in ovarian function that comes in midlife, women start to think of replacing lost hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is not necessarily a bad thing but, like the high quality supplements that we take, hormone replacement, if used, is best accompanied by the aforementioned health building practices in order for women to be vibrant, healthy and hormonally balanced with age.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to thriving in perimenopause, you can grab “Create the Perimenopause You Want to Have: A No Fail Guide for Every Woman” right here