You’re cranky, exhausted and you are having trouble concentrating and sleeping. Surely you are too young for menopause.
Menopause is a term that we use in retrospect when a woman has been without a period for 12 months. The average age for menopause is 51.5 years but it can happen as early as the early 40’s or as late as 58. Prior to that time she is in peri-menopause, which can last for up to 10-15 years beginning as early as the late 30’s.
The most common symptoms experienced in peri-menopause are hot flushes, night sweats, poor memory, mood disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, irritability, weight gain and sleep disturbances. Peri-menopause is a time of change and hormone levels can change erratically from month to month. Think of the teenage years, without the fun.
It Starts At The Top
The endocrine system is regulated by feedback loops between the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the ovaries, called the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Each part of this axis must be responsive and sensitive for it to function properly. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels spike as the hypothalamus signals loudly to the less responsive or hyper responsive ovaries and as a result oestrogen levels can fluctuate dramatically. Our bodies can manage changes of hormones in our life quite effectively but chronic stress, poor diet, too little exercise and environmental toxins can take their toll and they are no longer able to compensate.
High Estrogen vs Low Progesterone
Levels of oestrogen may also be influenced by our exposure to chemicals in the environment that mimic oestrogen such as BPA and phthalates, in plastics and personal care products. Cows are often milked when they are pregnant leading to increased levels of oestrogen in dairy products. Combine this extra load of oestrogenic hormones with poor digestive function (poor bowel and liver/gallbladder function) and we are faced with oestrogens that are not getting excreted properly and are recirculating as well as more oestrogens being produced by the body. This can lead to symptoms of oestrogen dominance such as weight gain, bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, fibrocystic breasts, headaches, mood swings, poor sleep, fatigue, hair loss, thyroid dysfunction and decreased sex drive.
Even though levels of oestrogen are not necessarily high, they are high in relation to levels of progesterone. Low levels of progesterone may result from anovulatory cycles (where no ovulation occurs) or may be affected by stress as the building blocks of hormones can be directed towards either sex hormones or the production of stress hormones. Yes, we all have stress but women in this age group are often juggling work, ageing parents, adult children still living at home as well as financial and relationship struggles. Emotional issues can factor into this burden, as this stage in life seems to be the time that unresolved emotions tend to surface.
So What To Do?
There is much that can be done to help manage these symptoms. Herbs and nutrients are beneficial in addressing the hormone imbalance and supporting liver function, but diet and lifestyle factors can do much to modify your symptoms.
Eat REAL FOOD with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, adequate protein and moderate fats. Increased fibre helps the bowel to eliminate oestrogen.
Decrease stress by learning to say no to unreasonable demands.
Get more exercise, particularly weight training. Incorporate yoga or meditation to help decrease levels of stress hormones and insulin.
Reducing caffeine, alcohol and exposure to toxins in the environment helps to reduce the load on the liver so it is better able to excrete oestrogen.
If you need guidance in the treatment of this or any other condition, please make an appointment with one of our practitioners.
This article is for information purposes only. Please refer to our Medical Disclaimer policy for more information. The opinions expressed here represents the author’s and not necessarily those of Realize Health. In addition, thoughts and opinions change from time to time due to updates in research and as a necessary consequence of having an open mind. Views expressed in out-of-date posts may not be the same to those we hold today.