Feeling rather hopeless, Marcy came to me for help. She had been experiencing weight gain, bloating, heavy periods, insomnia and a bad case of the grouchies. “ I just don’t feel right” she said. “One minute I’m fine and the next I’m moody and having a hot flash, and now I have fibroids. I just want my old body back”!
This is an example of the comments I get from women in their late 30’s to early 50’s. These women are in a transition know as Peri menopause. Their hormones are changing, they are stressed and don’t know what to do. So they go to their doctor who suggest medication (antidepressants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy), but the symptoms will still be there. The medication is just a band-aid, it’s not the solution.
Peri menopause refers to the years of hormonal change before your final menstrual period. It can begin in your mid-thirties and can be quite unpredictable. As hormones change, so does your weight, skin, moods, sleep and response to stress. Hormones are responsible for how you look, feel and behave so it’s critical to keep them happy. Having balanced hormones during peri menopause can make menopause an enjoyable time. Unfortunately, it is often a real struggle.
Here are 6 tips to help you balance your hormones during Peri menopause:
- Get your hormones and cortisol tested, Don’t guess
Your body is sensitive when it comes to hormones. You need just the right amount to look and feel your best. Estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency and too high or low cortisol can cause an avalanche of symptoms such as weight gain, irritability, insomnia, migraines, anxiety, and fibroids. Get tested and know your numbers before experimenting.
I do saliva testing in my practice as it is an easy and reliable way to test your hormones. The results will show you the level of each hormone, compared to where they should be at your stage in life. One area I especially pay attention to is Estradiol, a form of estrogen that can feed cancer cells if the right opportunity exist. I also look for estrogen dominance which is when estrogen is too high compared to the amount of progesterone in the body. Migraines, weight gain and fibroids are symptoms of this.
Saliva testing includes; estrogen (3 forms), progesterone, testosterone (PCOS or facial hair if too high) DHEA, and cortisol. These levels are taken four times during the day to get the most accurate reading.
Cortisol, our stress hormone, plays a huge role in our energy, weight, sleep and hormone balance. If cortisol is chronically high, progesterone will be low. Progesterone is our calming hormone and we NEED it! Once you get the results, a plan of action can be put into practice.
- Balance your blood sugar by increasing organic protein and healthy fats into your day.
Blood sugar balance is critical in balancing hormones. Either too high or too low levels can be stressful and will increase cortisol and insulin (our fat storing hormone). This can lead to excess estrogen which produces body fat on hips, thighs, tummy and breast! Plus, the more fat you have, the more estrogen is produced causing a “fat storage factory” in your body. Once again, leaving you feeling lousy.
Make sure your food is organic! Conventional meat and dairy contains added hormones to fatten the animal up. Non-organic produce has pesticides which can act as hormone disruptors. When you eat the food you are also consuming the hormones, chemicals and toxins. This is difficult for your liver to process and, just like having unbalanced blood sugar, can increase estrogen dominance adding to your hormone imbalance.
- In each meal, add in 3-5 oz. (or a palm size) of organic protein such as; meat, fish, eggs, lentils and 1-3 T. (thumb size) of healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, grass fed butter or nuts/seeds.
- Ditch the plastic – ditch the chemicals
You’ve probably heard of BPA in plastic, but do you know what it really does?
Chemicals found in plastics, skin care products, cleaning products, herbicides and pesticides may contain toxins called hormone or endocrine disruptors, and BPA is one. Endocrine disruptors can mimic the natural estrogen in your body, preventing your hormones from doing their jobs, creating estrogen dominance and the multitude of symptoms that result from it.
Ways to reduce chemicals:
- Switch to glass and stainless steel for water and food containers
- Make sure all canned food you buy is BPA Free
- Replace all fragrances with essential oils
- No more dryer sheets. Use wool dryer balls instead
- Use oils and lotions without parabens
- Watch out! Many “de-aging” creams put estrogen in them and don’t need to label it. Make sure your beauty products are clean. Drunken Elephant and Annmarie Gianni skin care are ones I’ve been using.
- Love your Liver!
The liver performs over 400 functions, but one important job is to break down, filter and remove excess hormones from your body.
If the liver is sluggish from sugars, alcohol, processed foods, and chemicals, it cannot get rid of the excess hormones and they circulate back into the liver, typically with more intensity. This leads to weight gain, headaches, irritability and energy crashes!
To give the liver a break, consider reducing wine consumption to 1 glass a week, or take a month off of alcohol. Alcohol intake has been associated with anxiety, PMS, mood problems and headaches. After a month I guarantee you will feel happier and have more energy!
Caffeine is linked to PMS symptoms, irritability, blood sugar imbalances and increased cortisol in the body which can increase belly fat. Substitute with Green Tea which has a lesser amount of caffeine and has the beneficial Theanine to calm stress. Or, if you love the coffee taste like I do, switch to decaf. I still get the flavor without the jitters.
FYI: If you struggle with breast pain or fibroids, eliminating caffeine has helped many of my clients.
- The liver loves beets, bitter greens, raw carrots, lemons and filtered water so include them weekly.
Gallstones and gallbladder removal can be a symptom of estrogen dominance.
- Calm the inner storm
Your brain (hypothalamus) is always on the lookout making sure you are safe. If it senses danger in any way, perceived stress or real, it signals the adrenals to make cortisol. Chronic high cortisol depletes progesterone, the hormone responsible for feeling calm, eliminating excess fluids, and having a good night’s sleep. This can leave you feeling depressed, cranky, anxious, unable to relax, and puffy. Low progesterone can also be the reason for endometriosis. This is when the endometrial lining of the uterus expands and grows outside the uterus causing cramps, nausea, pelvic pain, IBS, bloating and infertility.
- Deep breathing is one great way to lower cortisol as it tells your brain you are safe. You can’t run from danger and breath deep at the same time!
Sleep is critical to your health and well being. Poor sleep is one of the most annoying symptoms of peri menopause.
From using electronics all day, eating sugar, drinking wine in the evening, and a constant stream of stress, your cortisol increases before bedtime making it difficult to get to sleep. This disrupts your blood sugar levels and, when unbalanced, a wake-up time between 3-5 am is common. This goes back to item #2 – keeping blood sugar balanced. Aim for 7-9 hours per night and don’t expect to make it up during the weekend. It doesn’t work that way.
- Shut off all electronics 1-2 hours before bed
- Take some magnesium, drink passion flower tea and turn down the lights to relax
- Do some meditation, allow yourself to relax and breath to let go of stress if it’s been screaming at you.
When your hormones are balanced, life is great! You have energy, you sleep, you look vibrant and can think clearly. Take these steps and you will notice a difference. If you want some help with testing or balancing your hormones, contact me here .
Also check out more information on hormones,
Great energy is my wish for you!