Peri-menopause (a time of hormonal imbalance when the production of sex hormones begin to decline) and menopause (a lack of a period for 12 months of more in a owman thats over age 40) are one of the main things I get asked about with being a Female Health and Performance Coach.
For good reason too.
Many of my clients are going through this transition and it’s hard.
Simply put: it’s a hormonal s*** show.
BUT: it doesn’t have to be.
The array of symptoms we commonly see with menopause and perimenopause ...
Weight and body fat gain
Decreased libido … are all very real. But there are many things that can be done to aid the symptoms. It can feel like your body is fighting against you and no longer working with you. And while there’s nothing we can do to change biology, there is a lot we can do to manage symptoms.
The first thing is becoming AWARE of what's going on in your body and how to support YOU. There is so much information about there telling you you should be feeling like this or this will happen and you have to do X, Y and Z to get rid of it.
How often do you feel like a failure because nothing is working for YOU no matter what you do? Yes, we are all women and biologically we will all go through this. BUT we’re also individuals and need to be treated as such.
Over the next two weeks I’m going to give you 6 things to help keep your hormones in check through the big PM and M!
1. REMEMBER: IT’S NORMAL!
But beyond this, we first need to consider what ‘normal’ is. You will have a decrease in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. You will see a loss in bone density and metabolic rate, naturally. But too often other frustrations are blamed on menopause.
Body fat, weight gain, sleep, stress, increase in body temp and other frustrations are quick to be blamed on menopause but it’s usually not menopause that’s the issue.
Nearly 75% of perimenopausal and menopausal women experience hot flashes.Approximately 90% experience weight gain (with most of the fat moving to the abdominal area).
But research studies agree that many of the ‘menopausal symptoms’ are just natural shifts of the metabolism that come with age and other lifestyle factors.
Note: lifestyle factors!
Meaning, there are many things that are within your control that can be taken stock of: NutritionSleep quality (!)Toxin exposure (beautify products, plastics)Exercise (Strength training!)Caffeine and sugar consumptionAnd the biggest one: STRESS
This is why focussing on lifestyle factors is one of the main components of my coaching protocol.
2. STRESS IS THE BIGGEST DRIVER OF MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
My clients know this, I bang on about stress to them every week. And even more so for clients who are going through this time.
During these years, the production of sex hormones shifts from the ovaries tro the adreanl glands. Have you just had a lightbulb moment from that?!
The adrenal glands are responsible for controlling cortisol (the stress hormone). Now, cortisol is a very good thing – we need it – but we also need it to not be in a constant heightened state.
Cortisol is wonderful for kicking into gear and helping us get through a tough workout or helping us react quickly in danger. However, when cortisol is chronically raised because we’re in a constant state of stress with our lives (to-do lists, bills to pay, husbands that don’t get it, children that are pulling us left, right and centre, dieting, scrolling instagram, overexercising, medications and our internal chatter telling us we’re not good enough) this is where we run into problems.
Stress on stress on stress = hormonal chaos, to be frank.
Stress management MUST be a component of any hormone-regulating protocol. No supplement is going to help UNLESS this is first addressed. You must create the right environment for supplementary things to have a benefit.
Women going through this stage more than ever need to address their stress to help support your body hormonally. And this is more than just doing three deep breaths every morning (that’s a start) but consider: Reducing inflammatory foods (processed food, sugar, grains, vegetable oils focus on real whole foods)
Sleeping 7–9 hours a night
Limiting coffee and caffeine to 1 cup a day before 12pm
Ensuring getting plenty of micronutrients from food, as well as omega-3 fats.
Avoid excess estrogens from the environment (chemical-free cleaning and beauty products, plastics)
Incorporate more mindfulness and parasympathetic activities (time in nature, yoga, meditation, breathing)
Be creative (write, draw, dance)
Laugh (choose to spend time with people that light you up, watch funny things)
Getting outside (nature is powerful - at least 30-60 mins sunshine everyday)
Support your gut health (your second brain)
Talk about your stress (encourage more feminine energy into your life and ask for help. Don’t let shame fester inside. Talk it out, sister!) Empower yourself by taking stock of your stress. You don’t need to do it all.
3. LOOK AFTER YOUR GUT
Every cell in your body is nourished and supported by what goes into your tum. Not to mention one of the major centers of hormone production occurs in the gut itself. So when there is dysfunction in the gut (leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth like SIBO, irritated gut lining, etc) then your body is going to be inflamed and unhappy, this includes your hormones such as cortisol.
We need essential nutrients to reach our hormones to have a sound metabolism and if our gut health is blocking this process then stress is going to be even more heightened.
You may eat ‘healthy’ but if your gut isn’t able to absorb the nutrients you take in or there is some dysfunction there your body isn’t going to be getting all the good stuff it needs to function optimally.
This is why gut health is crucial for hormonal balance.
There is A LOT of chatter on the webzz about gut health and a million different gurus telling you to do this and that elimination diet. But the first point of call is to speak with a specialist who understands functional medicine to look at the root causes of these imbalances. (Avoid band-aid treatments for symptoms.)
Like with everything, unless you actually test to get a baseline for what is going on it is like taking a stab in the dark and hoping something sticks.
For some, doing gut testing can be useful for understanding why their hormonal balance may be whack. But it may also be that a basic digestive support is enough to give you some balance to minimise stress on ya tum. I do highly recommend speaking with a practitioner but, some things you can begin to implement on your own:
Eat fermented food and take a good quality probiotic (but, please, make sure you invest in a good quality one. Many probiotics do not contain the number of probiotics or strains they claim on the label).
Drink half your body weight in ounces each day – at least!
CONSIDER taking digestive enzymes with each meal (I do 1Tbsp apple cider vinegar in lukewarm water) if you commonly experience bloating.
Chew your food 20–30 times each bite (yup!), sit down without distractions and be with your food (I can’t tell you how simple and effective this is for digestion and mindfulness)
Cook more at home than eating out.
Stay tuned for part two next week!