Return to Balance and a GOOD Menopause
No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, foggy thinking, and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. During this hormonally challenged time it’s important to realize that the extent to which we suffer from troublesome symptoms has much do with the extent to which our lives – and our hormones – are out of balance.
Picture if you will synchronized swimmers all pointing their toes in perfect petal formation at the exact same moment. Suddenly, one of the swimmers takes off in a different direction, let’s call her progesterone, another dives to the bottom of the pool (call her testosterone), a few more decide to make waves (call them cortisols) while the last but not least of swimmers (call her estrogen) takes over the whole routine. All that beautiful synchrony - gone.
Key hormone players achieve balance through synchrony
And so it goes with us. When our hormones are out of sync, we are out of sync – physically, mentally, and emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually dependant (a deficiency of one creates a surplus of another), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. As Oprah put it at the opening of her show on women and menopause, “You could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and not even know it!”
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hidden hormone imbalance during menopause is your first big clue. Testing your hormone levels is the next necessary step. But before we go any further, let me explain what a hormonal imbalance is. It’s what happens when one or more of the key hormone players: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and/or cortisol, fall out of balance and proportion to each other. These unwelcome but inevitable shifts in hormonal milieu can be handled, but until we learn how to make the necessary adjustments (including but not limited to: dietary, exercise, sleep and supplements), they can seriously disrupt our moods, memory, mojo, and zest for living.
It happens to the best of us. During my own early menopause I would describe myself as addled, exhausted, impatient and unloving – in short, a basket case. That was in the bad old days, before I read Dr. John R. Lee’s life changing go-to book on the subject, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, and got smart.
With Menopause Awareness Month upon us now, there’s no time like the present to learn about the symptoms and imbalances common to this life passage so that we can turn awareness into action:
Estrogen Dominance (flabby, crabby and fed-up) – this mother of all hormone imbalances – an excess of estrogen relative to inadequate progesterone – is all too common during menopause, after a total hysterectomy (particularly if estrogen alone is prescribed post-surgery), and with exposure to environmental toxins, the so-called “xenoestrogens” that disrupt hormone operating systems. It typically begins at Perimenopause in our mid-40s, when hormones wax and wane, and ends with menopause usually in our early 50,s when cycles cease and the ovaries stop making hormones for good. A state of estrogen dominance feels like mood swings, unwanted weight gain, low thyroid symptoms, lost libido, lost pizzazz, lost YOU.
Estrogen Deficiency (hot, sweaty, weepy) – Declining estrogen levels at menopause can trigger that hot flash in the middle of an important meeting, or night sweats in the middle of the night, as well as other bedevilments like vaginal dryness, thinning skin, brittle nails and bones, heart palpitations, fragile emotions, muddled mind….
Imbalances of Testosterone/DHEA and Cortisol (no longer lean, just mean) - are a bad combination that can lead to depleted energy, strength, metabolism, mental clarity and libido. When for instance, the stress hormone cortisol goes up and stays up, testosterone and DHEA go down, along with our stamina, drive, and zest for living.
Adrenal Imbalances (tired, wired, burned out and bummed out) - Lows or highs of cortisol resulting from unresolved stress, junk food, sleep deprivation, and inactivity, can cause rapid aging and belly fat big time – not to mention allergies, insomnia, and chronic fatigue. This under-recognized imbalance tends to manifest in mid-life when the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack in ovarian hormone production. The once and future energizer bunny no longer hops but plops, her sunny mood submerged under a black cloud.
Fluctuating Hormones at Perimenopause when ovulation becomes erratic, are usually behind the hair-raising symptoms most women know as the “emotional roller coaster.” That’s when all hell breaks loose and we’ll do anything for relief!
Fortunately we have a lot more control over the ups and downs of menopause than we might think.
Here are the Top 10 Tips to return to balance and a GOOD MENOPAUSE.
1. Determine your own symptoms of hormone imbalance: www.zrtlab.com or www.womeninbalance.org
2. Test your hormones: to detect hidden imbalances. You can order the Comprehensive Female Profile I here: ZRT online store
3. If testing identifies imbalances that require hormone therapy, insist on bioidentical hormones! Made to mimic natural physiology – they are better and safer than synthetic hormone combinations. You can find a natural hormone friendly physician with ZRT's Find A Provider tool.
4. Support the adrenals: with optimal C, B-complex, D3, and herbal “adaptogens” such as Dong Quai, Astragalus, Ashwagandha, Maca, Rhodiola, that nourish the adrenal glands ability to adapt to stress. Adrenals remember are the main source of hormone supplies during this time of life, so supporting them is key to a healthy menopause.
5. Avoid xenoestrogens: eat “hormone free” foods, go GREEN with home, garden, and personal care products; microwave/heat/store foods in ceramic or glass, never plastic; reject synthetic hormone replacement (HRT) and any products with unpronounceable ingredients.
6. Counteract stress by releasing tension: stretching, deep breathing, yoga, Pilates, zumba, walking, swimming. Exercise in the open air whenever possible.
7. Strength train to boost anabolic hormones naturally (the kind that build and maintain) muscle, bone and libido. (Work with a trainer to avoid injury.)
8. Get your vitamin Zzzs: at least 7 to 8 hours a night and if you can’t get it all in, never underestimate the power nap (5 to 15 mns. max)!
9. Prioritize ME time: to unwind, enjoy life, and soothe stress hormones
10. Act the way you want to feel: research shows it works! (Read: The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin).