(#4 of 5) What is REALLY going on with my hormones?

This is the fourth post in my 5-part series where I answer “The Top 5 Questions Every Woman in (or near) Her 40s Should Be Asking about Her Hormones and Her Overall Health.”

Today I will be answering the question: “What is REALLY going on with my hormones?”

The previous posts explained that perimenopause is a natural, normal phase of life that lasts about 5-10 years before your period ends. And we covered the importance of key lifestyle habits and adrenal health to help set the stage for this hormonal transition. Then we took a look at what kinds of tests and screenings you should be considering now that you are in your 40s. If you missed those, you can read Post 1 Here, Post 2 Here and Post 3 Here.

To answer the question about what is actually happening with your hormones, let’s first look at what *generally* happens. When a woman gets into perimenopause, like it or not, her body is less focused on reproducing. Therefore, she can start having anovulatory cycles. That means that some months she won’t ovulate, or release an egg from her ovary.

An important thing to know about your hormones is that progesterone (named after “pro-gestation” for it’s support of pregnancy) is only produced after ovulation. So, in perimenopause, the first hormone change that usually happens is that progesterone levels drop.

This results in a relatively high level of estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance. This low progesterone/high estrogen imbalance causes many common symptoms such as worsening PMS, cramps, heavier bleeding, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings and irritability. Symptoms are often worse in the second half of the cycle because the progesterone that previously had been there to balance the estrogen is not getting produced. Once the levels of both estrogen and progesterone drop, the period starts and most women feel better, at least for the next week or two.

As an aside I’d like to share with you that, during this phase, there is one particular herbal supplement that works really well for many women. Chaste Tree Berry, or Vitex, acts as an overall female hormone balancer as it helps with regulating the cycle, increasing progesterone production, and decreasing PMS.

Then, as a woman moves into later perimenopause and closer to menopause, that is when her estrogen levels may start to drop as well. Low estrogen can lead to depression and crying, poor mental clarity, skin dryness and wrinkles, vaginal dryness and low sex drive, heart palpitations, joint pains, hair loss, fatigue, temperature swings (hot/cold). It’s interesting to note that hot flashes and night sweats can be caused by either low progesterone earlier on, or by low estrogen closer to menopause.

So that is what happens in general, but the detailed version is a bit more complicated. As a woman goes through perimenopause, her hormone levels can swing wildly high and low, and can change drastically from month to month. This is the rollercoaster of perimenopause. Most of the symptoms are caused by the swings and changes in the hormones, rather than from levels simply being low or high. The ovaries can have reduced function for months or years, and then kick in for a last hoorah before menopause sets in fully. Each woman’s experience is unique.

WHAT ABOUT TESTING?
Measuring hormone levels with lab tests can be very helpful, especially when the symptoms are confusing or overlap with symptoms from other imbalances such as adrenal or thyroid problems. There are blood, saliva and urine tests that can give insight into different aspects of your sex hormones. However, there is no perfect way to test accurately. Plus, what might be true one month can be very different the next. That said, there are indeed times when certain tests can be very helpful, as long as you understand their limitations and have a doctor who knows how to interpret them.

Because I know how important it is to be informed and to have access to more resources and support, I’m excited to invite you to….

Dr. Amy’s Perimenopause Program
Get Informed ~ Get Empowered ~ Get Balanced

 

If you are local to the Bay Area and want to go deeper or could use more support, CLICK HERE to learn more about my upcoming 6-month group program, starting in January 2016. I will be guiding you step-by-step as you learn the most effective natural strategies for balancing your hormones and optimizing your overall health. Plus, you will connect with a group of like-minded women who totally get what you are going through, and will be there to support you on your journey.

We’ll meet just once a month, on a Sunday afternoon, for our circle and discussion, plus a special guest activity such as yoga, dance, pilates or art. The rest of the program is flexible so you can get the help you need at a pace that fits into your busy life!

Get all the details and register here ===> www.DrAmyDay.com/perimenopauseprogram

NEXT UP
This 5-part series will be answering your top questions about hormones and overall health, and will teach you many tips about taking care of yourself to stay healthy for the years and decades ahead. Keep an eye out for the next post soon!

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