I don't blame you thinking it's all just about your hormones as that's what the media and narrative tell you. Get HRT! Sort your Oestrogen out! That's pretty much all you see and hear for anything menopause at the moment. Though it's encouraging that it is being talked about more and highlighted in business and life there is a real danger of women being channelled down the wrong menopause track. For instance, do you think: I can't resolve my symptoms I need to see a Doctor? The only way I'll feel better is if I take Oestrogen? Firstly this takes your power away from you and puts it in the hands of a Doctor who may not have had any menopause training but is now happy to dish out meds, and secondly it's about way way more than Oestrogen; in fact if you have periods and symptoms you're most likely Oestrogen dominant! How about this instead: I'm empowered to help myself feel better, my health is in my own hands! How about if I told you that in this month's menopause blog, it's time to Focus on your health not your hormones for your symptom relief?!
Focus on your health and not your hormones for your symptom relief
I get it, this can be a very scary time as suddenly being responsible for your own health is unknown territory and it's whilst your body is going haywire .Me telling you that your symptoms are linked to your changing health and less to do with your hormones may not sound a feasible route to take. Firstly I'll explain where your hormones come in and then I'll give you some amazing advice on just how you can start to look into your health to resolve your symptoms.
I thought I was being quite controversial when I first used to think this: It's more about my health than my hormones. However over the last couple of years more and more practitioners and researchers are saying the same thing. Nowadays people will quote that there are over 100 symptoms of menopause, so either something has gone crazy wrong with our hormones or the list is expanding to include any health changes that are happening to women as they get into the perimenopause years/ menopause timeframe
Firstly let's fully understand what Perimenopause is! It's a period of time (in years not months) when you feel like you're changing hormonally (because you are) and you have symptoms, maybe not many, maybe not severe at present; or, you've hit a wall and think where the hell did that come from? Which ever type you are, you still have periods, and this is an important point because although Oestrogen maybe waning you still have it!
Menopause is when your periods stop, this is technically one day, it's just you may not know when that day was, and to be safe the medical profession say that menopause is if you've been 12 months without a period; however that really doesn't help if you have symptoms. This can be utterly frustrating if 6 months in without periods you have a series of bleeds, now you're totally confused, are you peri or menopausal?! Your body isn't a computer so it doesn't do things in black and white, it doesn't just switch off. It stutters and stumbles, then splutters out some more hormones and if stress or other health factors get in the way your periods can be like a rollercoaster ride!
This was me 6 or so years ago, I thought: I'm heavily perimenopausal, which now explained a long list of health symptoms I had, so I started to tackle them one by one, especially when my sleep was affected, I just couldn't handle that. The first thing I did was go out and buy a menopause supplement, it was the best and worst thing I did! Why? Because it gave me hot flushes, when I'd never had one before; and that pissed me off. This is a good thing though as I only take action when something has really riled me, so I dumped the well known branded supplement and looked into it all because it seemed it wasn't as simple as supplement companies make out.
Here's the thing I never really tackled my menopause, I didn't think I must balance out my hormones. My periods had been pretty rubbish my whole life, I just put up with them, and didn't think I must balance out my hormones! When, I finally took action it was to sort out my sleep. So I researched what sleep needed, in my case Magnesium. I'd already done a liver detox as I'd found out my skin symptoms and feeling bleurgh was all liver associated (yes I knew this from my chinese medicine, I just didn't take action until it got bad enough). When I did a liver detox a part of that was to take supplements, so I did - vitamins and minerals. When I came out of the liver detox I felt loads better and a bi-product was that I had come off caffeine quite accidentally but that turned out to be extremely beneficial to my energy levels through the day.
Before doing the liver detox in the Spring, the previous November I'd had a gut parasite, and I took antiobiotics to get over it, but I was left with an assortment of weird symptoms. The liver detox helped relieve some of them but a couple of months later I got talking to a local probiotic company Microbz and I thought: I'll try this as it sounds good for strengthening my gut. I haven't looked back, as well as clearing up the last of the gut symptoms I had inadvertently also reduced lifelong hayfever by 98% - I could not believe it! Statiscally womens immunity gets worse during menopausal transition and so allergies increase, but I'd had the opposite luck!
To summarise where your hormones come in versus your health symptoms, they are completely symbiotic. One affects the other, and they cycle around. Here's the BIG BUT though:
Focus on your health symptoms as they arise, and what happens is that your hormones start to balance themselves out.
PMS lessens, periods get easier and regulate. Symptoms that you are experiencing can be from the decline of progesterone (this is perimenopause) , which is also suppressed if your cortisol levels are high (this is physical stress in your body), and if progesterone is low then oestrogen is out of kilter and so many symptoms can be because of this magnification. This out-of-balance state of your hormones would be a nightmare scenario to take to your doctors as medication does not resolve it. Here though is the easiest answer to resolve your symptoms:
Nutrition and gut health.
Let's break down exactly what I did for my symptoms to give you some insight in how you can tackle yours:
Acne and feeling bleurgh - liver detox and a lot of vitamins and minerals, plus dropped caffeine
Gut parasite side effects (ugh - body odour!) - probiotic , but this also resolved bleeding gums , brain fog, some period pains and lifelong hayfever
Interuption of sleep (around 4am) - took magnesium, it worked but I'd already done the liver work and was on multivitamins
Daily anxiety - Ancient herbal stress adaptogen called Ashwaganda. The long term effect, lowering cortisol levels, allowing progesterone to rebalance with oestrogen and my periods to regulate and ease.
Years earlier to lose weight - eating Keto-ish, i.e. understanding that simple carbs break down into sugars, side benefit resolving night sweats on a Saturday night. This lead me to understanding that night sweats are not a menopausal symptom; though they can happen during hormonal changes, and if you're suffering from these look to your diet and liver support.
Relieving low moods and fatigue - happened as I researched into much needed nutrients in my diet and supplements to support the deficite caused by the physical stress that was in my body.
Not recovering from an ankle operation - Vitamin C and collagen, and an understanding how healing slows once oestrogen changes and the relationship to collagen and onto arterial stiffness, heart health, prolapses and immunity strengthening (I now don't get colds).
The common thread in all of the above is that I chose to resolving my symptoms (which all fall under the menopause banner) as health issues, I never once needed to think about taking hormones, antidepressants, anti-anxiety or any other medical options that would have been offered had I gone to a GP.
Ironically my periods are the best they've ever been (I'm coming up on 52), and I have no PMS, sleep issues or fatigue. If anxiety does manifest occassionally I know that it's because I've been slack with my supplements so I pop them again and forget about it; I also take Bach Flower Remedies to help me with immediate emotional issues and I'm currently trialling a blend to help relieve long term sweet addiction; watch this space!
Your menopause is your health under a microscrope
Why then are all these symptoms labelled menopause or perimenopause? This is because they are happening more prevalently at a time of your life when your hormones are changing and health issues that were silently building now appear as if over night; but they were there, and now you know about them.
With the decline of progesterone your calming hormone, symptoms of PMS can increase. If you were already struggling with PMS, or you have endometriosis, PCOS or fibroids then the likelihood is that your hormones were already imbalanced and now they are magnfiying more so.
Find me a woman in her 40s who isn't stressed! There's a nasty little catch 22 you need to know about - the stress hormone cortisol, suppresses progesterone production (they both use the same body chemistry to make).
Stress overrides reproductive health; the more time you spend in fight n flight, agitated and wired, the more stress is created in your body. Unfortuntely thereafter the less progesterone you have and the more easily stressed you become, so the more cortisol you make and around you go again! This is where I was at the height of my symptoms around 6 or so years ago. Now here's the nasty little sting, the more you exercise, the more cortisol you produce! I was trying to destress by playing more tennis, so I was well on my way down that slide to misery and it ends with completely flatlined emotions, I'd lost my joy, everything was being endured and I started wondering whether I was actually depressed for the first time in my life?!
To summarise what I'm saying here: your body is managing just about as you get into your later 30s and then into your 40s, but stress is mounting up and it's sitting in your body. Then your hormone progesterone starts to decline and as well as already being suppressed and *BAM* you wonder what's happened to you, where has the woman of 2/3 years ago gone? During this time your periods can actually get heavier too, which is totally confusing when you think they should be ending.
I find in recent years menopause talk has almost forgotten that it's about periods ending. I speak to women every week who tell me there periods are ok, heavy, extremely regular, and ask if it's the menopause? Then I have those that say: my periods finished 5 years ago but all my symptoms are telling me I'm in menopause. It's so confusing right now, but what I want to say is at the end of the day, it's your health. If you have symptoms, get them resolved, I don't mind if they're under a menopause banner I just know that you shouldn't have them and you need to resolve them as they are an indication your body isn't working happily and you need help to correct it.
Amazing advice for resolving your health symptoms to balance your hormones
That's the ground work on why it's better to look at your symptoms as health issues and not hormones that require topping up. If you sort out your health symptoms your hormones will regulate on their own and this way of being healthy has longevity.
My fear for a majority of women who just go straight to HRT is that this papers over the cracks of underlyging health issues. This is based on my experience of clients coming to me when HRT has stopped working, their symptoms have returned. I appreciate this isn't everyone, but I'd rather resolve the underlying health issues that your symptoms are stating in the first place. This is why I'm a health practitioner firstly. I use the theory of chinese medicine to group your symptoms to understand your health patterns, then I help you resolve them.
I've managed to get this far into my blog without barely mentioning oestrogen. The only real time you look at oestrogen is when your periods have gone scant/erractic or stopped - that's the menopause era. Even hot flushes, the one symptom I consider to be the truest menopause one is still based on how stressed your body is, it's just your body becomes more stressed as your menopause happens. Also a word of warning if you're reading this post menopause you SHOULD NOT have hot flushes, this is a sign of cardiovascular aging, reach out to me or another professional to help you resolve this symptom now.
Did you know you can have your menopause without ever having a hot flush?
I have over 7 years of menopause research, observation and testing summed up there. Yes there's more detail but if you get one message from my AMAZING ADVICE section it is to up your nutrition!
An apple may look and taste like an apple but it's Magnesium content is reduced by around 80% of what it would have had in it in the 1950s.
The modern woman is far more stressed that previous generations.
Work, family, western driven life style, punishing exercise styles (as opposed to Eastern energetic styles like Yoga or Qi Gong) all place a physical burden on you that has not been seen before and this is why 100 symptoms of perimenopause is becoming a very real syndrome in the western world; and only the western world. In cultures from the Mediterannean to the Indian subcontinent, to Persia and the Japanese they don't have the severity of symptoms we do. Our difference boils down to 2 facts:
Nutritional variation in diet
The amount of physical stress
The nutrition in your body needs to be greater than the physical stress, when you achieve this balance symptoms associated to cortisol and stress subside. There are a handful of ways you can go about this from altering what you eat, adding in nutritional or herbal supplements and reducing stress factors in your life with the right kind of exercise, bach flower remedies, mindfulness, gratitude and so much more. All of these approaches are natural and effective and restore your energy and health rather than mask or drain it.
Be Holistic with your health and feel the long term benefits!
Sounds like a lot of work? Let me give you the shortcut!
I want to make resolving your symptoms as easy as possible for you, so you can tick them off as they dissappear in a matter of weeks. I aim to help my clients see the first changes in as little as 2 weeks, then go on to cement those changes in 4 weeks and then continue to thrive and be symptom free as your health and happiness gets better and better. Does that sound good?
Going it alone?
I've stated that nutrition is going to be your game changer. I'm assuming you're on a pretty good diet with a lot of veg already (if not, start!) and I've put together a special Go Getter starter package for you to get motivated, get answers and get going on making those all important changes
Read Understanding Your Menopause, Eating for Perimenopause and Beyond , plus Savvy supplements plus Master Your Anxiety Naturally and you're good to go - I've popped them all in one place for you with a great deal - click here to get started!
I'm here to help you with a consultation and action plan specifically for you. Give me just over an hour of your time and I'll create the steps you need to really see changes quickly. If you want to take the pain out of your brain, let me help you, I'm really good at it - book a free chat with me here or return to main site.
Andrea is a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles of chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If local you can book in for Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea can do online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow.