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Within the year I hope to celebrate both the end of my 40's and the end to peri-menopause. And I am already planning a celebration for the permanent end to my fertility. I've been ready for awhile.
I'd like to tell you it has been an easy transition. I have been lucky it hasn't been too bad for me. But sometimes it is brutal. Especially this past year as the symptoms seem to have kicked into high gear. Especially the hot flashes, which are mostly at night and are a contributing factor to my constant exhaustion. Spawning a child on the Autism Spectrum that still doesn't sleep through the night every night could also be a factor.
If you are approaching your 40's or are already there, I have a very informative guest post today from Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, founder of Women's Wellness Collaborative.
Balancing Your Hormones After 40
As you approach your 40s, your reproductive years are starting to wind down, and that means changes in your hormones. These changes are inevitable, but the severity of your symptoms depends on your overall health and your knowledge of what is going on in your body and what to do about it.
Let’s review the hormonal changes that occur at peri-menopause and menopause, and then we’ll look at how to optimize your health and avoid weight gain, memory lapses, hot flashes, moodiness and insomnia.
Menopause is when your period stops altogether, and the average age for this is 51. But peri-menopause, a word rarely heard in our culture, is the 5-10 year period of hormonal fluctuation that leads to menopause. It is usually these years that are most challenging.
During peri-menopause, your ovaries are not functioning as well; this is a part of normal aging. But your brain still tries to keep the ovaries working, and some months it’s successful and you ovulate; sometimes it’s not and you don’t. The varying hormone levels that occur in these monthly attempts to keep cycling are what can cause symptoms.
Tip #1- Avoid Estrogen Dominance
The main hormone imbalance you’ll experience is called estrogen dominance. The amount of estrogen you have is higher relative to progesterone. (Progesterone is only produced in high quantities after a strong ovulation.) Estrogen can be extra dominant when you are are getting xeno-estrogens from things like plastics and fragrances, or if you’re overweight, as fat tissue produces estrogen.
Estrogen dominance can lead to the dreaded heavy periods, frequent periods and mid-cycle spotting of peri-menopause.
You can do many things to reduce estrogen. Here are a few:
1. Avoid non-organic, processed foods, plastics and artificial fragrances that contain xeno-estrogens.
2. Eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetable fibers that nourish your good gut bacteria. Your gut helps you clear used estrogens! How many strange vegetables can you buy & try?
3. Manage your weight. An easy way to slim down is to avoid sugars in coffee drinks, alcoholic drinks and treats. Stick to it for a couple weeks and watch your muffin top melt!
Tip #2- Love On Your Adrenals
As your ovaries slow down and produce less hormone, ideally your adrenal glands will bridge the gap and keep you feeling well. But you’re likely stressed with working, managing a household, and perhaps raising kids or caring for elderly parents. This often means your adrenal glands have been overworked for years as you’ve lived in ‘flight or fight’ mode. So now it’s time to really love up on your adrenals!
1. Get to sleep by 10 PM. There is a deeper level of restoration that happens when you are asleep in the hours before midnight. Try it each night for a week and notice your energy improve!
2. Get vitamin C. Your adrenal glands use a LOT of vitamin C, especially when you’re stressed or dealing with chronic inflammation, viruses, etc. You can use ½ lemon in water first thing in the morning and again in early afternoon. You can also look for a supplement with vitamin C plus bioflavonoids, and take 1,000 mg /day twice a day, if you doctor approves.
3. Take rest breaks. Do you want a break? Of course you do! As women, we drive ourselves hard. But you have to take care of you; there is no one else in charge of your care. Try these two tips: After lunch, take a 10 minute lie down. Yes, lie down flat and just rest. If you work outside the home, maybe bring a yoga mat to work and find a quiet place, or go to your car. If it’s nice you can go lie outside. Then as your day closes, but before dinner, take your 10 minute lie down again. You can’t just read this, you really have to do it! You’ll feel the reset when you do take these short breaks.
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Tip #3- Get A Good Night’s Rest
Many women have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and sleep is super important at this time in life. We produce growth hormone as we sleep, and this growth hormone repairs and rebuilds us; sleep is the fountain of youth! So here are a few ideas if you’re having trouble:
1. If you are having trouble falling asleep because of a busy mind, take time to wind down at night. Read a book, take a stroll or take a bath. Avoid screens and turn down the lights around the house. If you still need help, try drinking a ½ teaspoon of nutmeg in warm almond milk a bit before bedtime. You’ll be surprised how sleepy it makes you!
2. For an aromatherapy approach, dab a few drops of pure vetiver and pure lavender oils under your nose and at your temples. Or use a cold mist diffuser to spread this goodness into your bedroom air.
3. If you wake up during the night, you can still try the above tips, and you may need to look at your blood sugar and liver function. You should be able to burn stored energy as you sleep. If you body can’t do this, your body will spike your energy levels to release blood sugar, and you’ll wake up. Be sure to avoid alcohol, sugar and high carbohydrate foods before bed. Try not to snack between meals and get plenty of healthy fat in your diet from coconut oil, raw nuts, avocados, grass-fed butter or ghee, etc. If you have a great diet, don’t snack, and go to bed early, waking up in the middle of the night may indicate a more complex problem. If your liver is working overtime at night to deal with parasites or other infections, it can’t manage your blood sugar at night as well. This is no diagnosis, just something to consider with your functional health practitioner!