Hormones & Menopause

Hormones & Menopause

When it comes to talking about hormones and the dreaded hormonal stage in many women's lives, it can be a frightful thing. We need to remember that it is just a way of life and something that should be discussed. 

Dr Elaine McQuade, a GP who believes in the holistic approach to health, recently conjured up a post all about hormones and menopause that has been really useful to many.

What is menopause?

Menopause is the process in which our body goes through that ceases menstruation in the body. This is something that can take place at any age, ranging from 45 - 55, sometimes younger, sometimes older but the average age is 51.

Before menopause, comes perimenopause. There is a drop in progesterone and then being an oestrogen dominance in your system. Starting off with fatigue, heavier periods, worsening premenstrual tension and weight gain, perimenopause sets you up for later periods, becoming irregular and then halting to a stop. 

Menopause is defined as not having a period in over a year.

Let's have a closer look at those menopause symptoms:

Fatigue

Usually, due to low levels of oestrogen, this can make you feel extremely tired and exhausted, with no energy to do anything. ☹️

Stress

You may feel a lot more stressed! This is common!! Your hormones that control your stress levels may be all over the place. Alterations in the ratio of progesterone and oestrogen affect this.

Weight Gain

Your metabolism seems to slow when the imbalance of hormones comes about. Thus generating a weight gain.

Mood Swings

Women may become a lot more irritable and stressed, causing the mood swings to come about. As well as this, it is common for women to feel depressed in this stage of their life.

Memory Issues

Sometimes looked at as “brain fog”, this can be through loss of concentration, confusion, forgetfulness or “fog” to the brain.

As well as this, some other symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, night sweats, hot flushes and reduced libido.

So what are hormones? 

Hormones can be defined, by MedicineNet.com, as “chemical substances produced in the body, controlling and regulating the activity of cells or organs.” It is important to note that there are around 50 unalike hormones that are secreted by different glands around the body. They often can be used in more than one way.

Why do we have hormones? Well, they are essential for every aspect of life. They enable us to have healthy systems in our body that we don’t think about, but our body does. 

Every activity of life needs hormones, including:

  • Digestive system
  • Metabolism
  • Growth
  • Reproduction
  • Mood control

You may still be asking, but what do my hormones do? There isn’t one single answer to this. There are a bunch of functions your hormones do! They are your body's chemical messengers travelling through your bloodstream to the correct organ or tissue that needs attention. 

Here is a little look into what our hormones do, that you probably didn’t know:

  • Sleep control
  • Heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing control
  • Build/repair bone, skin and muscle
  • Regulate brain activity
  • Lessens pain
  • Controls energy levels, mood and stress

Let’s now take a look at the 5 most important hormones that also happen to play a big role in menopause:

#1 First of all, we have Cortisol, the stress hormone! This hormone works closely with oestrogen. Oestrogen helps maintain a balance in the cortisol hormone to make sure that your body can cope with stress. When menopause hits, oestrogen levels change, therefore, the change in cortisol is increased, making it harder for your body to cope with stress.

#2 The thyroid plays an important role when it comes to your metabolism. The gland secretes hormones that help balance your glucose levels, heart rate, body temperature growth and most importantly, your nervous system activity. Whether you have low or high thyroid levels, your body will face a significant change.

#3 Insulin plays the role of responding to high amounts of sugar in the blood. It works hand-in-hand with cortisol, where cortisol makes sure there is enough glucose in the blood, insulin helps push this glucose into the cells as a source of energy.

#4 Oestrogen is the main sex hormone that enhances growth and reproduction, working closely with progesterone to balance and control levels and the activities of oestrogen.
Menopause slows the rate of oestrogen produced, therefore the levels decline and slowly grind to a halt.

#5 DHEA - or dehydroepiandrosterone - is in both male and females, produced by the adrenal glands to create natural steroids such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is at its highest in your 20s and improves your sleep, reduces stress, immune functions and looking after your cardiovascular health.

Maintaining the levels in all of these hormones, as well as progesterone and testosterone, is something that is extremely important to improve our health and life expectancy.

Dr Elaine McQuade has suggested some ways to assist hormone balance and help some of the symptoms, including the following:

Nutrition & Supplements

Your best bet is to avoid refined carbohydrates, meaning sugary foods! The more sugar you eat, the more likely your blood sugar will imbalance, therefore promoting insulin resistance. From this, there is the likelihood of fat storage increase, leading to diabetes. 

It is important to eat high quality, nutrient-dense food, for example, lean protein, good fats, vegetables and fruits. This will balance your sugars and insulin levels. Be sure to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, sugary and salty food, as well as highly processed foods.

Detoxification

You may not know it but our liver controls a lot. It is our main detoxifying organ, getting rid of the overload of toxins such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine and chemicals in foods we may not be able to cope with on first demand.

The liver also helps metabolise our oestrogen. When the liver does not function properly, our oestrogen levels may remain high, leading to an imbalance in hormone levels. 
Feed your body with healthy food with a lot of fibre and plenty of water. This will in return help you live a healthier lifestyle.

Stress & Sleep

A little bit of stress keeps us in check every now and then, but prolonged stress can lead to much larger issues. Your stress hormones may fluctuate, leading to blood sugar levels going all over the place. This can affect every part of your body, including insulin resistance, poor thyroid function, weight issues and sleep problems. The more stressed you are, the more likely you will have trouble sleeping. With lack of sleep, your DHEA hormone will struggle to carry out its repairs in your body that are essential to growth. 

Be sure to try and get into a good habit of sleeping, meditation may help you get into a routine of a good sleeping pattern.

Genetics & Epigenetics

Genetics refers to the variation of inherited characteristics. Your genetic makeup can set you up for hormonally related conditions - early menopause or low thyroid can be shown as examples.

Epigenetics is the natural act of turning genes on or off affecting the hormone balance in our body. Environmental factors, such as thoughts, feelings and emotional environments can influence the expression of our genes.

Medication

It is important to note that not all medications can have positive effects on hormone balance. They may not be right for everyone! Bio-identical hormones from plant substances may be beneficial to you. They generally have a smoother and gentler effect on hormone balance, including fewer side effects too.

If you are struggling to cope going through these changes alone, don’t struggle. You are not alone and your local GP would be more than happy to help you through it. However, try not to count on just them, thanks to Dr Elaine McQuade’s insightful post, we are feeling much more comfortable than ever to talk about these ways of life.

Why not get in touch with us? At JR Medical we look at all aspects of women well being. We offer psycho-sexual counselling and treatment plan as well as recommending the right treatment protocol and if necessary bioidentical hormone treatment and Femilift laser where applicable.

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