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If you wake up from another night of tossing and turning, with your heart pounding and your sheets soaking wet, and spend all day feeling anxious, tired, and irritable, you may be in the throes of hormone havoc. It’s easy to recognize “the Change” when it starts with irregular monthly cycles and hot flashes, but when it’s mood swings, weight gain, fatigue, and sleep changes, you – and your doctor – may just think you’re under too much stress and that sleeping pills and antidepressants are the solution.
When your hormones are in harmony, your skin glows, your energy abounds, your sleep is satisfying, your moods are on an even keel, and your weight stays steady. This may sound like a pipe dream, but I assure you it’s possible! I’ve helped countless women navigate perimenopause and menopause with the simple, natural hormone balancing found in my New York Times bestselling book, Before the Change, and today, I’m sharing with you 5 of my most successful methods to make menopause less miserable.
No one has been immune to the stress that 2020 has brought. While stress is an essential survival response for the short-term, when it becomes chronic it raises cortisol levels and leads to fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, digestive upset, and excess belly fat – what I call the “menopot.” We can’t avoid the stress of our changing world, but we can control how it affects us and lower our cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and is made by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys. These small glands are also the backup system for your declining sex hormones. Stress not only increases cortisol but also puts a high demand on progesterone, so your adrenal glands kick into high gear to try to make up the difference.
When progesterone bottoms out from chronic stress, you’ll get all the symptoms of estrogen dominance – even when estrogen is already low. As long as estrogen is comparatively higher than your drastically declined progesterone level, then you’re in estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance plus elevated cortisol levels is the perfect storm to make menopause miserable. And it can all come from chronic stress.
Signs your stressed adrenals are part of your hormone havoc include constant fatigue, “wired but tired” with insomnia and night waking, carb and caffeine cravings, easily overwhelmed by stress, running “out of gas” before the end of the day, excess belly fat, and dark circles or bags under your eyes.
Even in the worst of times, you can control how you respond to stress. A boat is surrounded by water but is only sunk by what gets inside. Similarly, our cortisol levels stay healthy when we don’t internalize what we can’t control. We need to go above and beyond our circumstances to preserve our health so we can be effective at whatever we set our minds to.
Changing our relationship with stress starts as an inside job. Daily deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and meditative exercise like walking gets us grounded and lowers cortisol levels. We also need to nourish our adrenals with a healthy diet, a good multivitamin, and supplement with a good Adrenal Formula.
Progesterone is the first hormone to decline when our hormones start shifting, and Harvard University research shows it starts declining as early as age 35. It’s used up rapidly during physical or mental stress, which runs rampant during our midlife years. Signs of low progesterone can include fatigue, insomnia, “brain fog,” low libido, depression, anxiety, mood swings, water retention, weight gain, hot flashes and night sweats, bone loss, blood sugar imbalance, thyroid issues, and adrenal stress.
Synthetic progesterones can actually intensify your symptoms, so when it comes to increasing progesterone, I only recommend natural sources. Natural progesterone is the same molecule as that in your body. Used as a non-prescription skin cream, it rebuilds your body’s progesterone level and restores hormone balance.
Some natural hormone creams use extracts from soy, but I prefer those made from the wild yam. As is typical of many over the counter supplements, the amount of active hormone varies by brand, and in some cases, by batch. Another important fact to consider when choosing your cream is that diosgenin, the active ingredient in the wild yam, is useless in its whole form as a source of progesterone in cream. Diosgnenin has to be processed in a lab into progesterone to become biologically active.
When I was in my midlife and made this discovery, I gave up the search and decided to formulate my own. I was so impressed with my own results that I shared it with my clients, and the same ProgestaKey cream is now made by UNI KEY Health. Start with ¼ teaspoon applied daily at bedtime and increase to the maximum ½ teaspoon if no improvement in your symptoms within 3-4 weeks. In some cases, it can take a couple of months before you notice significant improvement in your symptoms, so I encourage a 90 day trial before moving on to other hormone balancing approaches.
Flax is one of the strongest natural hormone allies you can have on your side. Rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fats, it helps balance estrogen, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, lower cholesterol, makes insulin more effective, builds breast health, fights fatigue, enhances the immune system, discourages your body from storing fat, smoothes skin, and helps lift depression.
When using flaxseeds, toast them in a 250-degree oven for 10 minutes to deactivate and decompose the compounds that can suppress the thyroid’s iodine absorption. Then grind in an herb grinder or coffee grinder used only for herbs and spices. Enjoy them sprinkled on salads or oatmeal, or mix into healthy muffins.
Flaxseed oil has a smooth, nutty flavor. You can take it by the tablespoon or drizzle over salads or popcorn. Because heat, light, and air quickly degrade the health benefits of the oil, purchase it in a black bottle, store it in the refrigerator, and don’t use it for cooking or baking.
I consider hempseeds (also known as hemp hearts) and hempseed oil to be the perfect power proteins, not just for vegetarians but for any healthy diet. They are 30 percent essential fats, which are present in the golden ratio of 3:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3, making them the most ideal source of these important fats. They are also rich in GLA, a healthy fat that stimulates your fat-burning metabolism, helps balance hormones, and calms skin conditions, and reduces your risk of heart disease.
These super seeds are also rich in hormone balancing and detoixfiying vitamin E, as well as minerals including sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, sulfur, and zinc, many of which are also involved in hormone regulation. In addition, they contain significant amounts of the amino acids cysteine, methionine, arginine, and glutamate, all part of their complete protein profile. These amino acids help with detoxification, digestion, histamine balance, energy production, heart health, and so much more.
The health benefits of hempseeds and hempseed oil are preserved whether eaten raw, toasted, or cooked. Their delicious nutty flavor lends itself well to homemade granola, salad dressings, and many other recipes.
Many women reach menopause and the mood swings, irritability, insomnia, inability to handle stress, and anxiety leave them feeling like a stranger in their own bodies. These are only some of the body’s many cries for magnesium. When you think of magnesium, think mind, moods, and muscles.
Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral. It can soothe nervousness and irritability, mellow out mood swings, calm nerves, support sound sleep, help with headaches, support smooth digestion, relax muscle cramps, and support a healthy heartbeat. This magnificent mineral also helps you clear excess estrogen from your body, which helps bring estrogen dominance back into balance.
Mag-Key from UNI KEY Health contains the 4 highly absorbable forms of magnesium that cover all of your health bases – without causing unwanted digestive effects. It’s estimated that at least 75 percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets, so you can’t go wrong by supplementing this most valuable mineral.
Have you been feeling off lately like you could benefit from some more discussion on hormones along with others just like you? Consider following the Ann Louise Facebook page, and discuss topics like this and many others alongside your peers in the journey to good health.