I woke up one day in my late forties and all hell had broken loose in my body and I had no idea why! I was so dizzy I could hardly get out of bed and I knew I was going to throw up if I moved! As time went on, the night sweats started and the hot flashes crept up my body. Then the joint pain, heart palpitations and ear ringing started. My periods either lasted for weeks or didn't show up. I knew for certain I must have some horrible disease! But no, I wasn't dying, it was Perimenopause.
I soon learned there were three key players responsible for this madness. My mom didn't talk to me about them, my doctor didn't talk to me about them, my friends didn't talk about them! If I had to rate me knowledge of the three key players, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, I would say that I had heard them and knew a simplistic definition of each related to the reproductive system, but that was the extent of it. I had NO idea what their decline would actually mean other than my period would eventually stop. Friend, I don't want you to have my experience, so I'm going to break it down for you. Let's spend the next little bit getting to know these snarky little hormones and how they impact ALL, yes, ALL the systems!
What are some of the things ESTROGEN does ( other than the development of the menstrual cycle)?
1. Boosts the function of neurotransmitters that affect sleep, mood, memory, attention span and sexual desire.
2. Helps balance cortisol(the stress hormone) and are connected with dopamine and endorphins (the feel good chemicals in the brain).
3. Helps maintain and regulate body temperature.
4. Protects the heart and bones.
5.Influences body shape
I could go on, but I'll stop here for today.
What does PROGESTERONE do?
1. Helps with sleep by increasing GABA, the sleep neurotransmitter.
2. Is required for brain function, protects brain from damage.
3. Helps build new bone.
4. Helps regulate mood, facilitate memory and ease anxiety.
5. Impacts metabolism.
As with estrogen, there or more things but this is enough for one read.
So basically, these two hormones can or do play a part in all things across all systems of the body because we have their receptors in cells almost everywhere! From the brain to the gut, the immune system to the bones, you guessed it, estrogen and progesterone receptors are there. This is why perimenopause and menopause can wreak havoc on us when we hit our forties, when these hormones fluctuate drastically and then decline. Our bodies are trying to stabilize or figure out WTH is going on!
And then there is the least talked about and often neglected hormone, testosterone.
What does testosterone do?
Some of the biggest things, related to menopause, include dopamine production, muscle mass and bone density, metabolism, mood and cognition. So a lot of the same things that the other two key players do.
Do you see a pattern with these three key players?
They all have similar impacts on ALL our systems. It's no wonder that our brain gets foggy or hot flashes become a daily menace when the hormones fluctuate like the weather in KY right now.
So, What's a girl to do? After much trial and error, I found that making small lifestyle changes really helped ease my symptoms. (I've dropped my favorites below). Some ladies I know opted for hormone replacement therapy (this is totally a personal choice, weighing the benefits and risks after discussing it with your doctor) and found it very helpful. Most importantly, I want you to know that the menopause journey is a natural thing that all ladies experience and that you are not alone. This is your unique journey and I want you to know that you are in control, friend. Together, we've got this!
Registered Yoga Teacher, Menopause Doula, health and wellness explorer, self care expert focused on empowering women over forty with tools for loving the midlife journey