If you’re having hot flashes, you probably aren’t feeling so hot.
Many women are confused because they’ve heard that hot flashes indicate they’re in menopause, but they’re still having a cycle.
While many women think that they’re in menopause when they hit their mid-40s/early 50s, true menopause happens once you have experienced a full 12 months without a period. Typically, women experience menopause around the ages of 40-58, but most women experience a period of time before that where they see symptoms.
There is a transitional phase where female hormones fluctuate dramatically.
This transition phase is called perimenopause, and can start as young as mid 30s and last until late 40s or even early 50s.
Symptoms of perimenopause & menopause can include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Irregular cycles
- Decreased libido
- Painful, heavy cycles
- Anxiety and depression
Hormonal changes during perimenopause
Once perimenopause starts, the number of eggs drops from millions to only thousands. Initially, estrogen production may rise, followed by a drop right before menopause. As a result of lower number of eggs, less estrogen is produced by the ovaries, and progesterone levels drop (lower estrogen = no ovulation = reduced progesterone). This might show up as shorter, more irregular cycles, or increased pain and mood swings throughout your cycle.
Since the ovaries have slowed production of estrogen, fat cells and the adrenal glands are triggered to produce estrogen instead. In this phase, some women unfortunately experience an increase in symptoms like weight gain, sleep disturbances, and hot flashes.
Many women in perimenopause have estrogen dominance; high estrogen relative to progesterone, which can manifest as weight gain, irregular cycles, migraines, and PMS. Your hormone levels in perimenopause determine how smooth your transition to menopause will be. In order to ensure a smooth transition, we want to make sure estrogen and progesterone levels are balanced.
Learn more about hormone testing options here.
Health concerns during perimenopause & menopause
Hormones are powerful and are needed for many functions throughout the body.
Due to fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause, your risk of certain illnesses may increase, if not managed under the care of a practitioner.
When estrogen levels are not appropriately supported, this can cause:
- Issues with bone density (osteoporosis)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes due to loss of muscle mass and increased fat stores
Our top nutrition tips for optimizing hormone levels
Foods high in healthy fats, fibre and phytoestrogens support your body during this transition by balancing fluctuating hormone levels.
1. Healthy fats:
Healthy fats are what our body uses to build hormones. They’re also needed to manage inflammation and support your brain and skin health, all of which are common issues during perimenopause.
Phytoestrogens are components of plant foods that mimic estrogen in the body. They bind to your estrogen receptors, and can help to balance out your hormone levels to both reduce estrogen dominance, and support low estrogen levels.
For this reason, aim to increase foods rich in phytoestrogens in your diet including the ones listed below.
Phytoestrogen rich food sources:
- Fermented Soy (tempeh, miso) or Organic Non-GMO Tofu
- Beans & Legumes
- Fatty Fish (salmon, trout)
- Pumpkin seeds
Phytoestrogen rich foods are also excellent sources of fibre which contributes to hormone health in several ways:
– they bind excess estrogens and allow for excretion, rather than having them recirculate into your system
– balanced blood sugar
– they reduce inflammation by feeding healthy gut bacteria: these bacteria are needed to reduce levels of beta glucoronidase: an enzyme that promotes the reuptake of estrogens instead of allowing them to be excreted.
Perimenopause can be a very stressful time for women and it can be difficult to make changes on your own.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of tools to support hormone balancing including:
– botanical medicine and nutraceuticals
Dr. Burke (ND) works with women/womxn to better their mood & hormonal health.
She works primarily with those who are looking to:
-have more regular periods
-have less painful periods
-ditch the PMS nightmare
If you’re struggling with perimenopasusal symptoms, book an appointment with Dr. Burke, ND.