Hormonal Shifts In Perimenopause: Steps You Can Take To Harness Your Health Naturally

Hormonal Shifts In Perimenopause: Steps You Can Take To Harness Your Health Naturally

Take me to:

How do our hormones change in ‘Perimenopause’?

How Do Hormonal Changes Impact My Skin?

But the big question…How Can We Combat Perimenopausal Symptoms Naturally?

Ahhhh womanhood. We feel the anticipation of our first period in our teens and then the dread of its eventual disappearance in our later years. Menopause marks a significant transition (and one that perhaps should be celebrated), characterised by a gradual decline in sex hormones, resulting in twelve consecutive months without menstruation – a natural conclusion to our reproductive years¹.

The years leading up to menopause, known as ‘perimenopause’ mirror the hormonal fluctuations of puberty, albeit with what we like at Eir to call the wisdom of our experience. Typically commencing in our forties, perimenopause can manifest its effects up to a decade before our final menstrual period¹. That means for some, it could be as early as 35. If you find yourself navigating irregular periods, supercharged PMS, changing sleep patterns, night sweats and weight changes in your forties, these could be indicators of perimenopause². Laura Jennings, a Deakin Researcher and Registered Nutritionist talks us through the science of perimenopause and what you can do to harness your own health.

How do our hormones change in 'Perimenopause'?

Oestrogen: Menstruation, Mood and Memory

As you journey through perimenopause, oestrogen levels tend to keep things steady at first. But as time goes on, your ovaries start dialling down the oestrogen production, which is a big deal since it's the main hormone driving the female system³. According to Dr. Gerson Weiss, a go-to expert in women's health, this decline can throw your menstrual cycle off kilter, with shorter cycles, longer cycles, or even the occasional no-show period³. And those changes in your cycle length? They're often the first clues that perimenopause is knocking on your door. Decreased oestrogen can also put a dampener on your libido, which could stir up some extra tension in your romantic relationships.

When oestrogen levels drop, there's a hormone called follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) that goes into overdrive⁴. And guess what? This spike in FSH is like the alarm clock for sleep troubles during perimenopause—think tossing and turning, waking up in the middle of the night, and just overall poor sleep quality⁵.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. When FSH levels stay consistently high, they kickstart oestrogen production to compensate. And sometimes your oestrogen levels can skyrocket, way higher than they'd normally be⁴. And what does all this hormonal seesawing mean for your mood? Well, brace yourself for mood swings—think feeling down in the dumps one minute, and snapping at everyone the next⁶. Why does this happen? Blame it on oestrogen's influence on brain chemicals like serotonin, (aka our happy hormone)⁶. Plus, there's this part of our brain called the amygdala—it's like the control centre for emotions and memories⁶. And when oestrogen levels go on a rollercoaster ride, the receptors in the amygdala start acting up, messing with our moods and even our memory. Ever had one of those moments where you draw a blank and forget your own kid's name? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Progesterone: Sleep Struggles and Sweet Tooth Surges

According to the Journal of the Endocrine Society, progesterone encourages deep, restful sleep⁷. But during perimenopause, progesterone plummets, leaving you tossing and turning in the wee hours, and shorter sleep times become the new norm⁷. Here's where it gets interesting. You know those late-night cravings for all things sugary? Blame it on the lack of sleep. You might be reaching for that chocolate bar more often because of these shorter sleep cycles. It might just be adding to that pesky weight gain we often notice during this phase. But here's a glimmer of hope: a Canadian study looked into using progesterone therapy to tackle these sleep disruptions. And guess what they found? Not only did progesterone help improve sleep quality but it also improved mood too⁹. Talk about a win-win! Hot Flashes – What are they and why do they occur? Hot flashes, those sudden surges of heat that leave a woman feeling flushed and flustered, are a hallmark of menopausal transition. Typically most intense across the face, neck, and chest, they can be quite disruptive. Progesterone carries a thermogenic effect, meaning it tends to increase body temperature, while oestrogen tends to have a temperature lowering effect¹⁰. However, as perimenopause sets in and both oestrogen and progesterone production decline, the balance between these hormones is disturbed¹⁰. Consequently, when navigating perimenopause you may find yourself grappling with difficulty in temperature regulation, leading to the onset of hot flashes¹⁰. Beyond the visible manifestation of a flushed complexion, the hormonal shifts characteristic of our forties can also impact our skin's health and appearance…

How Do Hormonal Changes Impact My Skin?

As we move through the stages of perimenopause, we encounter shifts in our skin, primarily influenced by fluctuations in oestrogen levels. Oestrogen, known for its ability to retain water, plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin elasticity and hydration¹¹. However, as oestrogen levels decline, skin may become noticeably drier, losing its once plump and vibrant qualities¹¹. Erin Kamp, a distinguished dermatologist based in the UK, sheds light on how hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause can exacerbate acne and other skin conditions, including rosacea—an inflammatory disorder characterised by facial redness and small pus-filled bumps resembling acne. The prevalence of rosacea tends to rise during perimenopause, as hormonal imbalances contribute to its onset¹². A recent study featured in the Skin Research Technology Journal underscores the profound impact of rosacea on the quality of life of perimenopausal women¹³. For many, severe flare-ups can significantly disrupt daily routines and erode confidence, reminiscent of the challenges faced during adolescence. These findings emphasise the importance of skincare routines tailored to the unique needs of women navigating perimenopause.

But the big question…How Can We Combat Perimenopausal Symptoms Naturally?

When you're in your forties you are not only navigating hormonal shifts but also you find yourself at the peak of your career, taking care of elderly relatives and tending to children. However, there are ways to navigate these hormonal changes and alleviate symptoms naturally during this high-pressure time of life. Cultivating positive lifestyle habits in your 30s is crucial, as it lays the groundwork and prepares the body both mentally and physically to navigate perimenopause and the various responsibilities that come with life in your forties.

Exercise: A Hormone Balancer

Physical activity is a powerful tool for managing hormonal changes. Regular exercise not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. Tailoring a fitness routine to suit your individual preferences can contribute to overall wellbeing and counteract the physical effects of hormonal fluctuations. However, being mindful of the type of exercise you take up is important. The hormonal changes in perimenopause can increase stress hormones, such as cortisol, and exercise is stress on the body. Turning to gentler forms of exercise that are going to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring the body out of fight-or-flight will be a game changer for how calm and centred you feel. Yoga, walking and Pilates are all wonderful options that will help ground you during this time. Weight training also assists as it builds muscle, which in turn helps burn more calories as well as helps strengthen bones.

Nutrition: Fuelling Your Hormonal Health

Diet plays a pivotal role in supporting hormonal balance. Incorporating nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains, can provide essential vitamins, reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress, which is often at its highest during perimenopause. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have been linked to improved mood and cognitive function, offering a dietary strategy to navigate the emotional challenges of your 40s. 

Supplement Suggestions: 

Omega-3 fatty acids help to decrease inflammation and can help offset feelings of irritability that come with fluctuating hormones. To optimise brain health, try Show Up, which is designed to boost energy and protect the brain from stress related damage. Containing American Ginseng this supplement helps improve energy for those women who feel mentally fatigued during this transition. Reboot is designed to ease anxiety, improve sleep disturbances and relax muscles, this supplement is packed with magnesium and zinc, which are wonderful for regulating the stress hormone cortisol and sex hormone oestrogen. 

Vitamin D: Vitamin D boosts our immune system, balances hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, and lowers the risk of thyroid problems. It also improves skin health, easing conditions like acne and rosacea. With Australia's sunny climate, aim for 5 to 30 minutes of sunlight daily. For extra wellness, pair your sunshine time with EIR Women’s Flourish blend Supergreens. Flourish is packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger to help with overall immunity.

Adequate Sleep: A Hormonal Reset

Quality sleep is integral to hormonal health. During sleep, your body undergoes crucial processes that regulate hormone production and balance. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a conducive sleep environment, and addressing sleep disorders can contribute to improved hormonal equilibrium and improved mood (hint hint, Reboot is designed to help with a longer and higher quality sleep)

Mindfulness and Stress Management

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, offer effective tools for managing stress and promoting emotional resilience. By cultivating a mindful approach to life, you can navigate the challenges of hormonal changes with grace and presence. There are some really great apps and tools that make this easy to manage and get started. 

Connection and Community

Building and nurturing social connections are essential for emotional wellbeing. Whether through existing relationships or by seeking out new connections, fostering a sense of community can provide support during times of change. Shared experiences and open communication can create a network of understanding and empathy, helping you feel less isolated.

Pursuing Passion and Purpose

Embracing your 40s as a time of self-discovery and personal growth can be a powerful antidote to the challenges of hormonal changes. Pursuing passions, setting new goals, and getting creative can instil a sense of purpose and fulfilment. If you’re unsure of what lights you up try something new and stick with it for a few weeks. If you’ve always wanted to take that pottery class, take it! Always wanted to learn to cook Thai food? Take that cooking class! By focusing on what brings joy and satisfaction, you can redefine your narrative and embrace the richness of life in your 40s.

Laura Jennings is a Deakin Researcher and Registered Nutritionist.

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