Since it’s obvious that at 45 my body is changing, it’s important that I look at the myriad of internal facets that contribute to how I feel. As much as I hate to admit it, I must address something that happens to women of a certain age: hormonal imbalance. Since the total course of menopause takes place at different paces and junctures for women, and can last several years, I thought it would be a good idea to learn a little more.
While I don’t have any obvious symptoms yet, I do know I don’t have as much energy as I’d like. Weight is most certainly harder to take off. I occasionally find myself a bit bluer near period time.
I suspect over the next several years, hormonal symptoms will increase. I have a lot of friends around my age going through similar experiences, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning from the helpful guidance of Kyle Bell McAvoy, certified women’s health care nurse practitioner, from Pearl Women’s Center.
Menopause is the transitional phase of a woman’s life when ovaries stop producing eggs and your body produces less estrogen and progesterone. As a result, menstruation becomes less frequent and eventually stops. Symptoms of menopause and hormonal imbalance can include: night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, decreased sex drive, mood swings, vaginal dryness, joint aches and pains, and many others. Sometimes a woman just may not feel like herself.
Kyle explains some basics about hormones and imbalance to help us understand exactly what we’re dealing with:
“A hormone is a chemical that is produced in a gland (such as the ovary or the thyroid) which is released and has far-reaching effects on other parts of the body. These hormones have many functions, including regulating metabolism, fertility, fluid balance, mood and blood sugar regulation, to name a few. Hormones act on organs, tissues and cells throughout the body and are essential for optimal functioning. Hormones work best when they work together and are balanced with one another.
“Think of a symphony which consists of various musical instrument sections coordinated in such a way that each section comes in at the right moment, volume and tempo to complement other sections. When the conductor and musicians work well together, music is melodic. When they don’t, it’s difficult to hear the music at all (it sounds more like a bunch of noise!).
“There are days we wake up and we just feel ‘in balance’ and have energy to spare. Then there are those days we know that our balance is definitely off; everything seems off-kilter. Some hormone imbalance symptoms (as mentioned above) may be present. Common causes of hormonal imbalance include pregnancy, stressful life events, over-scheduled busy lives, lack of exercise, poor diet, toxins in our environment and the simple act of moving into ‘midlife.’”
These days, if you are curious about your body’s hormone levels, there are lots of easy, non-invasive ways to have your personal levels tested. Kyle recommended that I have mine tested, so I did, through saliva testing. There are many different kinds of hormones, each with specific functions. My test indicated that I’m still in decent hormonal shape, however, I was shown to be estrogen dominant, low in testosterone and low in DHEA. These are the more notable aspects of my overall balance.
Kyle and Pearl Women’s Center will be working with me, offering suggestions related to my diet, sleep and activity levels, then prescribing some hormonal compounds to help bring my system closer to a normal level of balance to restore my energy. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. In the meantime, here’s Kyle’s website, which has a helpful array of articles related to hormones and balance: http://menopausibilities.wordpress.com.
You can also visit www.pearlwomenscenter.com to learn more or schedule an individual appointment for yourself.