Abnormal levels of hormones during menopause can wreak havoc and have a negative impact not only on the person suffering from such a condition, but also to the people who are near and dear. Mood swings, are one of many symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Remember the classic old horror film, “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?” Dr. Jekyl is a scientist who drinks one of his potions and is then transformed from neighborhood nice guy into a raging half man half beast. A beast that’ll go ape on anyone or anything in his way.
Perhaps, this describes your mood swings where one moment you feel happy and confident and the next it’s all gloom and doom. It’s important to have an understanding of the root cause of any hormonal imbalance, including what approach to take. If any unusual symptoms have lasted beyond eight weeks, it’s a good idea to seek professional help from a reliable source (typically an endocrinologist). An endocrinologist can give you the present status of your hormone levels so you have a proper baseline of what’s going on in your body. This knowledge will enable you to explore the safest and best options to reclaim your hormonal health. In many cases, lifestyle changes can make an incredible difference.
#1 Consistent Weight Gain
Are you engaged in a strict diet and exercise routine, but don’t see any positive changes? There are many possible reasons, but if you’re packing on the pounds in spite of your disciplined efforts, there’s a strong chance it could be a hormonal imbalance. Your metabolism dictates how much weight you will lose and if your hormones are out of order, it negatively impacts your metabolic furnace. During menopause, fat storage is more common, especially in the midsection, which makes this area harder to tone. Not impossible at all, but that’s another blog post where I will discuss why it’s essential for women in menopause to build muscle. Muscle is more metabolically active tissue that burns fat, gives your body shape and increases your confidence just to list a few of the many benefits.
#2 Desire to Eat More
Another sign of a hormonal imbalance is your appetite can increase. Even after a full course dinner, there’s a strong desire to raid the refrigerator in pursuit of last nights’ left overs. Pushing your plate away feels like some herculean effort. Will power? Gone. “What’s happening to me?” you ask. During menopause, there’s an increase in the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, and there’s a decrease of the hormone, leptin, which is responsible for the feeling of fullness after you eat. Menopause, in an odd way, is like having a second adolescence minus the pimples. In addition to persistent hunger, you may also have some unusual cravings similar to pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I craved lemons and steak. I think the pickles and ice cream idea comes from Hollywood movies. I never knew anyone that ate that during their pregnancy. The desire to eat more doesn’t describe all women who go through menopause, but it can affect a good percentage. Look for future blogs about how to balance ghrelin and leptin and get control of your appetite.
#3 Lack of Sex Drive
Let’s face it, sex is a normal part of an adult’s life and when you suffer from hormonal irregularities, it’s not unusual to find your mojo M.I.A. Comparing my sex drive in my twenties to my fifties, is like comparing a Porche to a Mercedez Benz. I may not be speeding down the highway at 75 miles per hour like I did as a millennial but I find a slower speed in a luxury car is equally, if not more than satisfying. It’s quality over quantity. Regardless of whatever your partner does to ignite your fire, the answer is more complex. Abnormal levels of estrogen, thyroid, and cortisol, which are all essential hormones in a woman’s body, can create vaginal dryness which makes sex painful. If something is painful, the tendency will be to avoid it or do less of it. Extra weight gain from menopause can do a number on a woman’s physical image of herself. That alone can make her want to avoid nocturnal action. No matter how much your partner compliments you, it’s important for you to believe it yourself.
#4 Mood Swings
Mood swings are another strong sign something is off. Especially, if you’ve always been pretty even-tempered. One moment you feel happy and filled with gratitude and then, “Wham!” out of nowhere, sadness smacks you upside the head. Your eyes even well up with tears. The smallest things cause you to explode and you often feel irritable. You may experience that friends, family and co-workers seem to avoid you because your mood swings make them feel uncomfortable. This can lead to depression and the unnecessary over prescribing of anti-depressants that many doctors dole out to menopausal women, which is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. It’s necessary to get to the root of the problem and dig. Many mood issues can be corrected by addressing the gut which is where the majority of serotonin lives. A majority of women I know have digestive disorders from constipation, bloating, SIBO, to IBS which affects your mental and emotional state. Changes in mood can also be the result of your monthly cycle, if you still have a cycle. Women with balanced hormones are less prone to experiencing extreme highs and lows of their emotions. Your mood swings can especially peak, if you’re already in menopause.
The last sign is daily fatigue. Even if all you did was buy groceries, check your email and binge watch your favorite Netflix series for three hours, you may feel wiped out. Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Do you find yourself wanting to take a nap at least once a day? That sounds like fatigue. Cortisol is the hormone that’s released when we are under stress and if your levels are elevated that can cause tiredness. Menopause can also cause sleep disturbances because of the imbalance of cortisol. Cortisol should be elevated in the morning and low at night. If cortisol is high at night, then you’ll feel wired and energized. Hot flashes and night sweats also negatively impact sleep making the ability to concentrate a challenge.
If you said yes to one or more of the five signs of hormonal imbalances described above, a functional medical doctor that specializes in women’s health can be an excellent resource. Functional medicine takes the WHOLE person into consideration and the consultation is often longer compared to a regular general practitioner. You may be asked to fill out a five-day food journal, bathroom habits (Bristol Stool Chart), along with an extensive health history time line from child hood to your present age. It truly is personalized and will get to the root cause of your situation.
As you can see, optimum health depends on advocating for yourself so you can have a life that thrives and be the vital woman you’re meant to be.