We’ve long heard of the hormonal issues that women face as they enter into midlife. But it’s only been recently that we’ve begun to hear more about how men are affected as well. We all have hormones, and as we age, their levels can change. This results in fluctuations in energy and libido, as well as affecting our ability to build and retain muscle. You could choose to replenish hormone levels with supplements, but a more natural approach may stem from your gut. That’s right, along with everything else associated with our digestive system, gut health affects hormones as well.
The Role of Hormones
Hormones are messengers in the body, and they dictate many of its activities. Originating in the endocrine glands, hormones are secreted directly into the bloodstream. They travel through the body in search of receptor, sharing their intended message. Hormones are powerful messengers; they control the function of many organs and affect the process of growth, development, sex, and reproduction. Most hormones are derived from proteins, although some are steroids and derived from cholesterol.
Changes in Hormones and Their Effects
Hormones fluctuate naturally during a lifetime, specifically during puberty and again as we enter into our 50s. This midlife change is when men and women experience andropause and menopause. In addition to aging, many other aspects can affect our hormonal balance. These include diet, exercise, toxins in the body, and stress.
During midlife, hormone production moves from the endocrine glands by the adrenal glands, which are seriously affected by diet and stress. When adrenals get run down, we experience a number of negative effects, including loss of bone, muscle mass, and libido. A hormonal imbalance also puts us at risk for chronic illness and autoimmune disease as our immune systems are compromised.
The gut is home to a host of bacteria—some good and some bad. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help regulate mood, optimize blood sugar, support the immune system, and boost metabolism. Interestingly, probiotics also influence hormones. Nourishing those friendly flora in the gut microbiome helps hormones stay in check, even through the midlife changes we all experience.
There are number of hormones in the body to take note of, many of which can be measured with a simple blood test. Some of the key areas to look at include the following:
Cortisol is released during times of stress and is related to inflammation. Probiotics help keep cortisol in check.
Estrogen levels are affected by digestion, so it’s no surprise that good belly bacteria can have a direct effect.
Insulin regulates blood sugar, and studies show that probiotics promote optimal insulin levels.
Testosterone, like estrogen, is found in both men and women. It affects libido and energy levels, and research shows that essential bacteria can increase testosterone levels.
Control Your Hormones with Improved Gut Health
If you feel that your hormone levels are out of balance, you have many options to take control. Functional medicine subscribes to the idea of dealing with the cause first and then moving to the symptoms. In this case, you should take note of two things: adding a high-quality probiotic and changing your diet.
Keep in mind that probiotics and prebiotics work in harmony together to maintain a smooth working intestinal system. The majority of people cannot achieve their body’s needs with diet alone. The combination of diet and supplements will reap improved results that help your hormones stay in balance through all of life’s changes.
Questions about Gut Health and Hormones?
If you are curious about how gut health affects hormones, we can help. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about this important relationship and its influence on your overall health and wellbeing.
Menopause is one of many significant passages in a woman’s life. Like the beginning of adolescence, this can also be a time of discomfort, change, and resistance. While menopause is defined as the period after one-to-two years without menstruation, this span of time called perimenopause can be especially trying.
Hot flashes, sweating, and a great sense of loss are common experiences shared by many women during this time; however, in cultures across the world these symptoms are almost completely absent. Stress, negativity towards change, and the lack of recognition in society all lead to an increase in apprehension around menopause.
Here, we’ll discuss five ways to embrace this time of transition to minimize your discomfort, change your mindset, and usher in this new chapter of your life.
1. Choose Herbs to Keep You Calm, Cool, and Collected
Many women rely on hormone replacement therapy during menopause. During this time, estrogen and progesterone production come to a halt. These synthetic hormones can supply much-needed relief in times of mood-swings, night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.
A much more gentle, natural way of treating these symptoms is to explore phytoestrogens in the form of healing herbs. Herbs such as Black Cohosh, Vitex, Dong Quai Root, and Red Clover can help support you and ease any uncomfortable symptoms. Choosing the right herbs for you is essential, so be sure to discuss any supplements with your trusted healthcare team.
2. Find Inspiration in Women Around the World
Most cultures around the world embrace aging, and the significant shift into menopause. Unfortunately, in America aging is treated as a loss of beauty and vitality, and menopause as a disease. If you feel like you’re losing a significant part of yourself, take comfort in the rituals celebrated by other women around the world. Japanese women term this period konenki which means renewal and energy. Mayan women embrace this time as it offers the opportunity to progress in status to Wise Women.
Their communities revere them as spiritual leaders. If you feel that you are losing a significant part of yourself, look to these other cultures for inspiration and know that you are gaining a new status.
3. Take Time to Celebrate This Transition
In any time of great change, it is important to be open and embrace it. If you feel you are resistant, take time to create your own ritual to transition. Spend time examining your thoughts surrounding this change. Are you feeling sad, depressed, anxious, hopeful, excited, grief-stricken, or alone? Record these emotions and allow yourself the ability to feel them deeply. Then let them go. You can do this symbolically in a number of ways. Grab a handful of rocks, seashells, or pinecones. Assign a memory or emotion to each one. Now go for a walk in a favorite location, and be sure to bring your items with you.
As you clear your head and fill your lungs with fresh air, symbolically and literally drop each one along your path. Realize that you have so much life ahead of you, and a vast stretch of memories behind you. Take the time to just be in the moment, and enjoy the present. As you return home, you’ll be amazed by how much weight has been lifted!
4. Nurture the New You
View this new chapter of your life as a chance to create new, healthier habits. Switch out your Starbucks habit for a cup of nourishing herbal tea. Instead of sitting in front of the television at night, soak in a warm bath with a few drops of relaxing lavender essential oil. Choose foods that will support your health goals and sustain your energy. Spend time reflecting on the changes you’re going through in moments of quiet meditation. Note any uncomfortable symptoms you’re feeling, and listen to the messages your body is sending you. If you feel more fatigue than usual, ensure that you’re getting adequate rest. Taking the best care of yourself should never be an indulgence, but it can often feel this way! Start prioritizing your health now, and you’ll feel better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
5. Reconnect with Your Core Values
Though we may be bombarded by billboards, movies, and television programs that make women over the age of 30 seem irrelevant, think of all of the influential women you’ve met throughout your life! Now is a wonderful time to reevaluate your progress towards your goals, and to take necessary steps towards living the life of your dreams. Prioritize family time, self-care, and anything else that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning! Pay attention to areas of your life where you feel negativity and resistance. These feelings may be a sign that it’s time to move on. You’ve been given the chance to enter this next phase of your life with wisdom, self-love, and the opportunity to follow your passion. Embrace it!
If you feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of perimenopause, I can help you navigate this period with ease and confidence. Allow yourself the space to accept that your body is changing, and that you are transitioning into a new chapter of life. Take the time to grieve as necessary, but don’t allow yourself to get lost in this process! Much like a caterpillar, you have spent much of your life inside the cocoon of your early life. It is time for you to emerge and claim your place as the beautiful butterfly you were always destined to be.