What I Wish More Women Knew About Their Hormones
Is your period different now than it was five years ago? Do you notice shifts in its length, quality, and symptoms? Or are you not even paying attention?
Many women expect their periods to be the same month after month, but in fact there are seven distinct hormonal inflection points over the course of your lifetime. If you maintain the expectation that it should be the same month after month, you're doing a disservice to yourself and your own ability to have the kind of self-care and health-care you need at each critical moment.
Instead, I want you to expect that you'll have a hormonal adjustment period around each of these points. Here's an outline of each phase and what you need to look for in each. I call this "auditing your period." At the beginning of every phase, this auditing process needs to happen!
1. Puberty (9 to 21 years old)
This is a time where you might notice irregularity with the menstrual cycle. It takes time for the body to build up enough of a hormonal concentration that you can ovulate and menstruate regularly, as well as develop secondary sex characteristics.
However, as a culture we're all too quick to assume that these normal fluctuations during this entire dozen years or so need to be regulated with medication, i.e. the birth control pill. We need to do a better job of auditing why our girls are struggling to make this adjustment through their diet and lifestyle.
2. Adult Menstrual Years (21 to 35 years old)
At this age, you'll probably move to a new location, start a new job or graduate school, and have exposure to more alcohol and caffeine, which all affect your hormones. This is the time to notice if your periods get wacky — from cramps, PMS, acne, migraines — or a continuation of the symptoms you experienced in puberty.
In the short term it's about eliminating these symptoms, and in the long term it's about preserving your fertility, even if you're not sure if you want to have kids.
3. Pregnancy (age varies)
The degree to which you're hormonally sensitive in this phase indicates the degree to which you did or didn't address your hormonal symptoms in the adult menstrual years phase. You should feel great during pregnancy. If you're feeling off and experiencing symptoms or gestational diabetes, it means you didn't do the hormonal recalibration necessary in the previous hormonal phase.
4. Post-Partum (age varies)
After pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone drop significantly before readjusting. What you've been eating for the decade leading up to having your baby will leave you vulnerable to developing postpartum issues.
5. Perimenopause Phase One (35 to 45 years old)
This is the hormonal unwinding process, and you shouldn't have to feel symptoms during this phase if you're healthy. You should be ovulating and menstruating regularly and have good muscle tone, skin quality, energy, and sex drive. In other words, you're still making enough hormones to feel vital and youthful.
Audit what's happening with your diet and lifestyle here. It's very likely that because your hormones are changing, your body will be giving you insight to the underlying problems that need addressing. If you're not healthy, your body will let you know. Difficulty with fertility, vaginal dryness, wrinkles in skin, and drying of hair are not to be solved at a spa or a salon. These are huge messages that your hormones need attention! Especially before you get into the next phase of perimenopause ...
6. Perimenopause Phase Two (45 to 55 years old)
This should be a relatively smooth process when follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels rise to the point where you no longer ovulate. However, many women age hormonally prematurely in phase one, which causes difficulty with the hormonal values of phase two, even as early as their early 30s.
When things are in balance, this should be just the process of your body manufacturing slightly less, but a balanced amount, of estrogen and progesterone and testosterone. If you're having hot flashes, night sweats, no libido, etc., then what's happening is you likely have unbalanced levels of these hormones.
7. Post-menopause (55+)
In this phase, FSH levels are now at their new, permanent elevated levels, and your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, should be at stable concentrations, which will be lower than they were in your menstruating years, but still in balanced ratios. If you've been eating and taking care of yourself during the other inflection points, you should have enough micronutrient building blocks to make this phase symptom-free.
Because hormones are stable at this point, focusing on your diet and high nutrient concentration is key. It's also a good time to support the body with digestion and nutrient absorption capabilities, which sometimes get compromised with age.
If you invest in recalibrating your hormones at each of these phases, then you can live drama free with your hormones for your entire life. In order to get there, you must take a moment to evaluate and make the diet and lifestyle changes necessary to address them.
Waiting until something is broken is why so many women have to turn to surgical procedures or medication. I want you to avoid this and access the true power inherent in your hormonal patterns.
Time to evaluate
Take a moment to check in with yourself and which phase you're currently in. Are you experiencing unnecessary symptoms? Have you been avoiding addressing them?
Although it would be ideal to prevent symptoms before they happen, the reality is that sometimes we don't think ahead enough to do so. If you're in any of these phases and recognize that your body is not in the flow as it should be, please know that you can still be proactive.
Since the first step is awareness, take my Hormonal Evaluation Quiz now and learn exactly what your body and hormones are trying to communicate to you! This quiz is essential if you're looking to get to the root of your symptoms and overcome your hormonal health issues once and for all.
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.