The Complete Guide To Decoding Hormones For Women Over 40
Anyone who's had a monthly cycle knows that hormones are complex. And once we turn 40, we're confronted with all sorts of new questions and situations… Some more surprising than anything that's come before. With perimenopause on deck or perhaps menopause in full swing, it's time for us to get clear on our hormones… And why they're actually our superpower.
Calling all women over 40.
There's a reason why we try to put the spotlight on women's health as often as possible... Women's health care concerns are commonly missed, discovered too late, or downright ignored—and this only increases after 40 years of age. As the women's health brand Wile describes: "Something happens when women turn 40. We start to disappear. From marketing briefs, cultural conversations, retail radar, our doctor's care." And the research reflects something similar.
Menopause is considered one of the most significant shifts in a woman's body. But in a study of over 1,000 American women in various stages of the menopause journey, 45% didn't know the difference between perimenopause and menopause prior to experiencing changes in their body or how they feel, with 32% believing there's not enough info available to guide the way. Further, 73% of the surveyed women were experiencing physical signs of menopause but not addressing them, which isn't surprising considering only 57% feel understood and supported by their doctor.
While starting our menstrual cycle marks an important part of womanhood, as does menopause—this latter chapter of life tends to be shrouded in shadows. Unlike Western health care approaches, naturopathy and traditional Chinese medicine have been addressing perimenopause for centuries—and we can turn in that direction to light the way. Because these approaches integrate emotional, lifestyle, and physical aspects of a woman's overall health, Wile tapped female experts within these fields to formulate their products, which uniquely consider cortisol as the "other" female hormone. This brand is all about embracing what happens after 40 by learning exactly what our hormones are up to. So let's jump in!
Decoding the key hormones in menopause.
Science defines menopause as "the cessation of menstrual periods for at least 12 consecutive months1." And perimenopause2 describes the last years of a woman's reproductive life. Both perimenopause and menopause often come with a lot of new experiences—from hot flashes to sleep troubles to vaginal dryness—all pointing back to three key hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol.
Estrogen: Known as the "female hormone," estrogen facilitates most of our reproductive processes but is also responsible for supporting critical physiological elements like cardiovascular3 and bone health.4 During perimenopause, our ovaries start producing less estrogen—somewhat unpredictably. Lower levels of estrogen can be the cause of common (and natural, mind you) menopausal experiences like vaginal dryness5 and hot flashes6.
Progesterone: Progesterone, sometimes called the "chill hormone," is produced by our ovaries, uterus, and adrenal glands. It's known for helping regulate the menstrual cycle7 but also has a role to play in soothing our mood and sleep8. During perimenopause, progesterone levels naturally decrease. But because progesterone is known for balancing out estrogen, this can mean higher levels of estrogen, or estrogen dominance—which has been connected to unpredictable periods9, more PMS10, and general mood swings11.
For some women, the mood swings of perimenopause can feel even more volatile than PMS—and Wile decided to do something about it! Their herbal Un-Anger Tincture, formulated with kava, chaste tree berry, lavender, milk thistle, and hawthorn berry, is designed to soothe irritability, anger, and stress.* Just one to two dropperfuls under the tongue or in your favorite tea and you have a go-routine for when that edginess comes around.*
Cortisol: Most of us are already familiar with this "stress hormone," which plays a role in blood sugar, metabolism, and inflammatory pathways. But how does it affect perimenopause? When we're under repeated stress, our body makes a choice to create either cortisol or progesterone. In the face of prolonged stress, our progesterone levels may decrease faster than what would've happened naturally. In addition to leaving estrogen levels unchecked, cortisol has its own less-than-ideal effects on the body, from driving cravings12 to disrupting focus and mood13.
Not only do stress levels often rise during midlife, but stress is also often attributed to more challenging perimenopause experiences. Thus, getting easy, accessible ways to manage stress (and its emotional compadres) is key for self-care. Wile's Stave the Crave Anti-Craving Stress Chai Drink Mix is a soothing ritual that you can lean on throughout your journey.* Not only does this functional supplement-infused chai help reduce sugar cravings when chocolate seems to be our only friend—it's full of adaptogens and tastes delicious, especially added to coffee, tea, or latte.* We all need a ritual for when stress peaks, and you'll have no issues sticking to this one.
Making hormones our superpower.
We've spent years making hormones the enemy. It's time for us to work with our hormones in a positive way, which can change how we feel physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Befriending our hormones is what Wile's 40+ Hormonal Wellness supplement is all about. It's formulated with phytoestrogens to help hormonal balance, and adaptogens and nervines for adrenal support.* Designed to benefit mood, focus, stress tolerance, and sleep habits, think of this as your "prenatal for turning 40."* Once we hit 40 or older, we're all looking to keep our hormones, adrenals, and stress at a better daily baseline—and this clinically backed formula is the go-to.*
The reality is: There may be a lot we don't know about our hormones, but there's much to embrace about them. We're quick to blame them for every discomfort, but our female hormones also oversee a lot of positive things—from brain health to heart health3 to our sex life14! With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of support, our hormones can be our superpower. Every stage of life is something to celebrate—and for women over 40, the party is just getting started.
Devon Barrow is a Branded Content Editor at mindbodygreen. She received her degree from the University of Colorado. When she's away from her desk, Devon is teaching yoga, writing poetry, meditating, and traveling the world. She's based in Boulder, Colorado.
Devon's first book, Earth Women, is coming soon. To learn more, join the mailing list, and receive updates, head to www.devonbarrowwriting.com.