We’re all heard that stress is a bad thing when it comes to our health, but peri-menopausal and menopausal women need to take special care when it comes to stress management.
It’s all about Cortisol
You may have heard about cortisol, the almost superhuman hormone produced by our
body in times of stress. It’s a good thing when we really, really need it. But, like all good things, you can have too much!
Interestingly, cortisol can be made from progesterone, the female hormone that should dominate the 2nd half of the menstrual cycle (ie. luteal phase). Often referred to as the ‘progesterone steal,’ your body will steal however much progesterone it needs to make cortisol.
So, what does that have to do with my hot flashes and night sweats?
For women in early menopause and/or peri-menopause who are still having mostly regular menstrual cycles, declining progesterone levels are often the cause of symptoms. It isn’t until a women is much closer to true menopause and no longer cycling that estrogen becomes more problematic. Have you ever noticed that your hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings are worse when you’re working to meet a tight deadline? You can thank the “progesterone steal” for that.
Getting to the root with Naturopathic Medicine
When I see women in their late 30’s/early 40’s with peri-menopausal symptoms (including worsening PMS), I always evaluate the role of stress if their lives. Symptoms are often enough to guide our treatment options, but we will sometimes use a saliva test to measure estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and DHEA.
Often, we choose to HPA axis over the ovaries. However, it’s most common to choose a balanced approach that looks at the endocrine system as a whole. Diet, stress management and individually chosen herbs and supplements are the cornerstones of naturopathic treatment.
Dr. Jenn maintains a family-centered Naturopathic practice in Dartmouth, NS. She enjoys working with people of all ages, and has a special interest in women and children’s health, including pre-conception, fertility (IUI/IVF support) and pregnancy.