The 3 Ms and the Female Hormonal Life Cycle, Part 3 – Menopause by Goodhealth

The 3 Ms and the Female Hormonal Life Cycle, Part 3 – Menopause

May 1, 2024

In honour of the release of our Women’s Health Range, the Good Health naturopath team has put together a series of health articles taking a deep dive into the wonderful, complex world of the 3 Ms – menarche, menstruation, and menopause. We will also explore the female hormonal lifecycle and microbiome, potential issues that can arise, and some ancestral tips on how to support what is uniquely female.

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Sometimes being female feels like a cruel cosmic joke – from puberty to menopause many of us have to deal with emotional and physical suffering for 1-2 weeks out of every month, which appears to get worse and worse as we age, and then, when all that stops at menopause and we think we can finally chill out and breathe, we’re subjected to a barrage of constant disruptions that can make the premenstrual period each month look like it was a ride at Disneyland….albeit, one of the scarier rides! But it doesn’t have to be like that and there may be a lot we can learn from humans living a more evolutionarily consistent lifestyle.

Welcome to Part 3 – Menopause…and Perimenopause

In many cultures, menopause is considered a gift: where women become the wise “grandmother”; supporting and guiding while free to enjoy other aspects of life, including vitality, joyfulness, and sexuality, with no further responsibility for pregnancy. Unfortunately, in the developed world, with our fast-paced, modern lifestyles and ultra-processed diets, women can find their quality of life deteriorating when they hit perimenopause. Menopausal symptoms – temperature fluctuations, poor sleep, mood changes, stiff joints, weight gain, brain fog, etc – are known to plague over 80% of Western women.

Menopause is the cessation of the fertile menstrual cycle in women, but there can be a number of years when fertility goes into decline – the rate of follicle disappearance increases, the ovaries shrink in size, and the ovarian hormonal output declines. They generally do not disappear completely, but the adrenals and fat tissue take over making the bulk of the androgens and oestrogens (oestrogens, mainly in the form of oestrone – E1). During the reproductive years, the influence of oestrogens leads to fat accumulation in the breasts, hips, and buttocks, while post menopause weight gain can be in the central and visceral (around organs) areas, especially if metabolism is dysfunctional.

In the West, we are also experiencing menopause at younger and younger ages. We are told that the symptoms are to be expected and the only thing we can do about them is to intervene with exogenous (coming from outside the body) hormones, which can come with side effects. Many women are searching for naturally supportive alternatives to reproductive problems, not realising how impactful simple dietary and lifestyle changes can be.

Reproductive hormone problems

In traditional Chinese practice, it is considered abnormal for a woman to experience any trouble with any part of her menstrual cycle, that a woman’s periods should come and go with as much ease as the sun rising and setting and menopause should simply be a cessation of menstruation. There should be little to no brain fog, mood swings, joint issues, or any other of the afflictions that go hand in hand with “the change”. If anything about your cycle, perimenopause, or menopause is worrying you, please see your healthcare professional.

It is thought that rollercoaster menopausal “symptoms” are merely caused by an increasing ebb and flow of the female hormones; however, it is becoming clear that a malfunctioning metabolism, stress, and nutrient deficiencies are major factors. Those things will certainly affect the internal organs that regulate and support hormonal health. Thyroid and liver health is particularly important for reproductive health. Even though a menopausal body still makes oestrogens, it is possible that some western women may experience a sort of oestrogen “withdrawal” much like going cold turkey, as their body produces lower amounts. Research has shown that it may be more of the drop in progesterone that causes most perimenopausal women in the West to experience a rollercoaster ride. Other researchers have demonstrated that high levels of LH and FSH during menopause, are because regulatory nerves have lost sensitivity to higher than optimal levels of oestrogens, often called “oestrogen dominance”. Interestingly, oestrogen production also rises when stress is overwhelming. Blood testing during perimenopause may not tell the whole story, as oestrogen levels in the tissues can be sufficient even though blood levels of oestradiol have decreased.

Due to healthier liver function and metabolisms, low to zero rates of obesity, and lower stress levels, healthy, primitive humans have lower overall exposure to oestrogens during their reproductive lifetime. They appear to continue to make similar amounts of all of the hormones post menopause, progesterone included.

Stress is a big problem for perimenopausal hormone balance because when we are stressed, our bodies cannot metabolise our reproductive hormones and excrete them, nor can many of us produce adequate quantities of the androgens, testosterone and progesterone, to balance oestrogens. Rampant oxidation and a malfunctioning circadian rhythm – the daily, natural light and dark cycle mediated by cortisol and melatonin – have been shown in research to adversely affect the menopausal transition. We need cortisol to rise and fall during the day, but our modern lifestyles, and excess stress, can lead to elevated levels into the night, or levels that rise and fall at the wrong time. Unfortunately, elevated cortisol for long periods is associated with disruptions in metabolism and weight gain. During perimenopause, progesterone production decreases and cortisol rises without the progesterone to keep it in check. If cortisol rises too much it can contribute to weight gain, hormonal disruption, cardiovascular issues, and blood sugar imbalances. Progesterone also keeps postmenopausal oestrogens from causing problems, especially in breast, brain, or uterine tissue.

In the end, for many of us, menopause can seem like a vicious circle of metabolic, organ, and hormonal dysfunction. Our modern lifestyle, with our high ultra-processed food diets, high stress, and exposure to pollutants and artificial light, especially at night, may very well be to blame for the epidemic proportions of women with menopausal issues. Excessive blue light exposure, chemical and air pollution, alcohol abuse, central adiposity, inflammation, alcohol, refined sugar and seed oils, medications, nutrient deficiencies, etc., have all been shown in research to cause or exacerbate serious metabolic complications.

The Wisdom of Ancestrally Living Humans

There are “primitive” humans, around the globe, still living close to nature, as they have for many thousands of years, whose women do not exhibit perimenopausal symptoms, nor do they gain more body fat after menopause, or experience such a steep decline into chronic ill health. It is speculated that this is because they have healthy metabolisms and hormone function due to evolutionarily consistent lifestyle practices.

The main factors appear to be a nutrient-dense diet and no ultra processed foods, healthy microbiome, deep connection to the earth, nature, and each other, supportive social networks, appropriate activity levels, little to no electromagnetic, chemical, or air pollution, lower overall stress, no pharmaceutical medications, and daily exposure to natural light. These lifestyle practices have been shown in scientific research to support human circadian rhythms, balanced hormonal function, sound sleep, stress management, redox potential (healthy oxidative processes), and naturally high “feel good” hormones.

If you are a female at any stage of perimenopause, and you are experiencing an imbalance in reproductive hormones that is affecting your quality of life, you can also read more about what you can try to support it, here. Utilising ancestral lifestyle and dietary factors to support your hormones and metabolism, you may be able to find ways to sustain your enthusiasm and joy for life throughout your perimenopausal years and beyond.

Herbs have a long history of use in traditional practice and can be a wonderful support for female hormones.

Introducing: Good Health Peri-Meno+

Good Health Peri-Meno+ is a comprehensive formula containing scientifically researched herbs to support women through the peri and postmenopausal years. Hops has been shown to support temperature balance, mood, brain function, and relaxation in menopausal women. Black cohosh is well-known as a support for healthy mood and internal temperature comfort, and fenugreek supports hormonal balance during menopause. Ashwagandha and sage are added to support mood, brain health and function, stress management, and restorative sleep. Ashwagandha has been shown to support healthy cortisol levels. All 5 herbs have been used traditionally to support women as they move through menopause, but they also have been studied regarding their support of a healthy weight and metabolic rate, and cardiovascular and antioxidant function.

 

Peri-Meno+ supports:

  • Temperature comfort
  • Mood and stress management
  • Healthy sleep
  • Hormonal balance
  • Cardiovascular and brain function
  • Healthy metabolism, weight, and blood sugar balance

 

Click the following for more in the Women’s Health Series:

The 3 Ms and the Female Hormonal Life Cycle, Part 1 – Menarche

The 3 Ms and the Female Hormonal Life Cycle, Part 2 – Menstruation

The Female Microbiome

Ancestral Wisdom for Female Hormonal Health, Part 1

Ancestral Wisdom for Female Hormonal Health, Part 2

TAPS Approval No: PP2522


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