Hormone Changes: What To Expect in Your 40s and Beyond
Before we get started here, one statement needs to be up on the table: Unbalanced Hormones Begin in the Gut!
This is a bold statement and should not be taken lightly. You see, your gut health (or microbiome) is a recent discovery in terms of its all-encompassing impact on every aspect of our health. Our endocrine system is no exception. Our uterus has a significant connection to our gut health. In fact, Dr. Sara Gottfried says in her book, The Hormone Reset Diet: Heal Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days, that if your hormones are off, check your gut first.
A woman’s body has a finely tuned relationship with her hormones. Hormones regulate fertility, reproductive cycle, and even moods. They also impact skin health, bone density, and sleep patterns, just to name a few. Hormones are the messengers the brain uses to deliver instructions to a woman’s body. This is why when hormones are out of balance, everything feels wrong. This explains why women who are premenopausal often feel that their body is betraying them.
The primary hormones that will be affected during menopause are:
Progesterone: This is the fertility hormone—it makes child-bearing possible and regulates estrogen. Progesterone and estrogen usually work together, but during the 40s progesterone levels drop, leaving the possibility for estrogen dominance. Symptoms of low progesterone levels include tender breasts, irregular periods, night sweats, insomnia, depression, acne, memory lapse, poor concentration, bloating, anxiety, and loss of muscle mass.
Estrogen: Regarded as the sex hormone, estrogen is responsible for the development and maintenance of the female secondary sexual characteristics. Estrogen triggers ovulation and maintains vaginal health and function. Low levels of estrogen result in vaginal dryness, irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, fatigue, sleep disorders, decreased sexual desire, and more.
Thyroid Function: The thyroid gland plays a key role in growth, development, and metabolism in the body. When the proper balance between progesterone and estrogen is lost, the resulting estrogen dominance can affect thyroid function and prevent the thyroid hormone from getting to where it is needed.
Cortisol: This hormone is released by the body in response to stress, and women in their forties tend to experience more stress. Increased cortisol will impact negatively on the immune system, digestion, skin health, and sexual appetite. It may also manifest as irregular periods, hair loss, acne breakouts, insomnia, and weight gain.
Taking Your Life Back
Lucky for us, there are a lot of things we can do to regain control of our bodies and restore a level of hormonal balance. The key is to understand what is happening to our bodies and find out how we can get a handle on the processes. Here are the key areas where we can take action:
Gut health affects almost everything in the body, from the immune system to brain function. It plays a huge role in how you feel and regulates hormone levels. Gut function is usually central to issues of mood, weight gain, and low energy issues that women complain about. Knowing that this connection exists gives us a point at which we can enter into the process and influence it for our own good. Since gut and hormone levels are interdependent, if we keep our gut healthy, we can support keeping hormones balanced. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways you can do that is by ingesting live cultures.
By drinking probiotics, which encourage the growth of friendly bacteria. Friendly bacteria enhance intestinal tract function. The two best probiotics for a healthy gut are kombucha and kefir.
Kombucha is fermented tea. Although it has been around for awhile, it is only fairly recently that its health promoting benefits have become known. Also called Kombucha tea, it is a slightly alcoholic effervescent beverage made by brewing tea, with sugar, along with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Kombucha is high in beneficial probiotics, provides some antioxidants and is very low in calories.
Kefir: Is made by adding probiotics or friendly bacteria to milk. The resulting drink tastes a lot like yogurt and is filled with yeast and probiotics. It has a slightly higher calorific count than kombucha. On the positive side, though, it is high in tryptophan, which fights stress and also in protein and B vitamins. Kefir also reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure due to the presence of kefiran.
Cannabidiol (or CBD)
Cannabidiol (or CBD) is one of the compounds of the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it does not alter the mind or affect mental processes. But it does interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS influences many of our body systems, including the endocrine system, responsible for hormone production and maintaining hormonal balance.
But most importantly, female reproduction and the ECS are closely connected. The hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle are reflected in the ECS. This is because the ECS is a system regulator. The body creates its own CBD which interacts with the ECS to maintain homeostasis.
CBD production is interrupted or interfered with due to hormonal changes that occur in women’s bodies when they’re in their 40s. Using CBD helps some women deal with premenopausal symptoms. For more info, read our article Which CBD Is Right for Me?
Essential oils are a great way to balance hormones naturally. Since most people are already familiar with them and they are readily available, they can be applied immediately. There are several essential oils that women can use to restore balance to their body but the primary ones are:
- Thyme Oil for progesterone balancing
- Sandalwood Oil for restoring testosterone levels
- Lemongrass Oil which has hormone balancing qualities
- Clary Sage Oil reduces Cortisol levels when it is inhaled.
- Lavender Oil relieves PMS symptoms, stress and depression
- Basil Oil improves the body’s response to stress
- Myrtle Oil stimulates thyroid activity
- Coconut Oil, while not an essential oil, serves as a vehicle. Mix essential oils with coconut oil and rub on the body. It will be absorbed faster through the skin.
Exercise for a Stronger Body
A proper exercise regime will improve muscle tone, bone strength, stress response, mental abilities, sleep patterns, appetite, and all-around metabolism. As women get older, the value of exercise for maintaining health increases.
Exercise can reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It will also boost levels in those hormones that help maintain muscle, which usually declines with age. Exercise should include a combination of resistance training and cardio.
A new life can actually begin for you at 40. The reality is that it all depends on your perspective and lifestyle. If you understand what is happening to your body at this time of your life and respond to those changes with informed behaviors, there will be opportunities to achieve a thriving body full of energy. Welcome to your new life.
A dynamic and creative executive, Audrey has guided household name brands in the health & wellness, travel & leisure, executive training and philanthropy sectors.
Her travel & leisure ventures include the launch of a Hawaiian island destination for Larry Ellison and the Four Seasons, taking a previously unknown locale to #1 in travel in the U.S. and among the Top 10 destinations in the world. The project included creating events and campaigns in partnership with Nobu, Jennifer Lopez, BMW, Serena Williams and various charities.
Audrey’s recent foray into the science sector includes working with Google Ventures, Amgen, Lilly, Genentech, Sanofi, Otsuka, Novartis, and AOBiome, through the recently launched biotech SaaS startup Science 37, which aims to disrupt and democratize the clinical trial process.
Her executive development experience includes building leadership models for trainers such as Tony Robbins, training over 30,000 managers worldwide and leading workshops on performance management to over 100,000 individuals across the U.S. She founded The HR Coach, which consults tech startups in training and developing remote management.
Audrey travels between Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin, enjoying personal time with her three xoloitzcuintles and her beau. Not to mention her total obsession with her big-bold-all-natural hair.