In this article you’ll find out which hormones are responsible for the multitude of menopausal symptoms that blight many women around this time. In a previous post I discussed the hormones which are most often given the blame for our menopausal symptoms (you can read that post here
However, this is not the whole story.
It’s Not Just The Usual Suspects!
We are often led to believe that oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and other sex hormones are the major players contributing to the changes that occur around the menopause.
But they aren’t!
When it comes to menopause, the three hormones we need to be concerned with are INSULIN, CORTISOL and OXYTOCIN.
Each of these hormones is intrinsically involved with how we feel, how we think and how we look.
If you feel less and less like your usual self during this stage in life, it is likely due to an imbalance in these hormones.
The good news is that is possible to rebalance these hormones with a combination of acupuncture, diet and lifestyle.
Insulin is a major hormone produced by the pancreas.
It’s job is to control sugar/glucose levels. After we’ve eaten, our blood glucose levels rise. It is important that blood glucose levels remain within a narrow range, so insulin is produced to encourage our cells to absorb this glucose to lower the blood levels back to normal.
Around menopause, many women become more insulin resistant. What this means is our cells are less sensitive to insulin and don’t take up the excess glucose from the blood.
This extra circulating glucose is converted into fat. Because we have lower levels of oestrogen too, this fat can tend to be more around our middle – belly fat!
Insulin resistance is also thought to lurk beneath many of the common menopausal symptoms: hot flushes/sweats, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and weight gain.
Cortisol is a key stress hormone and is essential in times of danger and stress. Adrenalin is our emergency stress hormone, but once the initial emergency is over, cortisol takes over to help us manage chronic stress.
It is unfortunate that around the time of menopause, many of us are under a lot of life stresses – work, teenagers, ageing parents – so our cortisol feels are inclined to be raised.
And the intentions of cortisol are good – it helps us manage this stress.
Cortisol also functions to reduce inflammation.
Inflammation is our bodies natural response to stress, whether that stress be a mosquito bite, an organ transplant or an emotional/psychological stress. It is part of our bodies immune response to try and attack the invaders.
Chronic or unresolved stress can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Over time its efforts to reduce inflammation can cause problems with our immunity.
Raised cortisol can increase acidity, unbalance our gut bacteria, cause rapid ageing, depression, adrenal fatigue – all due to the cycle of stress, cortisol and inflammation going on in our body.
Eventually, a control centre in the brain (the PVN) tells our adrenal glands to reduce the production of cortisol because it is damaging our body.
This allows the inflammation to go essentially unchecked! We can get problems such as IBS and depression-like symptoms.
In addition, because cortisol is a steroid hormone, when we produce high amounts of it, it can be at the expense of other steroid hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA.
The effects of this are increased glucose production (see above!) decreased muscle mass, oestrogen/testosterone imbalances, low libido and, well, just burnout.
Finally, cortisol is directly related to another common menopausal symptom: weight gain – it triggers fat-storing enzymes, it raises blood sugar levels and it increases appetite. It’s a lose-lose situation!
Oxytocin is the hormone of love, bonding and connection. It is produced by the hypothalamus in the brain and also by the heart, uterus and ovaries.
It is the arch enemy of cortisol and helps to counter balance the negative effects of cortisol.
Oxytocin helps us form connections and bonds with others. It is the hormone that floods us during childbirth.
It helps regulate body weight and appetite – we have no appetite when we are in the heady days of falling in love!
Oxytocin can be anti-ageing because it increases cell regeneration.
Research shows that chronic sugar intake can reduce oxytocin levels.
Ways to increase oxytocin levels:
- cuddling and hugging
- warm up in a sauna or steam room
- be generous
- love your pet
What Can You Do To Fix These Hormone Issues?
As you’ve probably realised, if we can rebalance the three hormones that I’ve written about here, then we can indirectly rebalance the hormones we associate with menopausal symptoms – oestrogen, progesterone testosterone and DHEA.
Lifestyle and diet can greatly improve all the symptoms discussed and help us master the menopause.
I recommend that you:
- cut out/reduce sugar, whether it be refined or natural
- eat complex whole grain carbs
- buy organic animal products
- eat plenty of dark green vegetable – alkaline foods – then eat some more
- include a lot of healthy fats, plant based if possible.
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And of course, try acupuncture!
Research shows that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic stress. This treatment has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins and oxytocin, leading to a reduction in stress and pain.
Whatever symptom my clients receive acupuncture for, they nearly always report a feeling of relaxation and well being. After an acupuncture treatment a good night’s sleep is virtually guaranteed.
I’d definitely advise combining acupuncture with some nutritional therapy.
Get in touch with Eileen here, by phone, by email or by booking a free 15 minute phone consultation:
Call on 07773332553