Many women refuse to acknowledge that they are entering the menopause when symptoms start emerging.
Ask most women what the menopause means to them, and the first thing that comes to mind is “hot flushes”. They may have seen a women experiencing a hot flush when they were younger, but did not pay much attention to what was going on at the time. Hence, when they experience the hot flushes they have trouble comprehending the next chapter in their life.
Women will actually start their menopausal journey months, or even years, prior to the actual day of reaching menopause. This journey is referred to as Perimenopause. (Click here to see a pictorial on the differences between menopause and perimenopause)
During this phase, the body has higher ratios of oestrogen to progesterone compared to a woman’s younger years.
This may not mean that she has too much oestrogen (which can be possible with blood tests) but simply the oestrogen action is stronger than progesterone.
What was once a harmonious relationship is now a coup.
Typically around the age of 45, a woman’s ovaries will start to produce more oestrogen. This is due to the fact that she is starting to run out of ripe eggs. The number of eggs left in the ovaries is insufficient to continue the normal ovulation process.
The ovaries are trying to counter-balance the situation by releasing more oestrogen but this can only occur for a short time. After a short while, oestrogen levels drop.
Symptoms begin to surface when the oestrogen levels are higher than progesterone levels.
Too much oestrogen can make you irritable and anxious, while too little can make you depressed and confused. It is the rise and falls in oestrogen, as well as oestrogen being out of harmony with progesterone, that affects your mood. The more erratic your hormonal fluctuations, the more unsettling symptoms you will experience, particularly during peri-menopause.
Oestrogen and progesterone need to be in balance with each other as they both enhance the action of the other as well as offset the action of the other.
Oestrogen dominance is a term you may have seen. This is not a reflection of having too much oestrogen, but simply where oestrogen action is greater than progesterone.This can be the case whether oestrogen and progesterone levels are both high, low or normal.
Oestrogen dominance/high oestrogen levels symptoms:
While the oestrogen levels are making changes, so too is the progesterone levels.
Progesterone levels start decreasing (without an initial increase). It is when the oestrogen levels are too high in comparison to progesterone that menopause symptoms start to erupt.
Progesterone is the calming and sedating hormone.
Whereas oestrogen role is to store energy as fat and increase weight by increasing water retention; progesterone turns fat into energy and relieves excess fluid.
Progesterone is a natural diuretic and helps relieve excess fluids in the body.
If oestrogen levels are disproportionately high in relation to progesterone, a woman can become bloated and retain fluid. Ankles swell and rings may become tight on your fingers.
Other symptoms include tender & painful breasts, and headaches. This loss of hormonal balance can also lead to fibroids and heavy bleeding.
If you are progesterone deficient you will most likely be irritable, agitated, tired, depressed and experience unpredictable behaviour and anger outbursts.
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