Younger women need to know about their hormone balance, too!
If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you might think your hormones won’t begin to change until you get close to age 50 or menopause. The average American woman reaches menopause (classically defined as a year without a period) around 51.2 years of age. You may not realize how well you feel today is strongly correlated to your hormone balance.
If you are experiencing fatigue, irritability, anxiety and insomnia, your provider may have told you these symptoms are not related to hormone issues because you are too young. You may also have asked your provider to check your thyroid levels or your blood count to make sure you are not anemic. If these tests came back normal, you may assume there is nothing else to be done to help you feel better. This is generally not the case, ladies! Please note! Hormone imbalances can affect you as significantly now as when you are your mother or grandmother’s age.
Unfortunately, younger and younger women are experiencing more symptoms of hormone imbalance today due to hectic lifestyles, high stress, and unhealthy diets and lifestyle choices.
Your hormone balance plays an important role in how you feel every day, in your overall health and in preventing premature disease. If your progesterone, estrogen and testosterone aren’t in balance you may experience many common symptoms: premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts or breast tenderness, belly fat, abdominal bloating, heavy bleeding, migraines, mood swings, irregular periods, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, a decreasing sex drive and food cravings.
If you feel like you are out of balance, eating a healthy diet and making simple lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly will definitely help. PMS symptoms can be managed with eating smaller, more wholesome meals (3 meals plus 3 snacks daily). Include in your diet lean sources of protein, legumes, foods with soy protein (unless you have a thyroid disorder), raw and leafy vegetables and fresh fruit, low fat milk, cheese and yogurt, whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta. Avoid food stressors such as refined sugars and fats, salty lunch meat, sausage, bacon, high fat cheeses such as brie, white bread, cake, cookies, jam, honey, molasses, high-salt snacks such as potato ships, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.
You may also wish to consider having your hormone levels tested and the use of bioidentical hormones to alleviate symptoms. Using individualized dosing, bioidentical progesterone often helps women in their 20s, 30s and 40s feel better. Progesterone plays a vital role in helping many women feel calmer, less irritable and sleep more restfully.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is one of three main female sex hormones in our bodies. It travels via the blood stream to trigger certain activities or changes in the body. Hormones work by binding to specialized areas of cells called receptor sites. There they start a chain of events in target cells or organs. For example, progesterone has been known to exert a calming effect in the brain, reducing anxiety. Each month progesterone prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy and progesterone levels rise after ovulation. Unless you become pregnant your progesterone levels then drop and this triggers menstruation. Progesterone also balances out the effects of other hormones in the body such as estrogen. When you have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone then you may experience many uncomfortable symptoms. This is often referred to as being “estrogen dominant,” a popular condition referenced in many books written about menopause but not an official medical diagnosis used in conventional medicine.
Is there a difference between “natural” or “bioidentical” progesterone and synthetic progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone produced in your body. The term “natural” or “bioidentical” refers to progesterone that is chemically identical to the progesterone produced in a woman’s ovaries. Natural or bioidentical progesterone is produced from a plant source (Mexican wild yams or other plants) and is modified in a laboratory to become identical in chemical structure to human progesterone. Synthetic progesterone is called a progestin and does not have the same effects on various body receptors outside of the uterus. Many women today are choosing to take bioidentical hormones instead of synthetic hormones.
If you are not feeling your best, please seek appropriate answers and proper guidance for management of your hormone related symptoms and individual needs. Choose a knowledgeable provider who specializes in hormone care for women and is certified through the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) if possible. You may find a provider in your area listed online at http:www.menopause.org/referralservice.aspx or by contacting NAMS at 440-442-7550.