Women over 50, in perimenopause or menopause often feel like they’re on a roller coaster ride. They may experience intense mood swings, hot flashes and sleepless nights as their hormones fluctuate throughout the day.
While these symptoms are a normal part of women’s health, you don’t need to suffer! You can take steps toward hormonal balance during menopause by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking supplements that will help your body stabilize hormone levels naturally.
Read on to learn more about how you can achieve hormonal balance and live healthier midlife!
What is an endocrine system?
The endocrine system coordinates the interactions between different organs and hormones. Hormones are produced by various endocrine glands and organs. These may be your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, and pancreas.
When one or more imbalances are found it can cause widespread health conditions. These can affect your metabolic health, your growth hormone, sex hormones, your natural circadian rhythm, body temperature and how many menopausal symptoms you suffer from.
The body has two groups of hormones. Hormones and adrenaline. These send messages to the brain. Hormone receptors process them and signal body what to do in response.
What Are The Signs Of Hormonal Imbalance?
The signs of hormonal imbalance in midlife are often subtle.
Mood swings and irritability – You may feel mood swings throughout the day or notice that you are easily irritated.
Weight gain – You might find yourself struggling to not gain weight despite eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.
Fatigue – Whether it’s chronic fatigue syndrome or just feeling run down, balanced hormones can help boost energy levels for women in midlife.
Night sweats and hot flashes – These symptoms are especially common during menopause but can occur at other times as well.
Low libido – Due to falling levels of estrogen and testosterone, low libido is common in women going through perimenopause and menopause. If this is the case, talk to a women’s health expert about what you can do to improve your testosterone levels.
Trouble sleeping through the night – Women in midlife may find that they are waking up during the night or having trouble falling back to sleep after waking.
Other symptoms to watch out for are
- Headaches – changing estrogen levels can cause headaches.
- Vaginal dryness – low estrogen could issues with dryness.
- Memory fog – Attention and memory difficulties occur especially during perimenopause and menopause.
- Digestion issues – hormone fluctuations may affect the speed that food moves through your digestive tract.
What causes hormonal imbalances?
The cause of midlife hormonal imbalance is often due to a combination of lifestyle factors and genetics.
Poor dietary choices – Eating too many processed foods, refined sugars and carbohydrates can contribute to imbalances in blood sugar which can contribute to hormone imbalances.
Lack of physical activity – Exercise is known to have a positive impact on hormone levels and hormone health. Particularly the stress hormone cortisol.
Stressful life situations – Stress is also known to disrupt the body’s natural balance of hormones so it makes sense
Being unable to sleep – this like stress can cause a hormone imbalance.
Weight gain – consistently gaining weight over 50, especially around your middle is indicative of a hormonal imbalance
What do I need to know about hormonal imbalances?
Even minor hormonal imbalances can cause various illnesses.
Glands in the endocrine system produce chemicals known as hormones.
They control a number of your major processes including metabolism and reproduction.
Your symptoms can be non-specific and having them does not necessarily signify you have an imbalance.
8 ways to improve hormonal imbalance
1. Eat a balanced diet
To balance hormones, eat a mostly plant-based diet with small amounts of lean protein at each meal. Choose healthy unprocessed plant fats over saturated. Limit your intake of sugar to avoid spiking insulin levels.
Good protein choices are:
- hemp protein – hemp is a balanced plant-based protein containing all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair.
- legumes and lentils have balanced amino acids and are high in fiber.
- wild-caught fish such as salmon – these have balanced omega-fatty acids needed for hormone balance by providing a healthy ratio of DHA to EPA.
- seeds, especially flax, chia and sunflower as they contain healthy fats.
- processed proteins like red meat. It contains saturated fat that may contribute to inflammation and hormonal imbalance. The World Health Organisation recommends no more than three serves of red meat per week.
- pea protein – pea protein is a balanced plant-based protein containing all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair.
- grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon or organic chicken.
- healthy fat choices include avocado oil or whole, coconut oil and olive oil and nuts.
Bad protein choices are:
Red meat, pork and processed meats have high levels of saturated fats that can be inflammatory. These types of proteins should be eaten only occasionally in small portions.
Limit your intake of processed foods to avoid simple carbohydrates that can spike insulin levels.
Make sure you are getting enough fibre by adding more plant-based proteins into your diet such as beans, lentils and nuts.
2. Reduce stress
Stress is a major factor in hormonal imbalance.
Under stress, your body produces cortisol, which leads to weight gain and low sex drive.
Give your adrenals some love by working to reduce stress levels. Practice yoga or meditation daily and take time out of each day for some quiet contemplation. Maybe you could walk while contemplating. They don’t call me ‘Efficient Edna’ for no reason.
3. Get enough sleep
Many women are sleep-deprived, which can further imbalance hormones. At night, try to go to bed by a reasonable and aim for eight hours of shut-eye per day. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, take steps toward better sleep hygiene with these tips.
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise helps to keep all your hormones level.
Not only does it reduce cortisol levels and stress, but exercising also helps balance your insulin level so you don’t suffer from sugar cravings. Aim for 30 minutes of easy cardio three times a week along with strength training two or more days per week.
If you start to feel fatigued while working out, you may be overdoing it.
If you are feeling burned out, take a rest day or reduce your exercise routine to 30 minutes of cardio only one to two times per week along with strength training at least twice weekly.
Adding resistance exercises like weight lifting will help build lean muscle mass which has been shown in recent studies to help balance your hormones.
Image of person lifting weights
Limit your training sessions to one hour or less as longer workouts could be over-stressing the system and may cause cortisol levels to rise. Focus on doing more high-intensity burst exercises like sprints instead of long-distance cardio for balanced energy production without stress.
5. Manage your weight and blood sugar levels (for example, reduce intake of refined sugars)
Keep your insulin (sugar) levels low. To do this, avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates that cause sugar spikes in your bloodstream because they can lead to weight gain or cravings for more carbs. Instead of reaching for high-carb snacks like chips or cookies, choose foods rich in nutrients, protein, fibre healthy fats.
Check out this quick video below about losing menopause weight.
Some snacks you might think about are:
– nuts and seeds, ricotta cheese or cottage cheese with fruit, greek yoghurt with berries, and grain-free granola.
You can also use supplements to help balance your insulin levels. For example, magnesium citrate boosts energy naturally without caffeine or stimulants that lead to stress.
6. Drink alcohol in moderation if at all
Drink in moderation. Alcohol can lead to inflammation and weight gain, which are both factors leading to hormonal imbalance. If you do indulge, limit yourself to one serving per day for optimal hormone balance.
7. Supplements to consider
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral to help women with improving hormonal health. As usual, it’s always better if you can get minerals through your diet. For magnesium, you can try leafy greens, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds, lentils, chickpeas and black beans. For a treat, dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium.
However, if you are unable to get enough magnesium in your diet supplement with magnesium citrate.
Calcium/Vitamin D combo supplement if you are not getting enough calcium in your diet. You can also get healthy levels of Vitamin D through exposure to the sun, so try taking a walk outside for at least 30 minutes each day.
8. Hormone replacement therapy
Although this has been considered controversial in the past most of the controversy was played out in the media. There are reported benefits of taking HRT for women.
Even so, it is something you should discuss with your health care provider.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) And Hormone Balance In Midlife
Unfortunately for women suffering from PCOS the changes in hormones in perimenopause and menopause don’t make it go away.
Symptoms of PCOS can be similar to that of perimenopause or menopause. This makes it difficult for it to be recognized as a separate condition if women have not been diagnosed previously.
It’s not uncommon to put on weight as you age.
If you find yourself gaining weight in places like the stomach without any other explanation or change in lifestyle, you may want to consider what signs of hormonal imbalances could be at play.
Thankfully there are plenty of things that can help balance those hormones naturally.
Have you been putting on weight around your middle? Let me know in the comments below.
Many of your hormones play a part in helping to maintain a healthy weight and it is healthy lifestyle choices that will assist your hormones in the job they do. The thyroid plays an important role in helping you maintain your weight. If your body struggles to produce thyroid hormones your metabolism will slow down making it difficult to lose weight. High levels of estrogen as you go into menopause can promote fat storage and conversely low levels is often associated with belly fat.
Mood swings and irritability.
Night sweats and hot flashes.
Being unable to sleep.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a balanced diet.
Eat enough protein.
Get enough sleep.
Keep stress to a minimum.
Avoid added sugar.
Keep alcohol to a minimum.