Skærmbillede 2014-03-05 kl. 14.58.16By Charlotte Lillegaard Petersen
– You’ve probably heard it before – mood swings, stress, sore breasts, fatigue and trouble sleeping can be related to our hormones. But do you know that from the age of 35 these symptoms can be caused by the early signs of an approaching menopause?
Charlotte Lillegaard Petersen, who practices functional medicine, with female hormone imbalances as one of her areas of expertise, explains what happens during the peri-menopause and how natural approaches can ease the way through menopause itself.

Estrogen can hit you hard
Estrogen levels are usually high during the years preceding menopause. Actually, estrogen can be 30% higher than normal and can fluctuate wildly.
At the same time progesterone starts to decrease. The hormones previously performed a regular dance with high levels of progesterone during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, but now the balance is off with lessening progesterone production and estrogen production going up and down. Quite a few women react to this hormonal imbalance and start to feel lousy.

The symptoms
When estrogen begins to become dominant, women can start having trouble coping with their everyday life because the dominance can produce unpleasant symptoms. Stress, anxiety, depression, palpitations, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and a feeling of being worn out – the list is long. Some women are run over by hormones, but are given diagnoses such as stress, depression etc. Even more women are suffering in silence without knowing the cause. Later on estrogen drops and the hormone system then needs to find a new balance.

What to do?
When the hormones rage, it’s all about supporting and helping the body get back into balance. Hormone balancing food with healthy fats, lots of veggies, protein from wild and ecologically raised animals, herbs, ginger and plenty of turmeric are things that are good for you. Omega 3 fatty acids are especially important for hormone balance, because while we usually get plenty of other oils in our diet, we can be short of Omega 3s. Eat wild fatty fish several times a week or take a supplement with omega 3. Limit your intake of sugar, grain, pasta, coffee, alcohol and junk food.
Usually it is necessary to supplement with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D which really is a hormone-like substance and therefore important for your hormonal balance. Magnesium is something that many people lack and symptoms of magnesium deficiency resemble the symptoms of hormonal imbalances: fatigue, bad mood, trouble sleeping, and feeling stressed out. B vitamins are also very essential for women at this age. Many women are actually deficient in iron. It is possible to have a normal blood count and low ferritin (iron storage) – therefore it is important to measure iron thoroughly. Besides vitamins and minerals many women benefit from treatment with homeopathy and herbal extracts as natural remedies to help the transition. Consult a naturopathic practitioner for an individual program to fit your personal needs.

Digestion
Many women experience more than unbalanced sex hormones. Digestive disorders are common because the hormonal changes influence the speed of your digestion and the microflora in the gut. But the stress of all the changes happening can also influence the digestive process leading to bloating, constipation, diarrhea and low stomach acid.

Liver and thyroid
The liver is busy in peri-menopause as it is strongly involved in our hormonal balance.
It can be a good idea to carefully support liver detoxification with things like dandelion, cruciferous vegetables, onions, turmeric and start the day with a glass of heated water with lemon juice.
Hormonal changes can also cause thyroid problems. Hypothyroid women have a much harder time during menopause than other women. Thyroid problems can cause quite a lot of symptoms and it is advisable to get a full thyroid blood test. Normally only TSH is tested, but it is important to ask your doctor to test the free thyroid hormones, free T4, free T3 and TPO antibodies. It isn’t always enough to be in the normal reference range in your blood test because we all have our individual ‘feel good’ level when it comes to our thyroid hormones. If your doctor won’t perform all the tests, it may be possible to consult a specialist who can order them for you.

Immune system and stress
The immune system can be affected, increasing the risk of developing allergies or food intolerances. The immune system can also increase inflammation, leading to symptoms such as joint pain. It can be necessary to slow down and spend more time on relaxation and anti-stress strategies. Our adrenals need nursing and care because they produce a number of hormones that are important for our well-being. After the menopause the adrenals supply us with estrogen and progesterone. If we lead a stressful life with increased levels of stress hormones it has an adverse effect on our hormone balance. Relaxation, a nice foot bath, meditation, or just leaving the house cleaning for tomorrow, can be a great help for body and mind.

Charlotte Lillegaard Petersen, MA, naturopath and DNA Life Practitioner. She practices functional medicine and one of her areas of expertise is female hormone problems. Via her clinic, it is possible to order various lab tests, e.g. hormone profiles, thyroid profiles and extended thryoid profiles including tests for selenium and iodine.
Charlotte’s website is in Danish, but she has Skype consultations with clients outside Denmark.

Relevant tests
Comprehensive Saliva Hormone Test including adrenal hormones via BIOLAB
Hormone tests in saliva, urine and blood via Precision Analytical
Testing neurotransmitters, like serotonin, adrenaline, noredrenaline, dopamin, GABA will give you further insight into energy and emotional status. YourPrevention offer several tests for these.

Supplements
Mineral supplements from WaterOz are pure minerals and pure water – nothing else. TOO MUCH MAG have tested iron, magnesium, selen, zink, potassium, vanadium from WaterOz and have not experienced side effects.

Facebook groups
Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroid ladies

Further reading
The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation
34 menopause symptoms
Stop the thyroid madness

Resources
Lee, John, MD, What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Menopause, 1996, Warner Wellness
Shomon, Mary, Breaking News: Estrogen, Menopause and Thyroid, with Richard & Karilee Shames. Since Estrogen Found to be Overrated and Dangerous, It’s Time to Focus on Your T. May 2008.
Prior, Jerilynn, MD, The Complex Endocrinology of the Menopausal Transition, Endocrine Reviews,Volume 19 Issue 4 | August 1, 1998.
Prior, Jerilynn, MD, Clearing confusion about perimenopause, BCMJ, Vol. 47, No. 10, December 2005, page(s) 538-542
Prior, Jerylinn, MD, Perimenopause: The Ovary’s Frustrating Grand Finale, Vol. 3 No. 3: Fall Equinox, 2001