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Hormones Changing? What You Need To Know

May 20, 2024 | Blog, Hormone Health

At every stage of life, your hormones play an important role in controlling what happens in your body. Hormone levels have a profound impact on your health, and many physiologic functions require a delicate balance when it comes to hormone levels.

But, it’s said that time changes everything, and that certainly applies to hormones. In our youth, hormones often surge as we near adulthood. But the opposite happens as we age. Some hormone receptors become less sensitive, and the production of others slows down. 

These hormonal changes can impact well-being in many ways, from metabolism to mood to libido. Fortunately, making conscious choices to support hormonal changes results in happier, more active aging.

 

Hormonal Changes in Females

 

Many females start to experience hormonal changes in their mid-40s, some as early as their mid-30s, when their bodies start producing less estrogen and progesterone. In response, the pituitary gland produces more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). 

This perimenopausal stage can last for months or years as hormones fluctuate. 

Women in perimenopause experience a wide array of symptoms that are also present during menopause, including. 

  • Depression
  • Loss of libido
  • “Foggy brain”
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Increased perspiration
  • Increased urination
  • Irritability similar to PMS
  • Anxiety
  • Increased abdominal fat

 

Unfortunately, for many women perimenopause occurs at a time of life that is marked by career and family stressors. The hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause can make it harder to cope with stress. It’s important to remember that these changes are a natural part of life, and don’t represent any failure.

As women journey through perimenopause, their periods may become less frequent or less predictable. Some women experience heavier periods. Many start to experience hot flashes as menopause draws closer.

Menopause is defined as starting one year after the last menstrual period. The average age is 52, but there is a wide range. Studies show that we’re more likely to go through menopause around the same age as our mothers, but this isn’t always the case since other factors come into play. Smokers, for example, enter menopause a year or two earlier on average, as do women who haven’t given birth.

After menopause, women experience an increased risk of several major health problems, since they’ve lost the protective effect of female hormones. 

The risk of cardiovascular disease rises quickly in menopause, and women who enter menopause earlier have a higher lifetime risk. Many women may notice a marked increase in their cholesterol levels and blood pressure, despite no change in lifestyle. This is due to the hormonal shifts of menopause. 

After menopause, women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass, which increases the risk of fractures, and half of post-menopausal women develop osteoporosis. 

 

Male Hormonal Changes

Menopause has long been a taboo topic, but public awareness has grown markedly over the last few years as more people open up about its effects.

Males, however, still face a lack of information about the effect of aging on their hormone levels. Although many males aren’t aware, they too experience a form of menopause, often called andropause.  

Andropause happens when testosterone and other androgens start to decline. Although testosterone drops about 1% after the age of around 30, the effects of this decline start to be more noticeable typically around the age of 50.

For some men, the testes stop producing hormones. This condition is called hypogonadism. It can affect men of any age and is more likely to occur in males with diabetes or obesity.

 The effects of declining testosterone include:

  • Increased fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Loss of libido
  • Depression and other mood changes.
  • Unwanted breast growth
  • A decline in confidence
  • Poor concentration
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of muscle mass

 

As with females, the drop in hormone levels leads to an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Men are also at risk of osteoporosis as they age. 

 

 

Natural Support for Hormonal Changes

 

We can’t avoid aging – but we can take proactive steps to slow its impact on our hormonal balance. Here are some key points that support hormonal changes. 

 

 

Hormone Support for Females 

 

  • Exercise. The many, well-documented benefits of exercise become even more pronounced as we age. For women, increasing muscle mass can ease menopause symptoms, including reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes. 
    • Strength training helps fight sarcopenia, which is age-related loss of muscle. It also helps build bone mass to fight osteoporosis. If you’ve never lifted weights before, it’s not too late to start. It’s important to start with proper form to avoid injury, so it’s worth investing in a certified instructor at the beginning. 
    • Cardiovascular activity will reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, fighting the health impacts of declining estrogen levels. Weight-bearing cardio also builds bone mass. 
    • To reduce the risk of injury and increase your odds of sticking to an exercise routine,  it’s also important to incorporate flexibility and balance training, like yoga or pilates, in any exercise rotation. These can also improve your proprioception, which is the sense of where your body is in space and an important factor in fall prevention. 

 

  • Stress management is also vital to managing menopause symptoms. Activities like yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can help you navigate hormonal shifts on a daily basis. Doing things you love, taking time off, and finding time to relax simply is necessary for stress management! It’s also important to avoid harmful ways of coping with stress, like excessive alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol may even exacerbate menopausal symptoms.

 

  • Get enough sleep.  A good night’s sleep is important for hormone regulation, but hormonal changes also make it hard to get enough! Up to 60% of women report sleep difficulties as they age, with frequent waking being the most common complaint. Prioritize sleep and follow a regular bedtime routine, avoiding alcohol, intense exercise, and electronic devices as you wind down. If you do wake up at night, try not to sneak a look at your phone! The blue light affects melatonin production. 

 

  • Eat for healthy hormones. Eating plenty of protein helps fight muscle loss and support bone density, so it’s recommended that women increase their protein intake as they age. Studies have also found that women who eat a lot of whole grains have, on average, fewer menopausal symptoms, so choose brown rice, quinoa, kamut, oats, and similar grains over more processed options. Phytoestrogens are natural substances that have a similar cellular structure to estrogen. Foods high in phytoestrogens include chickpeas, soybeans, flax seeds, tofu, many kinds of berries, and green tea. Although more research needs to be done, studies have found phytoestrogens can alleviate the risk of cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis. 

 

  • Talk to a professional about herbal remedies. For centuries, women have relied on herbal remedies to help with changing hormones. Many herbal remedies can have side effects or unintended interactions, so be sure to run any you are interested in past a healthcare practitioner. Some popular herbal remedies include black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose.

 

  • Emphasize calcium and vitamin D. Your bones need extra support as you age, so need to focus on getting enough calcium. If you avoid dairy, other good sources include leafy greens like spinach, tofu, and sardines. As you get older, your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the sun declines. Many women find they have to supplement to get enough. Good sources include eggs, cod liver oil, and oily fish.

 

  • The chemical structure of bioidentical hormones is identical to your body’s natural hormones. The hormones are derived from plants and can be produced in a factory or by a compounding pharmacist. The most commonly prescribed types of bioidentical hormones are testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. These hormones are delivered to the body in many forms, including suppositories, sprays, injections, gels, and pills. Both men and women may benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy. Women often start when they enter the perimenopause years to help maintain hormonal balance.

 

Hormone Support for Males 

 

For males as well, a balanced and healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can contribute significantly to maintaining optimal hormone levels and overall well-being. Here are some key steps.

 

  • Follow a diet for testosterone production. The key element is focusing on natural, whole foods. Evidence suggests that overly processed foods can harm testosterone production. 

 

Some foods help maintain healthy hormone levels in males. Focus on:

 

  • Foods high in vitamin D, such as eggs and fatty fish. Men with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have low testosterone. 
  • Good sources of zinc, such as shellfish, organic meat, and nuts. 
  • Foods that contain magnesium, like dark chocolate, nuts, tofu, and whole grains. 
  • Healthy fats in avocados, fatty fish, and olive oil. Some studies have found that low-fat diets can harm testosterone levels, but when you add fat, focus on the healthier options. 

 

  • Lift heavy things. Studies have found that strength training is more helpful for maintaining testosterone levels than hormone therapy. For men, heavy weights and consistency with cardio activity are important. But it’s equally important not to overdo it—overtraining is also associated with lower testosterone levels. If you’re not sure about the right program for you, be sure to talk to a trainer. And, of course, we can help you get started on the right track.

 

  • Look into supplement support. There are many scams out there when it comes to increasing testosterone, so be sure to work with a healthcare practitioner for tailored, high-quality recommendations. Some supplements that scientific research has proven to help with testosterone include ashwagandha, pine bark extract, and Malaysian Ginseng.

 

  • Consistent sleep schedules. Low testosterone levels can lead to insomnia, but sleep is important to maintain hormonal balance. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and reduce your stress levels when possible. Adopt positive coping mechanisms.

 

  • Avoid heavy alcohol consumption. Believe it or not, your testosterone levels can drop within 30 minutes of consuming an alcoholic drink. For men, heavy drinking is defined as more than 15 drinks a week. Try keeping tabs on your drinking for a week to see where you fall. The damage from alcohol can be reversed once you quit.

 

Age-related hormonal changes are a fact of life – but they don’t have to slow you down! If you’re experiencing any, contact us for a consultation. Lots of help is available!

 

Sources

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