Female, Fat, Fatigued, Fiery and Forty?
Here’s an eye opening read from our wonderful guest blogging naturopath Leone Wilson from Harvesting Health Hub in Oxenford on the Gold Coast.. Follow her and her wealth of knowledge on all female issues on Facebook and Instagram
Happy hormone reading 🙂
Stress, both emotional and physical, affect our hormones. Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands and tissues within the Endocrine system. There’s a couple of organs to note in this system that will affect your energy, your mood, your weight and your period – these are the adrenal glands, the thyroid and the ovaries. Let’s also throw the pancreas, who is in charge of glucose regulation, in there for good measure.
At different times in your life, hormone levels may shift. These shifts could occur before or after your periods, during pregnancy, or approaching menopause.
What Is A Normal Cycle?
Let’s start the conversation outlining what is a cycle and what is actually normal. There are a great many urban myths out there about the ‘new normal’. Let me just say ‘common’ does not equate to ‘normal’.
For all of her menstruating years, a woman will produce shifting levels of sex hormones which then determine the regular nature of her menstrual cycle. The first day of the menstrual cycle is the first day of a properly established period (not spotting, the ‘real’ thing). The period from the first day until ovulation is called the ‘follicular phase’. Once ovulation occurs, the luteal phase then begins.
What is normal? A cycle that is between 21 and 35 days is considered normal. A Pill bleed is not a period and occurs every 28 days as a withdrawal bleed. The menstrual bleed should last between 3 and 5 days. Anything less or more than this is a ‘symptom’ of hormonal imbalance. A period that is painful, heavy or clotty is also a sign of hormonal imbalance.
HORMONES- More than just oestrogen & progesterone
When we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode, our body shunts glucose to skeletal muscles – HELLO EXTRA FAT PADDING! It is also very unlikely we would stop for a quick ‘bonk’ whilst fleeing from a ferocious animal – HELLO LOW LIBIDO! After Ancestral Man escaped the wild animal, he went back to his cave/ hut to rest up and recover. We keep on pushing – HELLO CONSTANT FATIGUE!
You know what else is affected when we are in constant ‘fight or flight’? The delicate balance between oestrogen and progesterone. Why you ask?
Given Ancestral Man’s only job here on Earth was to procreate and fill the Earth, the hormone cortisol was prioritised – hey, you have to escape the wild animal and stay alive to commit to filling the Earth, don’t you? So, here you are running around every single day – using up bucket-loads of Cortisol. How do you keep it up? Because your adrenal glands will ‘steal’ PROGESTERONE to make Cortisol. Guess what happens then? You are now OESTROGEN DOMINANT. Less progesterone = more oestrogen.
Signs of Oestrogen Dominance
Does your PMS hit you like a Mack truck every single month?
Do you suffer fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis or heavy, painful periods, an irregular pap smear? Even migraines? Or you have been advised to have a hysterectomy?
This is something you do not want to ignore!
These symptoms are your body’s way of sending you a message that something is not quite right and should not be ignored. If you just “push through it” or try to counteract it with more hormones, it’s likely to lead to something WAY more serious down the line, such as breast or uterine cancer
Reduced levels of oestrogen then cause the extra fat to be stored around our mid-section. This visceral fat can lead to insulin resistance, however, Insulin resistance
itself, can be behind two of the most common symptoms women experience in their 40’s- fatigue and weight gain. Insulin is a hormone that has a significant effect on all the other hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone
Do you have stubborn weight that simply doesn’t shift even when eating the right foods and exercising? That ‘flesh blanket’ around your.mid- section.
Do you ‘need’ sugar or carbs to get through the day?
Do you experience brain fog or trouble focusing?
Recent research suggests that in the perimenopausal years, our lean mass
reduces as our fat mass increases due to hormonal changes.
How often do you reach for simple carbohydrates in the form of bread, rice, chips, fruit, a tasty muffin? These are nutrient poor foods that enter the bloodstream as glucose. To transport glucose into the cells, insulin has to ‘spike’ and over time this causes insulin resistance.
Lower levels of oestrogen may also confuse our hunger hormones. Research suggests that ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone,’ may actually increase at the same time oestrogen levels dip, causing an increase in appetite. Likely, you may find yourself reaching for energy ‘snacks’, especially if not eating well-balanced meals that include adequate protein and fats. Unfortunately, in my clinical experience many women are not eating nearly enough protein or monounsaturated fats.
If you continue to eat this way, the body is forced to release even more insulin to reduce blood glucose levels. High insulin levels disturb cellular metabolism and causes inflammation in the body. HELLO CORTISOL AGAIN in response to the body’s stress.
So yes, you’re stressed, likely physically as well as emotionally. Your body is releasing cortisol too frequently. What impact does that have on the rest of your body and your hormones ? The answer is everything.
Fatigued adrenal glands cannot keep up and the result is imbalances in cortisol production. Constant ‘fight or flight’ will shut down reproductive hormones, suppress your immune system, slow digestion, cause fatigue, affect your sleep, create weight gain, affect your cognition and quite possibly cause you to suffer with THYROID DISORDERS.
Adrenal Glands Take Over From The Ovaries
And now here’s the kicker! When you go through menopause, your ovaries may no longer make oestrogen, but you do not then go through life oestrogen-less…… your adrenals take on the role.
You can see from the ‘usual’ list of menopausal symptoms, that many of these are outlined above. Now you see why.
So, it clearly makes sense from the ‘get go’ to look after these little guys for balanced hormonal health throughout the life cycle.