Women’s health is a very important topic every day.

By far the majority of the clients I see at Braid Health are women and there is nearly always a hormonal overlay to optimising their health, whatever stage they are in their lives.

So what exactly is the menopause?

It’s the cessation of menstruation, the life phase that begins 1 year after the last period. The age of most women starting menopause is 45-55 years.

And have you heard about the perimenopause?

This can be a time between 2-12 years before menopause, when hormones and fluctuating like a rollercoaster. Symptoms can include heavy periods, hot flushes and insomnia and these can start from age 35. About 20% of women will experience the dramatic rollercoaster ride!

So what hormones are we talking about here?

Firstly oestrogen, a very important hormone that affects multiple areas in our bodies from brain to gut to breasts and of course our reproductive organs. It has multiple functions including:

  • Increase in metabolic rate
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Maintains muscles
  • Improves sleep
  • Anti-inflammatory

And secondly there is progesterone, which prepares and sustains a woman’s body for pregnancy. Generally as ovulation stops, the progesterone level drops more rapidly than oestrogen and it is this imbalance in hormones which causes symptoms.
Other functions of progesterone include:

  • Neuroprotective calming effect
  • Eases anxiety
  • Supports immune system
  • Smooths skin and improves hair growth

Have you come across the “Grandmother theory”?
We are genetically programmed to stop reproduction relatively young to dedicate time to dependants and their offspring. Other mammals are not programmed this way. Orca whales are the only other species to undergo menopause.

Some suggestions that may help with symptoms in the perimenopause include:

  • Managing stress. Aim for good sleep and self care routine
  • Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol impairs healthy metabolism of oestrogen, and lowers progesterone and the calming action it has on the brain
  • Keep track of your cycles with a perimenopause diary. Here is one to try out: cemcor.ubc.ca