ARE YOUR HORMONES MAKING YOU CRAZY?
Mood swings like you’re a teenager again. A feeling of brain fog. About as much interest in sex as in doing your taxes. The one thing these shockingly varied woes share? Fluctuating hormones. “Your body is a finely tuned hormonal symphony,” says integrative physician Tami Meraglia, author of The Hormone Secret, and consequently, even very slight changes can yield enormous side effects.
“Somewhere in your mid-30s to early 40s, levels of key hormones shift as the body progresses through perimenopause toward menopause,” says Sara Gottfried, an integrative physician and the author of The Hormone Reset Diet. Every woman is different, but the experts agree that dietary supplements and bioidentical hormones can be effective tools.
Unfortunately, hormones can rise and dip dramatically over the course of six months, says Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Yale School of Medicine. What’s more, you can have levels that fall within the “normal” range but still suffer dramatic side effects, notes Meraglia. Ask your doctor for blood tests to determine your levels, but repeat them once you’ve had treatment and feel better so that you know “what your levels are when they are optimised,” says internist Erika Schwartz, author of Don’t Let Your Doctor Kill You. Here, a hormone cheat sheet.
“THE PEACEKEEPER” This is the hormone that starts to dip first as you age, says Meraglia. Sometimes called the Valium of the female mind, progesterone can cause you to feel increasingly anxious, frustrated, and short-tempered when levels dip. Sinking levels can also cause insomnia, and since progesterone has a natural diuretic effect, a lack of it can leave you feeling perpetually bloated. Hormone therapy (either bioidentical or traditional) can help. But supplements may also give significant relief, says Gottfried, who suggests 750 milligrams a day of vitamin C or 500 to 1,000 milligrams of chasteberry.