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We all have a general feeling that menopause is an important time of transition for women, whether our perceptions are shaped by watching movies, talking with friends and family, or by our own personal experiences. The focus tends to fall on the hormone estrogen, but this story goes beyond hormones.
Equally important, perimenopause and menopause often coincide with years of big family and career changes as well. The years between the ages of 40 and 55 happen to be when children transition away from home. And when the races reach the maximum responsibility. And when aging parents begin to face health challenges. And when retirement planning kicks in. These life events individually top the lists of the biggest stressors in life. So when you stack them all, one on top of the other, and add a life-changing biological transition to the mix as well… well, it’s no mystery why menopause can be a time when depression strikes, perhaps because of first time in a woman’s life
That’s a lot to take in, but according to Tolu Oyelowo, DC, PhD, professor at the College of Chiropractic at Northwestern University of Health Sciences, understanding the big picture gives you the opportunity to move through this transition smoothly. She notes, “Ideally, the time to start thinking about how you’ll fare through perimenopause and menopause is in your 30s, because you can really lay the foundation for health practices that will help you get through these challenging years.
“Women in American society are very active, juggling careers, parenting and relationships, so when they go into perimenopause, their adrenal glands are depleted, and that’s a problem because you need glands healthy adrenal glands to go through menopause without problems”. The most uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, including depression, are influenced by the drop in sex hormones that occurs when the ovaries shut down. Oyelowo explains that as ovarian estrogen production declines, it becomes important to support adrenal health, since the adrenal glands produce the precursor hormones that provide the body with estrogen and other sex hormones after menopause. Indeed, estrogen does not disappear completely, but the process by which it is created changes.
The Interplay Between Adrenal Health and Estrogen
So if good adrenal health is imperative for a smooth hormonal transition in your 40s and 50s, what’s the best way to achieve it? It might surprise you that tackling that go-go-go lifestyle in your 30s (and beyond) is the key. Chronic stress is persistent life stress without rest or recovery time. Our bodies handle periodic stress quite well, but when stress becomes chronic, it requires our adrenal glands to produce large amounts of cortisol, which in turn prevents the production of estrogen precursors. The result can be uncomfortably low estrogen levels.
“Estrogen influences many functions in the body, including the balance of neurotransmitters necessary for good mental health,” says Oyelowo. “If estrogen levels are too low as a woman enters and goes through menopause, addressing adrenal health becomes vital to restoring hormonal balance. Some women will also need hormonal support to maintain that balance, and that’s completely fine.” If you’re currently in your 30s, protecting your adrenal health is taking the time to build a foundation of good health habits, including not overdoing it, being active, getting plenty of sleep, staying connected to a social circle, and cooking a lot. of nutrient-dense foods.
If you’re in perimenopause, menopause, or beyond, pay close attention to stressors you can control—even “good” stressors like exercise. Oyelowo advises, “This is not the time to go crazy with high-intensity exercise, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow you adequate time to rest and recover. You don’t want your body to be in a state of permanent stress, which hurts your estrogen levels. Instead, focus on moderate daily exercise, stretching, and very good nutrition. This is a good time to take inventory of all the stressors in your life and dial back where you can.”
Being open to changing your routine is key. Oyelowo described her own experience, saying: “Menopausal women often find that ‘what always worked’ no longer works. For example, on my own journey, even with everything I know, it took me a while to listen to what my body was telling me about movement and routine. When I really tuned in, I realized I needed to dial the intensity back down to feel really good again.”
Although Oyelowo has now retired from her clinical chiropractic practice, the process she used with patients applies to anyone experiencing menopausal symptoms and signs of depression. After addressing stressors, moderating exercise, adding stretching practices like yin yoga and/or fascia work, and working on good nutrition, the next step is to explore interventions like chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, bioidentical hormone replacement, and/or or supplements like ashwagandha, licorice root, DHEA, and sam-e. (Work with a doctor before taking supplements because they all have advantages and disadvantages and can interfere with each other and/or with other medications.)
Training patients to view hormonal balance and depression symptoms through the lens of stressors is a paradigm shift that helps women make clear decisions about where to put their energy. The sooner you can start creating balanced habits and routines, the smoother your transition from perimenopause to menopause will be.
Located in Bloomington, Northwestern University of Health Sciences it’s a First level comprehensive health institution that prepares the next generation of health professionals to provide and improve medical care, offering 11 areas of study. its clinics and TruNorth Wellness Center are open to the public to support better, healthier lives for all. bloomington clinic specializes in caring for the entire family, providing chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, nutrition, and cupping. sweet clinic offers comprehensive care for complex pain conditions and trauma. The Biomechanics Laboratory and the Human Performance Centerr support proper movement and recovery through gait analysis, rehabilitation, and strength and conditioning.