Like the ebb and flow of the ocean tides, women’s hormonesfluctuate with each monthly cycle. There are times in a woman’s lifewhen her hormonal tides flow so softly and so narrowly, they movelike the gentle neap tides of a quarter moon during winter. There areother times, however, when a woman’s hormonal tides oscillate withsuch magnitude and speed, they rise and fall like the broad sweepingtides of a full moon during spring.
Like the movement of the waves inthe ocean, a woman’s hormones is a force of nature that is, for allpractical purposes, essentially unstoppable. At least, it cancertainly feel that way to a woman coping with the effects of her ownoscillating hormones. They bring with them dramatic shifts in mood,crazy food cravings, and impulsive changes in sexual energy. Hormonalshifts also manifest themselves in physical ways, like bloating andweight gain, which can cause a woman a great deal of stress.
The hormonal shifts a womanexperiences can sometimes feel like a burden, even a curse. However,women also know these hormonal tides are closely tied to the miracleof life. Without the hormonal cycles of estrogen and progesterone,plus the small but influential shifts in female testosterone levels,the cycle of human life could not continue. The sweet innocent eyesof a newborn baby reflect what women’s hormones make possible.
During a woman’s reproductiveyears, her premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can feel like getting caughtin the middle of a tropical storm with hurricane force winds andswells so large they could make the hardiest seafaring sailor seasick. PMS can be a time filled with crazy topsy turvy emotions,making a woman feel like she wants to cry her eyes out one minutefollowed the next minute by a feeling of sheer elation, and of courseeverything in between. Along with these emotional swings, women’shormones may cause abdominal cramps, pimples, acne breakouts, tenderbreasts, upset stomach, and horrible migraines. PMS can come on sostrong at times it feels like a ship suddenly slamming into a hiddenunderwater reef. Some months are better than others, but on badmonths, it can be completely overwhelming.
Over the course of a women’slifetime, her PMS symptoms and the intensity of those symptoms canchange radically. Many women in their 20s find PMS and their periodsto be little more than than a monthly nuisance. However, these samewomen in their 30s and 40s may see dramatic shifts in their bodies,with PMS so bad they want into crawl in bed and not get out until itpasses. The reverse trend can be true for other women, but for themajority of women, PMS tends to get worse as they get older.
Perimenopause marks the beginningof changes in a woman’s regular cycle of hormones. Progesteronelevels start to taper off, estrogen production becomes more erratic,less testosterone is produced (which affects the production ofestrogen), the timing of egg production is not as regular, and awoman can start to experience irregular periods, missed periods,delayed periods, heavier periods, and spotting.
The changes that take place in women’shormones during this period can also start to make them lose bonedensity and muscle mass, even if they don’t notice this at first.Some women experience heart palpitations, vaginal dryness, generalfatigue, and they may wake up in the middle of the night sweatingprofusely. These problems generally get worse as perimenopause movesmore toward menopause but certainly not always. Woman can still getpregnant during perimenopause, in fact many do, but it may be moredifficult to do so. If they do become pregnant, the hormonalfluctuations and mood swings will be bigger than ever, although thejoy of impending motherhood usually helps to allay these.
The onset of perimenopause can takeplace at any point during a woman’s third or fourth decade of life.It often lasts for years and can sometimes come on so gradually thata woman doesn’t really notice the differences until she looks back inretrospect or her doctor points it out. However, with some women, theonset of perimenopause can be more abrupt and more noticeable.
At menopause, a woman’s estrogenlevels fall by as much as sixty-five percent. The hallmark symptom ofmenopause are hot flashes. Not all women get them, but most do, atleast to some degree. Some women get hot flashes so bad, they mayinsist on turning on the air conditioner in the middle of winter.Temporary memory issues such as forgetfulness or a general “memoryfog” can also be a problem for some women, but not all.Thankfully, this usually goes away after menopause.
Menopause usually goes much fasterthan perimenopause. At the end of it, a woman stops having herperiod. Some woman gain weight and notice other changes such as thevoice becoming a bit deeper and perhaps more crackly. However, mostwoman feel great after menopause. In fact, many women report feelingbetter than they have in years. It is almost a feeling of greatrelief.
There are several things a womancan do to help smooth out the roller coaster hormonal swings she cansometimes experience during PMS, perimenopause, and menopause.Regular exercise is one of the most beneficial, but only if a womandoesn’t overdo it which can actually make the problem worse bycausing estrogen levels to fall too fast. Diet also plays a criticalrole in rounding off the peaks and valleys in women’s hormones. Toomuch caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can all exacerbate the symptoms offluctuating hormones and should be avoided.
On the other hand, eating a healthydiet with lots of fresh vegetables for vitamins, minerals, fiber, andantioxidants can really help. Eating wild caught fish and seafood forgood natural doses of omega-3 can also be very helpful in smoothingout the effects of hormonal fluctuations. Herbal teas likepeppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, and licorice can ease cramps andreduce anxiety. These herbs are also mood enhancers. Finally, gettingat least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night will give awoman time enough to complete enough sleep cycles to help smooth outher hormonal fluctuations.
Women’s hormones have a great dealof influence on their lives, both positive and negative. They are thecornerstone of womanhood. This probably why they are simultaneouslycelebrated and complained about!