By Ellie Kempton
Night sweats. They’ve started tapping on your “window” at night and you’re only 42. Is this menopause already? Maybe not! Peri-menopause can be a tricky time and often causes more symptoms of imbalance than menopause itself. As tempting as it is to go on a Google search “frenzy” looking for answers, or worse, succumb to this as your new reality, take a step back and look at the bigger picture honing in on the intricate biochemistry of hormone balance Only there will you find clarity.
THE DELICATE “DANCE" BETWEEN ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE:
Contrary to what you may have been taught, estrogen rarely slowly but steadily declines. Instead it usually hops on a “rollercoaster ride” fluctuating wildly as you enter into the throes of perimenopause. High estrogen causes breast pain + heavy periods + fluid retention and irritable mood right before your cycle whereas low estrogen causes depression, hot flashes, and night sweats. The hot flashes and night sweats are typically more of a biproduct of a sudden drop in estrogen from high to low.
With this oscillation of estrogen, its common [but not normal] for progesterone to become seriously deficient. And the thing you need the most during a surge and subsequent drop in estrogen is the calming, counterbalancing influence of progesterone. As we age, progesterone slowly but steadily declines as we ovulate less frequently.
Progesterone is our calming, soothing, happiness hormone. It prevents heavy periods and reduces anxiety. It also boosts thyroid function, is anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging.
The only way to truly navigate night sweats is to optimize the efficient elimination of excess estrogen and increase the production of progesterone especially in the luteal phase of your cycle [ovulation through menses]. If you are in the throes of peri-menopause or have already gone through menopause, your quest remains the same but without as much targeted attention on the luteal phase of the cycle since cycles increasingly become harder to track.
OPTIMIZING THE ELIMINATION OF ESTROGEN:
Two simple ways to optimize the proper elimination of excess estrogen [thereby normalizing it’s natural ebb and flow] is by supporting the liver and the skin [the 2 largest organs of elimination]:
Start by increasing your consumption of cruciferous vegetables. The sulfur in cruciferous vegetables supports the liver's healthy detoxification of sex hormones- particularly estrogen.
Then consider enjoying some sauna therapy. The induction of sweat expedites the skin's ability to release built-up estrogen.
Want to go one layer deeper? Literally? Try infrared. The wave length of infrared has been shown to penetrate deeper prompting a more intense “purge."
PROMPTING THE PRODUCTION OF PROGESTERONE:
Four simple strategies to support the production of progesterone are as follows:
Increase consumption of iodine-rich foods [ex. sea vegetables]. Having enough iodine in the ovaries promotes healthy ovulation- boosting progesterone [because ovulation is how progesterone is predominately produced before menopause].
Consider augmenting your magnesium intake with either topical magnesium or internal magnesium at a starting dosage of 3-400 mg per day.Magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents excessive cortisol. Since, stress takes a toll on progesterone production, normalizing cortisol with magnesium is a wonderfully targeted strategy.
Consider taking ovulation-promoting herbs such as vitex. Vitex, also referred to as Chaste Berry, has been shown to enhance mid-luteal production of progesterone.
Weave self-care and stress-relief into each and every day because stress is the number one way to deplete progesterone stores by “stealing” pregnenolone [parent hormone to progesterone] away to produce more cortisol instead of progesterone in times of high stress.
Even through menopause, these crucial progesterone pre-cursors stimulate the adrenal production of progesterone.
Along with implementing these strategies, it would also be wise to test estrogens and progesterone to find true clarity on your levels of each.
Until then use this step-wise protocol to navigate night sweats with confidence.
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