What Should I Know About Hormones During Menopause?
It’s amazing how many of our body’s functions are controlled by hormones. But many of us know very little about them. This blog explains the basics regarding our hormones and how they are impacted during menopause.
What are Hormones and What Do They Do?
The endocrine system is responsible for regulating our physiology. It is composed of glands that produce and secrete hormones, the body’s chemical messengers that send signals into the bloodstream and regulate the activity of tissues and organs. They affect many different processes, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, emotions, and the immune system. Many hormones work together, so it’s important to view hormonal balance holistically.
How do Our Glands Get Impacted During Menopause?
It’s also helpful to highlight some key glands that are impactful during menopause including:
is the region of your brain that sends messages to the pituitary gland to regulate body temperature, blood pressure, hunger and thirst, mood, sex drive, and sleep. The hypothalamus and the pituitary work in concert to regulate hormones.
The Hypothalamus’ sensitivity to feedback declines during menopause and its ability to regulate our body deteriorates. The consequences can be hot flashes, night sweats, appetite changes, lower libido, and sleep issues.
is often called the “master gland” and controls several other glands including the thyroid, adrenals, and ovaries. The pituitary gland communicates with the ovaries through hormones such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
As women approach menopause, the pituitary gland may release higher levels of LH and FSH in an attempt to stimulate the ovaries to produce more estrogen.
regulates metabolism and energy and performs regulatory functions in almost every cell in the body.
Imbalances can produce symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, dry skin, thinning or loss of hair, cold sensations, constipation, elevated cholesterol, brain fog, and low libido.
What Key Hormones Are Impacted During Menopause?
receptors are present in your brain, gut, heart, lungs, breast, ovaries, bladder, muscles, and vagina and are essential for estrogen to perform over 300 bodily functions. It is key in fertility and maintaining pregnancy, but also important in brain function and mood, bone and heart health, and keeping cholesterol in control. During regular menstrual cycles, the levels of estrogen and progesterone are in balance with each other.
As we transition into perimenopause, our estrogen levels fall and then at menopause, our ovaries stop working and our estrogen levels decline.
The sharp decline in estrogen during menopause causes many of the typical menopausal symptoms. See Menowar’s blog, What Symptoms Can Women Experience During Menopause, for more information.
Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density during menopause, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis. Inflammation also goes up, so our protection from conditions like heart disease and strokes is reduced.
is often referred to as the pregnancy hormone, as it prepares the lining of uterus for a fertilized egg and helps maintain early pregnancy. If an egg is not fertilized, the production of progesterone stops, our uterus lining sheds, and the pituitary gland then begins our cycle again.
Menopause symptoms are impacted by the rapidly declining levels of progesterone, which can no longer balance estrogen levels, causing estrogen levels to rise before they decline.
Progesterone imbalances can cause vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) and genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM – vaginal dryness, irritation, decreased sensitivity, etc.), lower libido, anxiety, and insomnia.
in women is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. It plays a key role in estrogen production, contributes to libido, and may also impact energy levels, mood, bone health, muscle mass, cognitive function, metabolic regulation, and skin and hair health. Women actually have 3-4 times as much testosterone in their bodies as estrogen, but levels naturally decline as we age.
Low testosterone during menopause can cause reduced libido, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating.
is produced in the pancreas and is essential for regulating carbohydrates and fat metabolism. It is released in response to glucose in the bloodstream, and it moves glucose into the cells so it can be used for energy.
During menopause, declines in estrogen levels can lead to insulin resistance, which means that your body may not respond as effectively to insulin. Higher blood sugar and insulin in the bloodstream can contribute to higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
If you eat too much sugar and highly processed refined foods, these storage areas become full, and the excess glucose is converted into fat and deposited around the waist.
production starts in the hypothalamus and is released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream to help control the menstrual cycle and stimulate the growth of eggs in the ovaries. At the start of each menstrual cycle, the pituitary gland sends FSH to start your cycle.
During menopause, your brain signals production of FSH to stimulate the follicles, but there aren’t enough follicles to use the FSH, raising FSH levels in your bloodstream as the body attempts to get the ovaries to produce more estrogen.
More FSH can help contribute to weight gain, cognitive decline, and bone loss.
is made by your pituitary gland and helps control the menstrual cycle and triggers ovulation and helps with the hormone production needed to support pregnancy.
When estrogen deficiency happens during menopause, LH levels increase.
It is important to talk with your doctor, as low LH levels can also be associated with pituitary disorders or polycystic ovary syndrome.
controls how your body uses energy and tells your thyroid how much hormone to make. TSH affects nearly every organ in your body and helps control your weight, body temperature, muscle strength, and mood.
Changes in estrogen levels during menopause can affect the levels of thyroid hormone and TSH in the blood. High levels of TSH can result in fatigue and weight gain.
Again, it’s important to work with your doctor, as it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate the symptoms of hypothyroidism and menopause.
is the ‘stress hormone’ and is produced by the adrenal glands; it is the only hormone that we can make more of as we age. It helps balance blood sugar, initiates our “fight or flight response,” strengthens immunity, maintains restful sleep, and influences mood.
During menopause,cortisol levels rise and can result in mid-section fat, mood swings, brain fog, fatigue, and immune system suppression.
As our stress increases, menopause symptoms can worsen, and chronic stress can increase susceptibility to illness and can also affect your digestion, bone density, and heart health.
What Can You Do to Counteract Hormonal Imbalances During Menopause?
There are many different ways to mitigate the negative impacts of menopause. Most importantly, every woman’s menopause journey is different and will likely change over time – so there is no “silver bullet,” pairing several modalities is usually the most successful. There are many ways in which to both mitigate symptoms and improve your long-term health. Please see Menowar’s strategies for managing your menopause, including prescription options, diet, lifestyle, and mind and body options.
If you have any questions or want to work with Menowar on a customized menopause plan for you, schedule a free consultation here!
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.