To say that hormones are powerful is an understatement. Hormones are responsible for a variety of functions from stimulating appetite to initiating the fight-or-flight response to regulating pain. When they’re out of balance, they may “speak” to you. You just need to pay attention. If you’re a woman experiencing any of the following, hormones may be to blame.
For much of her life, a woman’s ovaries are responsible for producing hormones that make her more conflict avoidant, nurturing, and emotional. When the ovaries stop producing these hormones in menopause, her personality may seem to change overnight. This is a common experience for spouses and children who are wondering what happened to the person they once knew. There is a chemical reason for the shorter temper and lower tolerance that manifests as being moody – it’s the decrease in estrogen and progesterone and all the ramifications from that.
Not-so-fun fact: one in two women will experience stress or urge incontinence in middle age. Leakage can be one of the first signs of changing hormone levels, specifically a decline in estrogen. It’s embarrassing and it can occur during the simplest of activities, such as laughing, sneezing, and lifting heavy objects. If it happens to you, just know that it’s very common.
Thinning Hair (and Chin Hairs)
Women going through menopause may notice hair thinning at the front and crown of the head. They may also notice new hair growing where they don’t want it, like on the chin. It may be genetic but often comes down to hormones. A decrease in estrogen and a change in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone may be responsible. Thyroid dysfunction is also a common culprit for thinning hair.
Trouble Concentrating and Remembering
“Brain fog” – or “cotton brain,” as some of us call it – can be extremely upsetting. You may suddenly find yourself forgetting how to do things that were second nature to you, or searching for the name of a close friend. This is not in your imagination. While it may be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s, if you’re in middle age it’s more likely due to leaky gut, blood sugar imbalance, or hormones. Adrenal fatigue can be responsible for brain fog, and so can decreasing levels of estrogen during perimenopause.
Has a bed partner told you that they can’t take your snoring anymore? It could be Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which can appear or worsen during menopause due to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. OSA is caused by an obstruction in the airways that leads to a pause in breath multiple times during sleep which can affect brain and heart health. The most obvious sign is loud snoring, but OSA can also cause daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and headache upon waking. If you think you might have OSA, ask your doctor about having a sleep study done in order to diagnose and treat it.
Depending on what you’re experiencing and the severity, you may be able to address your symptoms through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, or you may want to work with a physician to take hormones to restore healthy levels.