Everyone tells you that your 40’s are one of the best decades of your life. You have survived the partying years in your twenties, the career pressure and mayhem of young children in your thirties. Finally, it is in your forties that you are supposed to be able to get back to being yourself. To feel comfortable in your skin and to be true to yourself by knowing what is right for you.
Often in their forties, women find that their patience has been zapped and irritability is through the roof. Add to this some fatigue creeping in and the visual signs of aging starting to show. All of a sudden this decade doesn’t seem like its going to be all that its cracked up to be. So why is stress so hard to manage in your forties?
So what’s going on?
When women creep into their forties their level of progesterone naturally starts to decline. This is the first tell tale sign that peri-menopause is approaching. Progesterone is a wonderful hormone that promotes a calming and nurturing feeling. It is also beneficial for thyroid, immune and detoxification systems.
Progesterone helps to regulate our stress response. It also helps the growth of new nerve cells in the area of the brain that manages our stress response. Progesterone also gets converted to a neurosteroid called allopregnanolone. When allopregnanolone production is reduced, it is linked to the development of anxiety and depression.
To compound this further, when we are under constant stress our body will convert available progesterone to cortisol to help manage this stress. This further drains your progesterone supply. On a side note, the body is actually very clever for doing this. Our body knows that chronic stress is not a healthy state to be pregnant in. By stealing away progesterone, the ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy is dramatically reduced.
The natural decline of progesterone…
The decline of progesterone is a natural process that all women will eventually go through. Progesterone supplementation or creams can slow the decline of progesterone, however, it will eventually come to an end. The body produces progesterone after ovulation has occurred. As women get closer to menopause, the body struggles to ovulate every month, resulting in lowered progesterone. The slow progress into menopause gives your brain the chance to adapt to a state of lowered progesterone.
During these peri-menopausal years women are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression. Whilst researchers are not completely sure as to why this occurs, there does appear to be a link to the fluctuation in ovarian hormones. Taking this into account, women need to look deeper into why they are feeling the way that they are. It is vital not to just reach for pharmaceutical treatment for mood disorders.
Natural Support for Progesterone
Working with a naturopath can help to tailor a support program that is specific to your health needs. Some of my favourite treatments include –
Vitex is a traditional herb that is used to support and enhance ovulation. The only way our body gets progesterone is via ovulation.
Magnesium has wonderful stress reducing actions in addition to supporting hormones, regulating cortisol and helping sleep.
Taurine is an amino acid that is used to calm the brain by increasing GABA and reducing adrenalin and glutamate (both excitatory neurotransmitters).
Adaptogenic herbs – This refers to a herbs ability to support the body in its response to stress and the hormonal cascade that comes from it. Two of my favourites are Withania and Rhodiola.
Natural Progesterone Cream can help to reduce symptoms of lowered progesterone levels. Use 20mg per day applied to the skin. Progesterone is naturally cyclic in nature, so you should use the cream in the same manner. Please consult with a qualified health practitioner for personalized advice on using these creams.
Managing stress levels now is going to make the transition into menopause so much easier. Don’t wait for symptoms to present themselves, take proactive steps to prevent these symptoms from becoming an intrusive part of your life.