A few weeks ago on Instagram, I shared that the liver, adrenals, and nervous system are three areas to support during perimenopause and menopause consistently. I wanted to follow up with a bit more information.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. It’s a summary of my experience and education. Do talk to your functional or primary care doctor about the best solutions for you. Also, remember that the pausal stage is a time of great wisdom. Tune into it. You know your body better than anyone else. Be in awareness of your body and do what works best for you.
Let’s look at the liver, which has numerous functions. It detoxifies the blood, maintains blood glucose levels, supports bile production, synthesizes hormones, stores iron and vitamins, stores fuel (glucose for energy), etc.
-The liver stores vitamins like A, C, D, K, B12, and Iron. Vitamin A supports healthy eyes, hair, skin, bones, and teeth. D helps maintain healthy bones and mood. Vitamin K supports blood clotting – especially if experiencing heavy blood flow during perimenopause. B12 is vital to support brain health, concentration, and energy. Iron maintains energy and keeps the body from experiencing fatigue. Hence, deficiencies in these areas can trigger or exacerbate menopause symptoms.
-Fluctuating and high glucose levels can trigger hot flashes, headaches, dizziness, and heart palpitations.
-A build-up of toxins (internal and external) in the body can lead to joint pains, skin breakouts, fatigue, and brain fog. So optimizing the liver for efficient detoxification is crucial.
-That bloated feeling, constipation, and gassy build-up can result from inadequate bile production. Bile breaks down fat and supports the movement of foods through the lower digestive system for elimination.
Symptoms of liver congestion: PMS, bloating, congested skin, eczema, rosacea, high cholesterol, poor sleep, brain fog, hot flashes, fatigue, heart palpitations, constipation, wind, headaches, itchy skin, joint aches, pains, etc.
- First, determine if hot flashes are from liver/gallbladder congestion or low estrogen.
- Adopt a healthy diet. Drink lots of water. Avoid highly processed and sugary foods. Limit liver loaders like caffeine, alcohol, toxicant cosmetic ingredients, sodium intake, etc.
- Use herbs to support liver function. Examples include black cohosh or sage (low estrogen), astralagus, danshen, ginseng, garlic, green tea, licorice, milk thistle, turmeric, Schisandra, bupleurum, globe artichoke, etc.
- Maintain (not increase) fiber to keep your bowels regular, as constipation can create additional stress on the liver.
- Support the liver detox pathways with B vitamins, Vit C and E, folic acid, antioxidants, sulfur, cruciferous veggies, phytochemicals (ex. garlic), amino acids, etc.
- Take a quality multivitamin.
- Drink green veggie juices and or smoothies.
The adrenal glands, also known as the “stress glands,” produce hormones responsible for regulating sugar, blood pressure, metabolism, stress response, and other essential body functions. They are responsible for making the hormones progesterone, adrenalin, and cortisol.
-Adrenaline, the short-term hormone, can have good and bad consequences depending on what’s influencing its presence. Traditionally this hormone was only produced when someone was in danger (ex., an animal chasing us/real danger). When the body perceives a threat, glucose is diverted from the digestive system to the hands and legs to support the fight or flight response, i.e., running away from an animal chasing you. Once the imminent danger is over, the adrenalin subsides in the body. That’s the way it should be.
However, present-day psychological stressors (daily worries, etc./perceived danger) stimulates adrenaline production. Let’s face it; you’re not in real danger if you’re sitting at your desk worrying about which outfit to wear to work tomorrow or when you’re going to have time to do your laundry. The body cannot distinguish between real and perceived danger. So while you are sitting at your desk worrying, the stress response system is activated, and adrenalin and glucose accumulate in the blood. To manage elevated glucose, the body makes insulin, a fat-storage hormone. But it also causes a crash and fatigue, which then cause cravings for sweets foods to feel energized. You can see how some menopause symptoms like cravings and weight gain can result from this cycle.
-Cortisol is the body’s long-term stress hormone. It facilitates the body’s anti-inflammatory response and memory formation, burns fat for energy, and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. Long ago, long-term stress looked like a lack of food due to war, floods, or famine, which slowed down the metabolism and stored fat for when needed. Today, however, long-term stress tends to be psychological (perceived threat). For example, we stress about jobs, relationships, money, etc. Meanwhile, the body thinks it’s storing food for an emergency. Long story short, ongoing stress can elevate cortisol production, which leads to anxiety, obesity, fluctuating blood sugar, etc.
-As estrogen and progesterone decline in the ovaries, the adrenal glands assume the task of hormone production. However, due to the chronic stress many are under, the adrenal glands may become depleted and unable to produce the appropriate amount of hormones needed for optimum well-being.
Real or perceived stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which should be turned off after their response. But, long-term psychological stress keeps these hormones turned on, and this can wreak havoc on the body, even causing/exacerbating symptoms during perimenopause and menopause.
Symptoms of Adrenal Deficiencies: adrenal fatigue, fatigue, energy crash, depression, anxiety, poor sleep, dizziness, hair loss, brain fog, cravings, weight gain, joint pain, low libido, estrogen dominance, breast tenderness, Irregular periods (light to heavy), etc.
- Make time for meaningful rest
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Incorporate restorative practices like Yoga, Qigong, and Tai chi utilize gentle flows and breaths to bring the body back to center and maintain a state of calm.
- Get restorative sleep
- Use herbs like rhodiola, schisandra, guto kola, licorice, astralagus, ashwagandha, siberian ginseng, withania/aka ashwagandha
- Use a quality supplement that contains a blend of adrenal-supporting herbs.
The nervous system is largely responsible for our state of calm and includes the Central nervous system (CNS) and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches: The parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest, repair, and digestion and the sympathetic nervous system, which drives the flight or fight response.
The conscious mind controls the CNS. You can tell it what to do. On the other hand, the ANS is controlled by the subconscious mind. You cannot control it or tell it what to do.
That said, the ANS is affected by psychological stressors, and its response is based on our behaviors/perceptions, which can contribute to the symptoms women feel during menopause.
The only way to effectively influence our ANS is with our breath. Read that again. The breath is the cornerstone of calm and maximum health. Breathe in deep, every chance you get.
Symptoms of Nervous system challenges: sugar cravings, chronic stress, weight gain and changes in the physical body shape, caffeine craving carbs/sugar, glittery, sleep poorly, tired but wired, air hunger, sadness, anxiety, shallow breathing, low energy, etc.
Nervous system support
- Diaphragmatic breathing communicates to every cell in your body that you are safe and ok. It is the only way to signal to the Autonomic Nervous system (ANS) that all is well. Use your breath intentionally every day.
- Take magnesium
- Reduce stress
- Get quality sleep
- Restorative practices like Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi
- Create joy and laughter
- Consume healthy fats
As is evident, many systems and organs work in tandem to maintain homeostasis at all times during all stages of our lives. How we deal with stress is a significant factor in how we experience perimenopause and menopause. My goal is not to suffer through this stage but to thrive. How about you? Are you experiencing perimenopause or post-menopause? Are you experiencing symptoms? How are you managing symptoms?
Bonus: A Breathing technique to immediately bring your body to a place of ease and calm.
HOW TO DO THE 4-7-8 DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING TECHNIQUE:
- Place your tongue to the roof of the mouth, just behind the top of your front teeth
- Keep your lips slightly parted
- Relax your entire body, including your face
- Inhale through the nose for a count of four
- Hold the breath for a count of seven
- Exhale through the nose for a count of eight.
Repeat the breaths three to five times, and you can do them anywhere; sitting, driving on your bed, at the desk, etc.
Cheers to your best breaths!