Puberty (age 9-21)
Our early menstrual cycles can be quite irregular and this is entirely normal, as it takes time for the body to build up enough of a hormonal concentration to allow us to ovulate and menstruate regularly. However, as we progress through this stage it’s important to be aware of fluctuations as they can be an indicator that our hormones and health are out of balance.
Adult menstrual years (age 21–35)
This phase is when we are usually at our most fertile. It’s also a time when we can experience more stress and increase our intake of alcohol and caffeine, which can all have a negative effect on our hormonal harmony. If you suffer from painful cramps, low mood, acne, migraines, irregular periods or any of the many symptoms of PMS, these can be indicators of a hormone imbalance and/or an underlying health condition, so forget stoicism and seek professional advice. Preserving our fertility during our menstrual years (whether we want to have children or not) can help us to enjoy a happy, healthy life.
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Pregnancy and post-pregnancy
This is a phase that some of us choose to enter, some of us not, and some of us hope to enter, but sadly find that we cannot. Preparing our bodies for pregnancy, and the surge of pregnancy hormones we will experience, can help us to minimise hormonal symptoms for a healthier, happier nine months. After pregnancy, a period known as post-partum, our levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone take a nosedive before they readjust to a more even keel so eating well, exercising and looking after our mental health are especially important.
Perimenopause phase one (35-45 years old)
At 35 to 45, hormonal balance can become elusive as our hormone levels began to fall as we leave our most fertile phase. Despite this, if we are in good health, eating well and exercising regularly many women continue to ovulate and menstruate regularly and have good energy and sex drive – because ultimately our bodies prefer to be in hormonal homeostasis, a state of equilibrium. If these hormonal changes are affecting your wellbeing, look to your body for clues. Difficulty with fertility, vaginal dryness, wrinkles and dry hair are all indicators that your hormones are imbalanced. Often a few simple switches to your diet through the right foods and supplements are all you need.
Perimenopause & menopause (45- 55 years old)
This stage of the perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less oestrogen and the body also produces less progesterone and testosterone. It usually starts in our 40s, but can start in the 30s or even earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. If you’re experiencing symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats and a reduced libido then it’s likely your hormone levels are unbalanced and in need of attention.
Once you have passed through the menopause your oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels will be lower than they were during your menstruating years, but they should be in balance. Enjoy it! This is a time to check in on your health, to ensure you are supporting your body as you age with a nutrient-rich diet that focuses on good gut health and digestion as our ability to absorb nutrients can become compromised with age.
Photo by Leandro Cesar Santana and Shwa Hall on Unsplash