Menopausal Years, Symptoms, Tips & Management – Part 3

Estrogen and Progesterone appear to be main culprits for symptoms in the menopause years.  Although, there is one more key hormone that should be addressed, cortisol.

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone, or a steroid hormone, made in the body from cholesterol and is commonly known as the “stress hormone.”  Cortisol follows a daily rhythm where it is high in the morning and then declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest point around bedtime. This is called the cortisol awakening response, or CAR. This surge is normal and healthy, high in the morning to make you feel awake and alert, then a gradual decline throughout the day, with lowest being at night, to make you feel sleepier.  The pattern of cortisol rhythm or diurnal pattern, can be altered to when cortisol is released, like in cases where people work at night, the pattern reverses.

Cortisol levels increase gradually with age anywhere in your 40s onward.  In regards to menopause there is a psychological impact that is linked to sleep-wake patterns, eating, physical activity and everyday life challenges.  

Cortisol and it’s functions

  1. Plays an important role metabolism in how the body uses fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
  2. Raises blood sugar because when cortisol is high, it mobilizes sugar as use of energy in “fight or flight” response.
  3. Anti-inflammatory – for immune system – like a hydrocortisone cream decreases inflammation
  4. Regulates blood pressure
  5. Normal cortisol levels maintain bone density
  6. Supports a healthy sleep-wake cycle. 

So, as you can see cortisol has important functions, but when elevated for long periods of time, problems start to rise.   Factors that cause stress can influence levels, they are things like a bad night’s sleep, sitting in traffic, bad news, work, school or family matters, overworking…the list goes on and on.  Elevated cortisol that stays high can lead to weight gain, elevated blood sugar, and a feeling of being, wired but tired, can leave you feeling not great.

Factors related to high cortisol in menopause are:

  • Low bone density
  • Memory problems
  • Perception of poor health
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats 
  • Sleep disturbances or problems (insomnia
  • A development of diabetes and heart disease 
  • Low energy, even if getting adequate sleep
  • Frequent colds
  • Cravings for unhealthy foods
  • Digestion problems like bloating
  • Weight gain, especially around the middle
  • Low sex drive
  • More aches and pains
  • Low mood

If you have been following along each week, you can start to notice some overlapping of symptoms with the different key hormones.  This means the answer to all these symptoms is balanced hormones.  There are different avenues you can take to try to achieve this, or to at least try to alleviate symptoms.  These range from certain herbal remedies/supplementation, lifestyle changes, specific nutrition, exercise -type & timing or HRT (hormonal replacement therapy).

*If this article or any past articles leaves you with questions, the want to be a better you, the courage to take the first step to a happier you, than please contact me at: 

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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