Throughout most of my life up until I had children at 35years old, I thought I was bullet proof. I exercised, worked long hours and enjoyed a robust social life. And I had boundless energy. Yes of course I got tired but usually this was a reasonable response to a particularly full workload or late night.
Upon the birth of my children, I experienced a level of fatigue that I had never encountered before. And yes, this could perhaps be considered a ‘reasonable’ response to what I was going through at that time. When I say reasonable, I mean that there were an array of reasons as to why I felt that if I closed my eyes anywhere at any time, I’d fall asleep.
I became queen of the power nap. ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ was my mantra – except my second child never ever slept.
When the days became weeks and the weeks became months, and the juggle of all things motherhood seemed impossible to keep on top of (which was crazy given my previous career), the cracks started to appear. Firstly, they were surface cracks but before I knew it, the cracks revealed much deeper crevasses in my physical and mental wellbeing. And I found myself finally surrendering to the notion that I, the most capable individual I knew, was not OK.
Today, mental health is a hot topic. People are encouraged to check in on their friends and family and there’s tips on how to recognise the signs. This is a big ask when the person in the grips of despair is perceived as the “strong” one. The vibrant, happy, seemingly successful and vivacious woman - what could possibly be wrong? Fortunately, through recent media and social media attention, we have now learnt that this is not always the case.
This was not the first time I experienced feeling overwhelmed and anxious with the occasional panic attack - and nor was it the last. I spent a long time “wired and tired” and at times I still feel like this is my new normal, but I make sure I 'walk my talk' to rest, restore, nourish and nurture myself.
Throughout my journey I now have the means to not only help myself but to help others as well.
Then along comes peri-menopause. Just when I thought that maybe things might have settled a bit with the kids at high school and life was brimming with joy, there’s another hormonal shift.
In peri-menopause, not only is there a change in oestrogen and progesterone but norepinephrine (stress) goes up and serotonin (mood) goes down.
Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body which acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter which is released into the blood. It underlies our “flight or fight” stress response and sudden bursts can lead to anxiety and panic attacks whilst low levels, can cause lethargy and a lack of concentration.
Serotonin can loosely be described as a happy hormone. Of the estimated 40 million brain cells, most are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour.
Furthermore, 90% of serotonin can be found in the digestive system – yes, the gut.
So when you think about it, it’s reasonable to suggest that when these hormonal levels change during peri-menopause, there’s a greater risk of depression, anxiety and daytime fatigue.
In fact, the rate of major depressive disorder and elevations in depressive symptoms increases two to threefold during the menopausal transition (1)
If like me your temperature feels like it’s been turned up a notch at night time necessitating a complete PJ change, kicking off the covers, restlessness and hot flashes, then this is due to the narrow thermoregulatory set-point in the hypothalamus.
As a naturopath who dispenses bespoke herbal medicine there are a number of plants that can be prescribed to lend some support to the peri-menopausal woman and I’ll be highlighting some of these.
At this stage of my journey, I take herbs. I love herbs. Herbs have saved me.
As I’m not a doctor, please have a chat to your integrative GP about HRT as I’m not going to jump into that here – for the moment anyway.
Be aware that every herb has its own beautiful and yet powerful array of actions in the body so for your special blend, you can connect with me.
Herbal teas are a great starting point for gentle therapeutic action if you want to introduce yourself to herbal medicine. As you will know my favourite herbal teas are from Ovvio Organics and there are specific blends that I can recommend such as Clarity Sage.
Some of my favourite herbs from my dispensary (and in my own tonic) include:
Sage and Zizyphus for night sweats
Black Cohosh and Rehmannia for hot flashes and
American Ginseng, Chamomile, Holy Basil, Kava, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Magnolia, Passionflower, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Siberian Ginseng, St John’s Wort, Withania for depression, anxiety & daytime fatigue
Once again as always, if you are suffering from ANY symptoms – whether you suspect you’re peri-menopause or otherwise – please do not self-prescribe and please seek advice from your qualified healthcare practitioner.
Oh, and if you’ve been following this feed. Day 51 and counting.
Resources and Sources