As women transition into their peri-menopausal and menopausal years, they often experience a myriad of symptoms that can disrupt daily life and make them feel unlike themselves. It can be a stressful time — physically and emotionally. From stress and weight gain to brain fog and sleep disturbances, these signs are frequently rooted in hormonal imbalances. But what if we told you that understanding and regulating your nervous system could be a key to unlocking better health and vitality?
Understanding the nervous system
The nervous system is your body's command center. It regulates everything from your heartbeat to your ability to handle stress. During menopause, hormonal fluctuations can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to the symptoms many women face.
An overactive sympathetic nervous system causes the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, making our breathing shallow and fast, sending our heart rates up, and diverting all available resources like blood and oxygen to our heart, lungs, skeletal muscle systems, and amygdala (the fear center of our brains) to get us out of harm's way. Since we only have so much blood and oxygen to go around, all the systems that aren’t responsible for survival in those moments, like digestion, reproduction, immunity, and even emotional regulation get deprioritized in order to make sure we get to safety. This is how we survived over time, because our nervous system evolved to not allow us to fall asleep or think about reproduction or getting to know each other when there might be a bear or lion nearby.
Nervous system and hormone imbalance
Estrogen, a key hormone that declines during menopause, has a significant impact on the nervous system. This decline can lead to heightened stress responses and disrupted sleep patterns. It's not just about feeling stressed or tired; these changes can exacerbate other menopausal symptoms like weight gain and brain fog.
Regulating your nervous system
Fortunately, there are several strategies to help regulate your nervous system:
- Mindfulness and meditation: Regular mindfulness practices can reduce stress and improve your body's response to hormonal changes. Simple techniques like deep breathing or guided meditation can be powerful tools.
- Exercise: Physical activity, especially yoga and aerobic exercises, can help regulate the nervous system. They not only improve muscle mass and energy levels but also enhance your mood and sleep quality.
- Nutrition: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and B vitamins support nervous system health. Incorporating these into your diet can aid in managing stress and improving overall well-being.
- Sleep hygiene: Prioritizing sleep is crucial. Establish a regular sleep routine (also known as sleep hygiene), limit screen time before bed, and create a calming bedtime environment.
- Supplementation: Certain supplements, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, can support nervous system health. These might include adaptogens, magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
Products that support nervous system health
When considering products, look for those that support the strategies mentioned above. Whether it's a meditation app, a yoga mat, or a high-quality supplement, each product should clearly align with the goal of nervous system regulation and overall well-being.
One of my favorite products that helps to regulate the nervous system is the Apollo wearable. Created by neuroscientists and physicians, the Apollo wearable delivers gentle, soothing vibrations that help the body switch from “fight or flight” to a more “rest and digest”, parasympathetic state. Apollo is designed to offer the benefits of mindful practices like meditation and breathwork through your body’s natural response to touch, and improves your deep sleep, REM sleep, and total sleep time.
Navigating the peri-menopausal and menopausal years doesn't have to be a struggle. By understanding and caring for your nervous system, you can significantly impact your health, vitality, and quality of life. Remember, small, consistent steps can lead to big changes.
Stephanie Estima is a world-renowned women's health expert on improving health span, lifespan, and optimal performance. Through a deep understanding of neuroscience, metabolism, nutrition, and exercise physiology she helps women make informed choices on evidence-based health strategies and tools.