Mood swings like you're a teenager again. A feeling of brain fog. About as much interest in sex as in doing your taxes. These are some of the shockingly common complaints heard in doctors' offices around the country. The one thing these varied woes share? Fluctuating hormones. "Your body is a finely tuned hormonal symphony," says integrative physician Tami Meraglia, author of The Hormone Secret, and, consequently, even very slight changes can yield enormous side effects.
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"Somewhere in your mid-30s to early 40s, levels of key hormones shift as the body progresses through perimenopause toward menopause," says Sara Gottfried, an integrative physician and the author of The Hormone Reset Diet. "Many women don't realize that these changes can happen as young as 35," she says. How to fight back? Every woman is
different, but the experts agree that dietary supplements and bioidentical hormones can be effective tools.
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as having a blood test to determine your hormone levels. For one thing, hormones can rise and dip dramatically over the course of six months, says Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine. What's more, you can have levels that fall within the "normal" range but still suffer dramatic side effects, notes Meraglia. So ask your doctor for blood tests to determine your levels, but then have her repeat them once you've had treatment and feel better so that you know "what your levels are when they are optimized," says internist Erika Schwartz, author of Don't Let Your Doctor Kill You. Here, a hormone cheat sheet.