Today, I have Maria claps, she is what I would call a expert or guru in perimenopause and menopause and women’s hormones. She has a wealth of knowledge, and I’m so thankful for what she shares on a day to day basis on social media.
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Maria Claps’ story
Maria Claps is a health coach and a Functional Diagnostic nutrition practitioner. When she was in her early 40s, she went through perimenopause; she didn’t quite know at the time what was happening. But there were palpable changes in her mood and body.
She sought out the help of a well-known doctor in New York City. She has previously labelled the visit an epic fail, and that just really didn’t help her and ran so many tests.
There was no coaching involved. The doctor gave her some hormones to try with no education on what’s really going on and how to advocate for herself. It was at that point she said, “I am going back to school and learn everything about hormones, perimenopause, and menopause.”
That’s when she started her educational journey at health coaching school and sought out mentorship, and she’s done courses designated just for physicians who have done the menopause method course.
And she still mentors with doctors that have been in the clinical trenches for decades on everything hormones.
Perimenopause is often referred to in the scientific literature as the Menopausal transition. Perimenopause is, on average for Western women, around about age 51.
Menopause is absence of a period for 12 months. It’s not your FSH level nor your oestradiol levels, it’s the absence of a period for 12 months.
Most women in their 20s, 30s or early 40s have predictable cycles. That’s if they don’t have PCOS, or stress, or hypothalamic amenorrhea.
At some point, it’s usually the 40s as ovulation tends to sputter, and so why is that important? If we don’t ovulate, we don’t create progesterone.
Changes in mood and weight
In perimenopsause, progesterone is dropping and estrogen is fluctuating, but it’s typically fluctuating at a lower level. So, in essence, both progesterone and estrogen are kind of on their way out.
When these hormones are dropping, it can pull down serotonin and interfere with dopamine. Some women can face issues with anxiety when their hormones are dropping. This affects mood, motivation, and libido.
Weight gain in perimenopause is often do to additional stress on our adrenal glands. Balanced blood sugar, consuming too much sugar, snacking all day will increase cortisol and cause problems with hormone balance.
Another issue is that when estrogen declines, our body finds it more difficult to deal with glucose. Reassessing what is being eaten is really important. Estrogen makes us sensitive to insulin, so when these levels drop we have less insulin sensitivity, which can contribute to weight gain.
Common mistakes women do when trying to alleviate their perimenopause symptoms:
- Caloric restriction and intense exercise (HIIT, bootcamps)
- Not sleeping long enough or well enough
- Not eating nutritious foods
- Not taking time for yourself
Supplements to take for perimenopause:
- Primrose Oil
- Holy basil
- Black cohosh (helps with hot flashes, but doesn’t address the root cause)
* DIM is contraindicative for perimenopause, please don’t take it unless you test your hormone balance beforehand.
Supplements need to be taken carefully, and usually for shorter periods of time. Shift your body into a certain metabolic direction, but it is 95% a lifestyle fix.
Supplements can help alleviate symptoms – but they will usually not get rid of the underlying issue. However, Vitamin D is important to supplement for many people.
Some of Maria’s favorite approaches to help with managing perimenopause in a holistic way:
- Get hormones tested
- Get some sunlight within a half hour of waking
- Restorative exercise – walking, yoga
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
Maria is a big fan of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Hormone therapy is for symptom alleviation; if you get the right dose of estrogen – you’ve got no more hot flashes and you’ve got no more vaginal dryness.
These two things alone can make women happy, but also when you’ve got enough estrogen onboard, you have less risk of Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis (in some cases, depending on age for menopause and type of preparation, you can actually reverse osteoporosis).
If you start it soon enough after starting menopause – this is called the Critical Timing Hypothesis – you’ve got cardio protection. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. After menopause, when we lose our estrogen, we have a very similar, if not the same, heart disease risk as men do.
Maria believes that having hormones balanced with bHRT, on or after menopause actually helps women stay thinner. It can be easier to maintain a healthy weight post-menopausally.
Progesterone is over the counter in the US, and is generally considered a very safe hormone, so many women are prescribed it. The problem with progesterone is that you need a receptor for it to be useful and have its effects on the body. Estrogen is what creates this progesterone receptor, so if you’re in estrogen decline it is likely that it will work initially, but over time you won’t have the appropriate receptors available for progesterone. It can go down a mineralcorticoid pathway to create bloating and so many other problems.
Birth Control on Menopausal Women
American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say that women can be on their birth control until they’re 55 – that is insanity. Remember, the average age of menopause is 51.
Let’s say a woman goes into menopause at 50 and she stays on a birth control. If she hasn’t had a hysterectomy, she will have a reliable monthly bleed with that placebo portion of the birth control pill.
She will not know if she’s in menopause. Her own hormones are completely depleted. There’s the issue of osteoporosis, and depending on the type of progestin in the birth control there’s also potential for blood clots.
Maria’s program: The Hormone Fix Inner Circle