Most of us underestimate the influence sex hormones have on women.
The balance of oestrogen and progesterone can affect everything from a woman's mental state to how much she weighs and the energy she has.
Since it's not something that is widely talked about, many of those having problems have tended to suffer in silence – they know something is wrong, but they're not sure what.
At 52, Aucklander Jane Lowe thought she was taking good care of herself. She practised yoga regularly and ate a healthy vegan diet.
So she couldn't understand why she was gaining weight, struggling with sleeplessness, suddenly uninterested in sex, and battling brain fog.
"I wasn't aware how early perimenopause could start or that it could last for so long," explains Jane.
Usually perimenopause (the transitional phase leading to menopause) begins in a woman's forties, although for some it can happen earlier.
This is the start of a gradual change as the ovaries make less oestrogen, periods become more erratic and symptoms like hot flushes and sleep problems can begin.
Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to several years, with four years often mentioned as an average length.
Jane was only sleeping with the help of pills from her GP.
"I was right at the point of losing my mind."
So in February last year when she heard of a new wellness tool, the Eve hormone balance test by BePure, she was quick to sign up.
The results of a simple urine test supplied her with clear information about where her body was at, and she was then guided on how to rebalance her system and help ease her transition to menopause.
"I tweaked pretty much everything as I considered it a wake-up call," says Jane, a freelance writer who runs her own website, The Yoga Connection.
"I upped the amount of vegetables I eat and paid attention to what I wasn't getting enough of. The biggest thing for me was practising better sleep habits."
Her hot flushes have stopped, the brain fog is lifting, and Jane is even managing to wean herself off the sleeping medication.
"I feel more like me," she says.
Sex hormones can be unbalanced at any age by various aspects of modern life, and stress is a biggie.
If the adrenal glands are busy pumping out cortisol and adrenaline in response to some perceived threat then they will shut down production of progesterone, throwing the balance with oestrogen out of whack.
Meanwhile the liver may be occupied dealing with everyday toxins – artificial sweeteners, colours, preservatives and pesticides in food, synthetic ingredients in the products you clean your house with and put on your skin, not to mention alcohol – so it doesn't get round to processing oestrogen properly, worsening the problem.
Beatrice Thorne is only 30 and has already experienced hormonal health issues.
She is the general manager at Eve by BePure and her personal struggle is partly what inspired the hormone-testing service.
After a decade taking the contraceptive pill, Beatrice came off it only to find her periods didn't return.
"I didn't have one for two years and was really concerned about my fertility. Then, when my periods did come back, I gained weight, had anxiety and sleeplessness, I got acne for the first time in my life and had headaches and extreme fatigue for months."
Testing showed that Beatrice's hormone levels were the cause of her problems. She has since made lifestyle changes that have helped her rebalance.
Stress reduction has been key – she does a daily morning meditation and practises mindfulness. She has also cut out inflammatory foods such as sugar, and is focused on eating organic, nutrient-dense foods.
"I plan to re-test a couple of times a year to see where things are at," she says.
"It's a good way of connecting with my body and seeing how I can best look after myself."
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