Is it hot in here or is it just me? Do you find yourself asking this question more and more often? Have you found yourself doing that thing you swore you would never do—fanning yourself with any piece of paper available? Or are you waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat? Maybe you’ve even noticed some vaginal dryness. Or noticed that you aren’t feeling quite as amorous as you used to?
You probably recognize many of these symptoms as signs of menopause. But you feel like you are too young for this to be happening yet. Do not panic. What you may not realize is that you may be experiencing the first symptoms of perimenopause.
As a woman, you will experience many stages of life. These stages occur when your body experiences changes in your reproductive hormone levels. As our bodies mature our reproductive hormone levels gradually starts to decrease and eventually stops. This is a very natural and normal process. If you are one of the lucky ones you may actually sail through this process symptom free! But if you are like most women you will have a range of symptoms as you move on to the next stage of your life. So stay calm, remember to take some deep cleansing breaths, and read on to learn what you can do to help you with this transition.
What is Perimenopause?
Everyone is aware of what happens to a woman who is in the menopause stage of life. But most women don’t know there is a stage before menopause— perimenopause. Perimenopause begins when your estrogen and other sex hormones begin to gradually drop. Perimenopause usually begins 3-4 years before menopause. It can start as early as 10 years before you actually reach menopause.
During this time your ovaries decrease the amount of estrogen they produce. As a result, you will begin to notice some changes., You might see more of your hair on the shower floor. You might begin to have hot flashes or night sweats. You might notice that you are having trouble concentrating. Or you might be experiencing vaginal dryness. During perimenopause you are still able to conceive and have a normal pregnancy at this stage.1 Perimenopause is just mother nature’s way of saying you are getting ready for a metamorphosis—you are beginning your transition to the next wonderful stage of womanhood.
Typically around your mid-40s you will notice that your monthly period has become less regular. It will eventually come to a complete stop.2 You have entered menopause once you have not had your period for 12 months.3
Just before menopause your ovaries stop releasing eggs on a regular basis and estrogen production in your ovaries slows down. For most women this happens in their early 50’s. When this happens 75% of us will experience hot flashes.4
If you think about it, hormonal changes always have brought you new challenges. When you were younger the hormonal changes you were experiencing caused that monthly break out of acne. That morning sickness you may have experienced during pregnancy was also caused by hormonal changes in your body. So it makes sense that this drop in estrogen will cause you to experience some symptoms. You are not alone, as many other women your age are also experiencing these symptoms. This a natural normal process.
Natural Relief from Symptoms
Now that you understand what is happening in your body, you might be wondering what you can do to get some relief from these symptoms. Most of what Dr. Kate suggests for relief from perimenopause symptoms are things you are most likely already doing to maintain optimal health. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise and staying hydrated. Exercising regularly and drinking plenty of water are helpful since you are prone to gain weight during this phase of your life.
If you are experiencing hot flashes you might want to avoid hot and spicy food. Dress in layers in case you start heating up. You can remove a layer when you get hot and then after it passes you can slide that jacket back on and no one will be the wiser. You might want to consider limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake as these may make your symptoms worse. Carrying excess body weight may increase your symptoms.
Weight gain is normal around this time of life as the changes in your hormones can make you more prone to weight gain. Also this is the time of life that your metabolism begins to slow down. You may still have aging parents to take care of and children at home still. You also may be trying to balance a thriving career. With all that you are trying to balance, it is easy to let healthy habits slide. If your favorite pants feel a little too tight, schedule a call with Dr. Kate. She has several nutritional plans designed to help optimize your health during this season of your life.
Make sure to make time for yourself. Engage in some form of movement that you enjoy and look forward to as part of your daily routine.
Restorative, supported yoga poses have been found in clinical research to help alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.5 A regular yoga practice may make a difference in how you transition into this new phase of life. If you are starting to have irregular periods, yoga may be a nice addition to your normal workout routine to get the added benefit of relief of symptoms. If you already have a yoga practice be sure to add in some restorative poses to your regular routine. Cooling and restorative poses, such as a standing forward bend or a wide leg forward bend supported by bolsters can help reduce irritability and tension.6 Dr. Kate is a fan of yoga, and practices herself. One of her favorite experiences is at The Yoga Movement in Dallas. Dr. Kate finds yoga to be restorative and helps bring her back into her body, so essential for healing.
In addition, consider meditation or tai chi. These ancient practices have been shown to ease some symptoms associated with menopause.7
This part of life has been experienced by women for thousands of years all around the globe. Naturally, nature has provided us with some ideas for relief.
Having trouble sleeping? At this time and stage of your life, it’s likely your sleep is being disturbed just when you need it most. 8 Try adding some ginseng root to your favorite dish to help you sleep through the night. You can also try French Maritime bark extract also called ( Pycnogenol) which can be found in Thorne’s Meta-Balance. Studies show it helps with sleep and other side effects of menopause and perimenopausal symptoms after about 4 weeks.9
Black cohosh is a natural herb that can be ground up and has been found in clinical trials to ease symptoms of night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings by 25%.10 This supplement is often combined with St. John’s Wort for a more dramatic effect.
Experiencing vaginal dryness? Try adding soy to your diet. Eat that edamame at your local sushi restaurant. Adding soy to your diet with plant based estrogen may also help to alleviate vaginal dryness you’re feeling right now.11
There are several other supplements, such as dong quai, evening primrose oil, gabapentin, mirtazapine,, vitamin E, and wild yam, that have been used with some effectiveness. However, these supplements have not been studied in clinical trials.
As with all natural remedies use low doses and be careful. In this case if a little is working it doesn’t mean that a lot will not be better. Take the case of Ginseng. Take too much of it and you may not be able to sleep. Be aware of any interactions with anything else you might be taking. It’s best to try only one supplement at a time. Your beautiful body is going through its own metamorphosis so let’s not overwhelm it. If you are unsure where to start call Dr. Kate’s office for assistance.
In addition to natural supplements, adding some specific vitamins and minerals to your diet may be helpful during this phase of your life.
Vitamin D is a wonderful vitamin. Y If you are going through this beautiful metamorphosis, Vitamin D can be a key component. Recent studies have shown that for women in this stage of life Vitamin D can help your blood pressure, your lipid profile and blood glucose.12 You may think you are getting enough sunshine to get your required amount of natural Vitamin D. But let’s be honest, it’s winter and its’ been months since you have exposed your skin to the air.most of us are waiting for the days we can go out without a jacket. It’s best to add some Vitamin D pills to your diet. We, of course, recommend the Thorne Brand of Vitamin D as it contains no lactose or preservatives.
Estrogen is your hormone that protects against bone loss. The drop slow drop in estrogen your body is going through could also be causing a drop in bone density. Since bone loss can become a concern at this stage of life it’s a good idea to make sure you are taking a calcium supplement. The Menopause Bundle again is our top choice. Supplementation with the well-absorbed calcium encourages good bone density. Magnesium is also essential for maintaining normal bone density. In addition, magnesium helps maintain normal cardiac rhythmicity, healthy pulmonary function, and normal blood glucose regulation. Magnesium and calcium appear to work synergistically in the body. Both being necessary to maintain normal blood pressure, muscle contraction, and support for dysmenorrhea.
Is There a Cure for Perimenopause and Menopause?
Yes and no. It depends on why you are asking. If you are suffering from the symptoms, then yes. The symptoms of menopause will eventually fade. For 80% of us the symptoms of hot flashes will fade away like a memory after about 24 months. The lack of your period is permanent. No more tampons or pads.
If you are feeling blue about the end of the one phase of your life and a new one beginning, talk it out with a emotionally mature friend or therapist and remember this is a natural part of life.
If you are asking because of early menopause or are wondering about how this transition in life is affecting your fertility you should talk to a specialist. Those are best answered by Dr. Kate or your OB/GYN. Set up a time to talk to Dr. Kate.
Wishing you wisdom in this beautiful change of life.