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.
Did you know there are a whole host of other symptoms associated with perimenopause. Here a few:
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Dental issue
- Hair thinning
- Dry Eyes
- Difficulty focusing, memory issues or issues with word recall
- Electric Shock Sensations – this is one I get!!
- Heart Palpitations
- More Urinary Tract Infections
- Joint Pain
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 change. 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 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 so make sure you are using birth control if you don’t want to conceive.
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.
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.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
We highly recommend that you talk to your trusted ob/gyn or Dr. Kate about Hormone replacement therapy. HRT can be the most effective treatment for almost all menopausal symptoms.
Hormone therapy (HT) remains the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) and has been shown to prevent bone loss and fracture. Estrogen is your hormone that protects against bone loss. The slow drop in estrogen your body is going through could also be causing a drop in bone density.
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 in addition to or in lieu of HRT.
Evidence based nonhormonal options for the treatment of hot flashes and night sweats include: Cognitive behavioral therapy, clinical hypnosis, weight loss and stellate ganglion block, as well as certain medications including serotonin reuptake inhibitors, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, gabapentin, fezolinetant, and oxybutynin. It’s important to talk to a qualified practitioner about which is right for you.
Nutrition & Lifestyle
Dr. Kate suggests eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise and staying hydrated.
Here are a few specific tips:
Follow a Mediterranean Style Diet
- Consume a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Whole fruit is preferred over fruit juice because it contains more fiber and is digested slower.
- Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
- Limit intake of saturated-and trans fat.
Engage in some form of movement daily that you enjoy and look forward to as part of your daily routine.
Menopause does appear to result in an accelerated increase of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and total cholesterol during the year immediately after the final menstrual period. Menopause related rise in LDL-C can be reduced through lifestyle intervention of decreasing saturated fat and cholesterol intake and preventing excess weight gain through increased physical activity and exercise and reduced calorie intake.
If you are feeling blue about the end of the one phase of your life and a new beginning, talk it out with an emotionally mature friend or therapist.
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.
As with all natural remedies, talk to a provider who is well trained, use low doses and be careful. Be aware of any interactions with anything else you might be taking. It’s best to try only one supplement at a time.
Adding some specific vitamins and minerals to your diet may be helpful during this phase of your life.
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.
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. 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.
Supplements for Hot Flashes
Given mixed evidence of benefit for VMS, soy foods, soy extracts are not recommended for VMS. Given the lack of rigorous, evidence-based scientific research supporting the use of any over-the-counter supplements and herbal therapies are not recommended. Cannabinoids are not recommended either.
Is There a Cure for Perimenopause and Menopause?
Yes and no. It depends on what you mean when you are asking. If you are suffering from the symptoms, then yes. 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.
We highly recommend that you talk to your trusted ob/gyn or set up a time to talk to Dr. Kate about Hormone Replacement Therapy.
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 reproductive endocrinologist.