Perimenopause takes place over the several years leading up to menopause. It is frequently the time when we experience the most common symptoms of menopause. Since perimenopause takes place while we are still having periods, it often sneaks up on us and leads to confusion. Before their mid-forties, many women haven’t even heard of perimenopause. However, understanding Perimenopause, I believe is the key to aging gracefully and vibrantly.
It’s not about the Pause, it’s all about Peri.
Menopause is one of the few certainties in life for women so, if you have the chance, get ready for it – mentally and physically. If that boat has already sailed for you, there is still much you can do to make your menopause years as golden as they should be.
According to the North American Menopause Society, perimenopause can last for 4 to 8 years.
During perimenopause the ovaries gradually rebalance their estrogen and progesterone production in preparation for the menopause and the final cessation of periods. With the average age for menopause being 51 in North America, perimenopause generally starts for women in their mid-40s. However, it is possible for perimenopause to start as early as your 30s
Perimenopause – A Gradual Process of Change
For most women, perimenopause is a completely normal, gradual process, and not a disease to be treated. Perimenopause lasts until full menopause, i.e. the time when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last one to two years of perimenopause our bodies create significantly less estrogen and it is at this point that many of us experience the symptoms of menopause – typically when we are around 48 to 50 years of age.
Hormone Production and Rebalancing
As hormone production in our ovaries slows down, our bodies are designed to produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, at other sites in the body. For instance, estrogen, progesterone, and androgens are produced in the adrenal glands, body fat, the skin and the brain.
Unfortunately, a staggering 80% of women in the America experience difficult symptoms that impact their quality of life. Weight gain, mood swings, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of hair, thinning skin, low libido, and cognitive decline are just some of the common, but not normal symptoms women experience.
Common treatments in conventional medicine include antidepressants, sleeping pills, pain medications, HRT, or the wait and see approach. Many women are left suffering, being told that these symptoms are just a normal part of the aging process. This is not the solution.
For the vast majority of women, symptoms can be managed and reversed through lifestyle changes such as adapting our diet and nutrition, incorporating movement and exercise, getting proper sleep, avoiding toxins, and learning to relax. Difficult symptoms may require further investigation to determine the root cause and can often be alleviated by using natural treatments and therapies such as acupuncture, homoeopathy, and naturopathy.
A Self-Care Wake Up Call
It is important that, mentally and physically, we are as healthy as possible as we enter this new phase of life. Perimenopause need not be a negative phase of our lives – we can use it as a time to consider what changes we would like to make as we look at ourselves and at our circumstances. We may choose to put ourselves first and consider ways to improve and support our natural health.
How well are you really caring for yourself? Is perimenopause the prompt you need to put yourself first?
Our endocrine system is responsible for hormone production and it works to rebalance hormones and manage the changes brought on by perimenopause. The endocrine system may be under pressure coping with the changes in our bodies during this phase of our lives and it will not be shy about letting you know.
When the body produces uncomfortable symptoms, it is a clear signal that changes need to take place. This is often the case if we have not been able to look after ourselves properly. In this modern era, many of us are living under significant stress at home or at work. Our diet failto meet the body’s increased demands. Some of us may be chronically ill, and we may require a glass of wine or two to calm ourselves down after a long day. Many of our relationships can be draining and we may sleep badly. Overall, our energy reserves can be drained.
During perimenopause the body may start produce symptoms that make us stop, think and make necessary lifestyle changes – for ourselves. We must listen to our symptoms – they act as alarms, indicators that something is not right.
The sooner we accept that we are perimenopausal the better. By addressing the symptoms and spending some time and energy looking after our health we will be able to keep them at bay.
Ladies, it is time to put ourselves first! Perimenopause is a time to invest in us for OUR future!
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Women may experience some of the following symptoms during perimenopause. Every woman is different. Some may experience every symptom on the list, while others deal with very few of these symptoms, or none at all.
Changing periods – length of cycle, duration of period
Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
A loss of confidence
Decreased libido or sex drive
Urinary leakage, urgency or Urinary Tract Infections
Aches and pains in muscles and joints
It is absolutely possible to breeze through Perimenopause and Menopause with your body and mind virtually unaffected. In fact, many women report their only symptom to be the loss of their monthly cycle. No matter where you are currently at, take the following steps to leverage your genetics and your lifestyle to take control of your Perimenopause and Menopause years.
1. Manage Your Weight
Seek out natural methods to manage your weight and blood sugar. This may include making changes to diet and exercise and reducing toxic load. Have your hormones, thyroid and adrenals evaluated and take steps to optimize function.
2. Regular Exercise
Exercise at least 5 times a week to stay healthy mentally as well as physically. If you haven’t been exercising regularly start gently and build your stamina gradually. Ensure that you include regular weight bearing exercise, flexibility and cardiovascular exercise into your routine. Short bouts of high intensity exercise can save time and yield big results.
3. Diet and Nutrition
Lots of us are nutritionally depleted at midlife –it’s a good idea to get a genetic nutritional profile along with a micronutrient evaluation done todetermine if you are in balance or if you might need some supplementation. For example, a blood test showed that I was deficient in B12 which accounted for my lack of energy. B Vitamins are essential to the smooth workings of many of our bodily functions. Many women are deficient in vitamins like Magnesium and Zinc, while they may be overburdened with metals like copper and lead. Make sure your diet is balanced with tons of vegetables, protein at every meal and enough fiber to keep blood sugars and hormones in balance.
4. Develop Good Sleep Habits
Get more sleep and try to develop regular sleeping habits – keep mobile phones and TVs out of the bedroom and try to make your bedroom a sanctuary of calm with full blackout of light at night. If you have problems sleeping avoid caffeine after 12 noon. Adopt a regular bedtime routine and gradual unwinding and relaxation. Choose something you like – a lavender bath, a romantic novel, listening to a guided meditation, etc
5. Optimize Gut Health
A balanced body starts with a balanced gut. Gut health is directly tied to hormone balance and overall wellness. Test for and remove gut pathogens, bacterial imbalances and yeast. Choose probiotic and prebiotic rich foods, avoid alcohol and excessive sugar.
6. Learn to Say No
Don’t be a people pleaser. This is your time to take care of you. It is okay to say no to tasks and activities that cause stress and take away from your ability to heal your hormones. This is a practice, start with saying “maybe”. Give yourself time to think about your answer, then respectfully decline if the request does not line up with you goals.
If these lifestyle changes don’t make a positive impact on your perimenopause symptoms and you’re experiencing mood changes, sexual problems, issues with bladder control, or other troublesome symptoms, don’t give up. Seek the help of a skilled functional or naturopathic doctor who can help t uncover the root cause and restore your health.
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