What is Perimenopause??
So we’ve all pretty much heard about the menopause, right? That time in a woman’s life when we stop menstruating, and we get lots of horrible symptoms because of it – hot flashes, extreme mood swings, weight gain…
Would it surprise you to know that most of the symptoms we relate to the menopause actually happen before you get the menopause, during the time called Perimenoapuse?
I didn’t know about this until recently either!
So let’s get some facts straight.
The menopause is the time when our ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and our periods end. Basically, you are officially in menopause a year after your periods stop completely. That means zero periods, no spotting, nothing.
Now usually this is not a sudden thing, from one day to the next. For most women, there is a slower, longer process, and this all starts with the perimenopause.
The term perimenopause means “around” or “near” the menopause. This transition period can last between 8 to 10 years before we stop menstruating. Most women start this process around their mid 40s, but it can affect some women as early as in their mid to late 30s! During this time your periods become a bit erratic, some are lighter or heavier, you skip some, then sometimes you get 2 in a month!
If you look at the list of symptoms of the perimenopause, you may be surprise to see some that you only thought you’d get when you hit the menopause!
Symptoms can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Irregular/erratic periods
- Heavy periods
- Breast tenderness
- Headaches and migraines
- Bloating and other digestive issues
- Weight gain
- Mood swings, especially irritability and anxiety.
- Anxiety or depression
- Brain fog
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Low libido
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Skin issues
I have a suspicion that many women in their mid-30s to mid-40s have no idea that some of their uncomfortable symptoms could actually be due to the perimenopause and then spend years suffering or taking medications or treatments that don’t really do anything or may actually make things worse.
Is it too little oestrogen? or it is the progesterone?
Although it is commonly believed that this is the time when oestrogen levels fall, they are actually quite stable or even increase. Oestrogen doesn’t start to decrease until about a year after your periods stop (or the menopause, as we’ve just learned!).
It is actually the progesterone levels that do start decrease at this time, which then causes an imbalance with oestrogen, leading to oestrogen dominance.
It is this excess oestrogen in our bodies that is the major factor for many of the symptoms above, and when you add factors like stress or high insulin levels, then more oestrogen is produced, creating even worse symptoms.
I’ve just been reading Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Wisdom of the Menopause (amazing book, I recommend you to read it if you can!), and from her holistic perspective, it is not just our hormones that are solely responsible for causing all these symptoms – there is much evidence that unresolved long-term emotional stress is what worsens hormonal imbalance and thus worsens these symptoms.
I really resonate with this as that is what I see in homeopathy all the time, and not just with hormonal issues. Physical symptoms and ailments will usually have an unresolved emotional issue behind them.
What can we do about these symptoms?
First of all, remember, perimenopause is a normal part of our reproductive lives. Your body is winding down its production of eggs, so it is normal that hormone levels will fluctuate, and you may get some uncomfortable symptoms sometimes.
If perimenopausal symptoms are very uncomfortable and are starting to affect your everyday life in a negative way, then start doing some of these things:
- Try to eat a nutrient-dense diet, with more healthy fats (avoid all trans-fats/hydrogenated fats!) and protein and less refined and starchy carbohydrate content. Aim to choose carbohydrates that are higher in fibre, so that blood sugar levels don’t spike and fall rapidly, leading to blood sugar imbalance. Having higher insulin levels in your system will exacerbate symptoms of excess oestrogen. Also make sure you are getting enough omega fats and magnesium in your diet.
- Flaxseeds are an amazing food during perimenopause – they are a great source of omega-3 fats and high in fibre, and contain lignans, which are great for regulating our hormones!
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars (I know this is hard!!!).
- Stop smoking!
- Drink 1.5 to 2 litres a day of clean, filtered water. This will help getting rid of excess toxins (including excess oestrogen!), and will help with digestion, headaches, hot flushes, and dry skin symptoms.
- Exercise regularly doing something that you really enjoy and look forward to – whether it is yoga, running, walking, zumba, weights, cross-fit, or my favourite – pole dancing and aerial arts!. High intensity and weight-bearing exercise is particularly beneficial. Just choose something you love doing so you keep doing it! In addition to its benefits in weight loss or maintenance, keeping fit in a fun way will help your sleep, lift your mood, even alleviate hot flushes!.
If these things are not enough, then homeopathy and essences can really help. There are many remedies that will alleviate symptoms, and of course, it will help you address any unresolved emotional issue that may be exacerbating these symptoms. I may talk about these remedies in another blog, so keep checking in or sign up to my newsletter!
If your hormonal symptoms are affecting your everyday life more than you’d like, then feel free to get in touch to see if homeopathy can help. I offer a free 30-minute call where we can chat about how homeopathy can help you and see if we can work together.