In my early 40's. menopause was the furthest thing from my mind. I found out that typically the average woman in the U.S. doesn't hit menopause until age 51..ugh…I will be 49 next week! But over these past few years I have gradually started to have mysterious symptoms. Heart palpitations, erratic periods, insomnia, mood swings, brain fog, etc…Thank good ness I have not experienced any night sweats or loss of libido….I really hope this will by-pass me. My Mom did not experience night sweats, I am afraid to ask her about loss of libido, I have a feeling it may be true. When I hit 45 I assumed I had at least a few more years. I soon learned that I was actually experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, the 5-12 year transition that leads to menopause. It can begin as early as the 30's I found out! Though for most women it tends to be closer to mid-to-late 40's. Menopause isn't official until you haven't had a period for an entire year. And that is determined largely by genetics.
Why do these symptoms seem to on forever?? Hormones gone wild! Thanks to fluctuating estrogen levels, erratic periods are usually the first sign of perimenopause. They can get closer together or further apart, heaiver or lighter, longer or shorter. I also found out that your ovaries are making less progesterone, a hormone that calms the nervous system, so you may become more irritable and anxious ( oh really?) and see PMS go from bad to UGLY!!!!! This is so not fair!!!!
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health, 20% of women in perimenopause report severe symptoms, 60%, mild symptoms, and 20% no symptoms. On a happier note, while you can not stop time, you can minimize the toll these hormonal changes take on your body. It comes down to paying attention to certain health and lifestyle habits that make good sense no matter how old or young you are. According to Dr. Christine Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, you can sail through this transition. And if you enter menopause in optimal health, your symptoms will not be as severe or you may not even experience any at all.
So whether you are in the throes of perimenopause or just planning ahead, please explore these options for preventing and easing the potential problems. I am right there with you. I took the time to research this for us!
STOP THE STRESS CYCLE:
Stress is a fact of life for most of us. With that stress you are releasing a constant flood of the hormone cortisol which depletes the adrenal glands. This can make fatigue, mental confusion and hot flashes particularly bad during perimenopause. When your estrogen levels dip, the adrenal glands increase cortisol production. You are getting a double whammy of the stress hormone during the transition to menopause. (I hope men are reading this post as well!) Also cortisol levels are normally highest in the morning, then drop throughout the day. But in perimenopause cortisol levels stay elevated so falling asleep and staying a sleep becomes difficult!
Relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, massage , yoga, tai chi or qi gong. Cardio can also alleviate stress, but don't over do it. Pushing yourself too hard can weaken your adrenals even further! We can't win can we??
Hollie Lucielle a Naturopathic Dr. in West Hollywood also suggest supporting exhausted adrenals with stress busting herbs such as licorice root, ashwagandha (which is in Shakeology) and rhodiola.
CUT OUT WHITE FOODS:
Foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, pasta, bread and rice, as well as sweets and processed foods, raise cortisol levels. As noted above this can exacerbate perimenopause symptoms, including exhaustion, mental fogginess and hot flashes. Eating too many white foods also spikes blood sugar, which can lead to cravings and overeating, the result weight gain, making symptoms worse.
Choose carbohydrates in their whole-food form ( vegetables, and whole grains) over white flour, past, cookies, and crackers. Include quality proteins and healthy fats at each meal. Eating flax seeds, which is high is omega-3 fatty acids and cruciferous vegetables helps your body metabolize estrogen, which will balance it's fluctuating levels. Other good omega-3 sources include wild salmon, help or chia seeds and walnuts.
3 PERIMENOPAUSE POINTERS
1) Watch Your Weight: Women carrying extra pounds tend to suffer more hot flashes during perimenopause than women at a healthy weight. Eating well and getting enough sleep help with weight and perimenopause.
2) Stick with Exercise: Women ages 45-63 who exercise aerobically for 50 minutes a day 3-4 times a week have reduced menopausal mood swings, irritability and night sweats.
3) Limit Alcohol: Besides contributing to weight gain, alcohol spikes blood sugar, boosts cortisol, increases hot flashes, contributes to depression and ups breast cancer risk. It also causes an immediate imbalance of too much estrogen relative to progesterone.
THINK ABOUT YOUR THYROID HORMONE LEVELS:
During perimenopause, estrogen that is not counterbalanced by progesterone can slow the production of thyroid hormone, triggering weight gain, fatigue, depression, mental fogginess and other symptoms. In fact, about 25% of women discover they have low thyroid, or hypothyroidism during perimenopause.
Have your thyroid levels tested by an endocrinologist or naturopathic physician. If you discover you have low levels, this can easily remedied with thyroid medication.
EMBRACE THE CHANGE:
If a woman believes she will have a difficult time with menopause, it can become a selffullfilling prophecy. According to a 2011 study published. Menopausal women who exhibited negative attitudes about entering menopause experienced more severe symptoms.
Look at perimenopause as an opportunity to make positive changes by dealing with issues and problems you may have been ignoring for years. At perimenopause you come to a crossroads in your life where you have to choose between one path that says 'grow' and another that says 'stagnate'. It's often an ideal time to assess things like your career, relationships, or general health and well-being, and take proactive steps towards self-improvement. If the prospect of menopause is really taking a psychological toll, try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), advises Marianne Brandon, Ph. D. CBT retains your brain t let go of anxiety and self-defeating thoughts and subsequent reactions.
BEWARE OF THE PREGNANT PAUSE!!
Sometimes a missed period of two means pregnancy, not premenopause! If you are not looking to have a baby; continue using birth control until you have not missed your period for a full year. While fertility is greatly reduced during perimenopause, a "surprise" pregnancy is possible as long as you are ovulating
SUPPLEMENT YOUR SYMPTOMS:
While healthy lifestyle changes will likely lessen the severity of perimenopause symptoms, you may still experience them to some degree. If any of the following hit, try the corresponding natural remedies:
HOT FLASHES/NIGHT SWEATS:
A study published in the Journal of Women's Health and Gender based Medicine found that the black cohosh in Remifemin reduced hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and irritability by 70%. Suggested amount is taking 20 milligrams twice a day for 12 weeks. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to lower the frequency of hot flashes. Remifemin ($20 for 60 tablets; REMIFEMIN.COM) and/or 1 tablespoon daily of Flax Oil with cinnamon, a blood-sugar stabilizer.
MOODIENESSS, IRRITABILITY, BLOATING:
A Combination of magnesium (150 to 300 mg a day) and Calcium (500 to 600 mh twice per day) Beachbody has the best Calcium and Magnesium supplement. $17.95 for a 30 day supply.
Studies show that Puararia mirifica, or Thai kudzu, exhibits an estrogen like effect that boosts vaginal elasticity and lubrication, similar to hormone replacement therapy.
LOW SEX DRIVE:
Taking 500 to 1000 mg of Peruvian mace root can increase sex drive as well as ease anxiety. Thank goodness this is in Shakeology!
To relax at night, take 50 to 200 mg – building up slowly in 50-mg increments – of the amino acid 5-HTP before bed suggest Susan Doughty, APRN, CNP, and OB-GYN Nurse Practitioner and co-founder of New England Women Center in Portland, Maine.
Several studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids improve memory and cognative functioning in older adults. Dr. Northrup advises eating salmon and sardines (I love sardines!) as well as taking 1000 mg of fish oil supplements daily.
I hope that some of this information may help you. I have been putting into practice a few of the suggestions for years already. I can honestly say that I do not have these symptoms and I hope to continue this way. Are you ready to help each other out!
Maria DiCroce has been in the Health and Wellness industry for over 20 years. Fitness became a passion after attending some local fitness clubs and she became hooked. Always athletic, fitness was second nature. While working as a medical assistant and perfecting phlebotomy it was apparent that she was drawn more and more to the fitness arena. Getting certified with The American College of Sport Medicine – ACSM and AFAA, she decided to follow her passion to help people reach their health and fitness goals with personal training , group fitness and personal fitness coaching.