Menopause takes the main stage for hormonal changes in a woman’s later-life. However, the transition period, called perimenopause, can be just as tumultuous and last up to 10 years. This particular period in every woman’s life is largely underrated. We speak about puberty, pregnancy, post-child birth and menopause as hormonally turbulent times in our lives but very rarely discuss the slow-burn of perimenopause. Even my spell check does not recognize it.
Perimenopause usually happens to women when they are in their 40s, but sometimes can happen as early as their 30s. Like puberty, perimenopause entails significant hormonal shifts. Typically, this transition begins 7-10 years prior to menopause. During this period the ovaries begin to make less estrogen. Between 35-55 a woman’s estrogen levels drop around 75%.
A woman’s fertile years are controlled by a delicate, well-orchestrated dance of hormones. Estrogen, which is produced by the ovaries, plays a critical role in multiple systems. It is a chemical messenger that controls how almost every tissue and organ system behaves. The consequences of less available estrogen throughout the body are varied and can range from unnoticeable to severe. Some women sail through this transitional time completely unaffected by the hormonal shifts and changes while others feel the effects profoundly. These symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes, frequent UTIs, weight gain, increased PMS, moodiness, depression, breast tenderness, low libido, fatigue, vaginal dryness, incontinence, irregular menstrual cycle, insomnia, urinary urgency, increased heartbeat, headaches, difficulty concentrating, hair changes, muscle aches, decreased fertility, forgetfulness, bone loss, changes in cholesterol levels and discomfort during sex.
How a woman experiences perimenopause has a lot to do with her stress level. The decrease in available estrogen has a negative impact on her neurotransmitters. This is amplified by the stressors associated with this time in a woman’s life. Perimenopause coincides with some of our most stressful periods. Whether we are caring for aging parents, raising young children, reaching a peak in our careers or all of the above, our degree of stress plays a role in how we experience perimenopause.
Perimenopause, though uncomfortable, is a natural event in the body. It is the necessary slow down of the fertility cycle to bridge the time between fertility and infertility. Natural methods of balancing the body can be utilized to moderate the symptoms. Making your body as healthy as possible and not participating in behaviors that can have negative consequences for your health can have a big impact on how well you get through it.
-Maintain ideal body weight. This can be achieved through intermittent fasting, regular exercise and a nutrient-dense, low sugar, plant heavy diet.
– Exercise- both aerobic and strength training. Though aerobic training is important the most important exercise for a perimenopausal/menopausal woman is strength or resistance training.
– Treat and control medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This can be achieved with medications and/or diet.
-Follow a diet low in saturated fat and trans-fat.
-Eat a diet high in fiber, whole grains, legumes (such as beans and peas), fruits, vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables), fish (especially omega 3-rich fatty fish), nuts and seed and folate-rich foods.
-Meditate to reduce stress levels. Stress reduction is imperative to hormonal balance.
-Find your tribe. Being part of a community of people has been shown to have a positive impact on stress levels.
Balance is possible.
If you need help in achieving this kind of balance please call me at 631-500-9021 to make an appointment.
By Tapp Francke Ingolia
as seen in The Purist Magazine