28 July 2023
Understanding Perimenopause: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
"I feel like I've been hit by a tired truck every day."
"My periods are all over the place! It's like a surprise every month!"
"The hot flushes come from nowhere!"
"I’m so angry, all the time!”
Do these sound familiar?
These are just some of the concerns I hear from women in my naturopath clinic when dealing with perimenopause. This transitional phase can be a complex and sometimes challenging experience, however armed with the right knowledge and a holistic approach, we can embrace this journey with grace and vitality. This blog is about Understanding Perimenopause: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.
Let’s delve in!
What is Perimenopause?
Peri-menopause is a natural phase that usually occurs in a woman's 40s or 50s, and it serves as a prelude to menopause—the point when menstrual periods cease entirely. During perimenopause, hormone levels fluctuate, leading to various physical and emotional changes. It is essential to recognize that each woman's experience may differ, as this journey is influenced by individual genetics, lifestyle, and overall health.
Recognizing Perimenopause Symptoms:
No 2 women are the same, symptoms of perimenopause can present in many different ways. Here are some of the common symptoms:
Irregular Menstrual Cycles:
Perimenopause often begins with changes in the menstrual cycle, including irregular periods, heavier or lighter flows, and varying cycle lengths. This irregularity may cause uncertainty and frustration for women who have been accustomed to a more predictable cycle.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats:
Many women experience sudden waves of heat and perspiration, especially at night, affecting sleep patterns and overall comfort. Hot flushes can be intense and may vary in frequency and duration.
Mood Swings and Emotional Changes:
Hormonal shifts during perimenopause can trigger mood swings, irritability, and heightened emotional sensitivity. Women may find themselves experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions during this phase.
Declining estrogen levels may lead to vaginal dryness, causing discomfort and pain during intercourse. This symptom can have a significant impact on a woman's sexual well-being and intimate relationships.
Insomnia and restless sleep can become more common during perimenopause. The combination of hormonal changes and night sweats can disrupt a woman's ability to get a restful night's sleep.
Fatigue and Lack of Energy:
Women may experience increased fatigue and reduced energy levels during perimenopause. This exhaustion can make it challenging to manage daily responsibilities and activities.
Changes in Libido:
Fluctuating hormones can also impact a woman's sex drive and sexual function. Some women may experience a decrease in libido, while others may notice an increase.
Perimenopause can bring about physical changes such as changes in skin texture, hair thinning or loss, and changes in weight distribution. These changes can be concerning for some women and may affect their self-esteem.
With reduced estrogen levels, you might experience joint inflammation, stiffness, and discomfort.
Causes of Perimenopause:
Peri-menopause is a natural biological process, but certain factors can influence the timing and intensity of its onset. Genetics plays a role, as women whose mothers experienced early menopause may enter peri-menopause earlier. Other factors that may contribute to the timing of peri-menopause include ethnicity, lifestyle choices, and overall health.
The primary cause of perimenopause is hormonal fluctuations, particularly a decline in estrogen and progesterone production. These changes can lead to the various symptoms experienced during this phase.
The modern lifestyle can also impact the experience of perimenopause. Poor dietary habits, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, and exposure to environmental toxins can disrupt hormonal balance and exacerbate symptoms.
Holistic Treatments for Perimenopause:
As a women's health naturopath, my approach to managing perimenopause focuses around supporting the body's natural balance and addressing individual symptoms. Here are some holistic treatments that can significantly improve a woman's peri-menopausal journey:
A balanced diet rich in whole foods, antioxidants, and essential nutrients can help regulate hormone levels and manage symptoms. Emphasize foods high in phytoestrogens, such as soy products, flaxseeds, and lentils. Avoiding processed and sugary foods can also promote hormonal balance.
Certain herbs like black cohosh, dong quai, shatavari, chaste tree and red clover have been traditionally used to alleviate perimenopausal symptoms. These herbal remedies may offer relief from hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings. However, it is crucial to consult a qualified naturopath before incorporating herbal supplements into one's routine. There isn’t a one sized fits all approach to managing hormones and symptoms with herbal medicines and long-term relief comes from having herbs prescribed to you for your unique situation.
Regular exercise, stress management techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation), and adequate sleep play pivotal roles in maintaining hormonal balance. Engaging in physical activity not only helps manage weight but also supports bone health and cardiovascular health. Stress reduction techniques can ease emotional turmoil and promote overall well-being.
Natural supplements like vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids can support bone health, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being during perimenopause. Consult your naturopath for the best supplements for you and your unique situation.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy:
For some women experiencing severe symptoms, bioidentical hormone therapy may be considered after thorough evaluation and consultation with a healthcare provider. Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to those naturally produced in the body and may help balance hormone levels.
Practices such as acupuncture, mindfulness, and biofeedback can help manage stress and promote emotional well-being. These holistic therapies can be valuable tools in navigating the emotional ups and downs of perimenopause.
Joining support groups or seeking guidance from other women who are going through or have experienced peri-menopause can be beneficial. Sharing experiences and strategies for coping with symptoms can provide invaluable emotional support.
To sum it up, Peri-menopause is a unique journey, and no two journeys are the same. Which is why some things work for some women and others, not. The good news though, is that understanding your journey and working together means that you do not have to suffer through perimenopause.
As a women's health naturopath, I am dedicated to supporting and empowering women through this natural transition, helping them embrace peri-menopause as an opportunity for growth, wellness, and empowerment. Remember, seeking professional guidance and personalized care is essential to tailor the treatment to individual needs, ensuring a smooth peri-menopausal journey for every woman. Embrace this chapter of life with self-compassion and a commitment to your well-being, and you will emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side of this beautiful transformation.
Understanding the symptoms and causes is key to navigating this journey. There are many holistic treatments out there that can make a real difference. From good nutrition to herbal remedies and lifestyle tweaks, I’ve got many awesome tools to share with you. If this resonates with you and you want to find out more, then book an appointment with me today.