Though most women have heard of menopause and may be dreading its arrival, many are still unfamiliar with the phase that precedes this life cycle milestone — perimenopause. Because of this and because its symptoms come on earlier than would be expected for actual menopause, many women suffer needlessly in this in-between stage in their lives. Some of the most common of the wide array of symptoms present during perimenopause, which equates to hormone fluctuations, as women make the transition from fertility to menopause, can include:
- Irregular periods
- Increased Irritability
- Heavy bleeding during menses
- Weight gain
- Fuzzy or clouded thinking
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause can begin as early as your mid 30’s or as late as your 50’s for some — this makes the average somewhere right in the middle, starting for the majority of women in their mid to late 40’s and leading to menopause at the average age of 51.
Though hormonal fluctuations are common throughout the life cycle of a woman (and men, too!) a healthy body usually navigates these changes with little effort. But when these hormonal shifts are most dramatic, as in pregnancy or during perimenopause — our bodies may need extra support to stay in balance.
If puberty is the phase leading into fertility, perimenopause is its bookend, the phase leading the way out. As such, if left unchecked, it can leave you feeling just as crazy and moody as teenagedom, with hormones fluctuating far more than in the years previous. In fact, in a society like ours, filled with processed food, numerous environmental factors and inordinate amounts of stress, as well as lack of sleep, these natural hormonal fluctuations can become so erratic that you find yourself with a true hormonal imbalance.
What if I have an imbalance?
With hormonal imbalance, your symptoms during periomenopause can increase in severity and variety and may include severe irritability, depression, increased emotionality, irregular cycles, weight gain, migraines accompanying menstruation, poor sleep, and more.
Who is more likely to experience severe hormonal imbalance?
Women who are already burdened with extreme amounts of stress, and health or emotional issues, seem to have a tendency towards more extreme hormonal imbalance. Women who struggle with severe PMS symptoms, an indicator of hormonal imbalance in itself, also seem to suffer more during perimenopause and menopause. Chronic stress amplifies the effects of changing sex hormones and neurotransmitter levels in perimenopause and menopause, affecting the ratios between the two and resulting in more exaggerated symptoms.
In addition to chronic stress, lack of adequate sleep, poor nutrition, and inactivity factor in, and can escalate perimenopausal symptoms. This is because an unsupported body, loses its natural ability to detoxify and maintain its own natural balance effectively.
How Can I Regain Hormonal Balance and Find Relief?
Though a woman is not actually in menopause until she has not had a period for 1 year, the phase preceding this life change — perimenopause — can feel very tumultuous. The first thing to remember is that these hormonal fluctuations are normal in the life cycle of womanhood and not to let fear of menopause or the label of these phases define you. The more you resist the facts surrounding the time of life you may be entering, the less likely you are to seek help for your symptoms. Perimenopause doesn’t mean menopause is happening next year. In fact, women can experience perimenopausal fluctuations for 10 to 15 years prior to menopause. Wouldn’t you like to make the most of those years and not let hormonal fluctuations slow you down?
We’ve found the most effective approach to relieving perimenopausal symptoms begins with a well-supported body and endocrine system, through a healthful diet, moderate exercise, proper rest and reduced stress. In addition, supportive herbs and nutritional supplementation help to target and regain hormonal balance.
How we treat perimenopausal symptoms at Bloom
When a woman comes in to Bloom Natural Healthcare with perimenopausal symptoms, we take their complete history, do the necessary physical exams, order regular blood work if needed, and any other pertinent tests (such as a mammogram, etc.) Because hormonal fluctuations are normal during this time of life and provide only a mere snapshot of the activity happening for a woman and because most symptoms are treatable without formalized testing, we don’t test hormone levels routinely. We reserve costly testing for those patients who specifically request it, those who are interested in hormone replacement therapy during menopause or those cases, in which we suspect severe hormonal imbalance.
Our first line of treatment is to help our patients adjust their diet, exercise and lifestyle accordingly, helping to reduce stress and re-balance the system through acupuncture and supplementation like calcium and b-vitamins. The second line, is herbal medicine to help balance hormones and nourish the adrenal glands. If the symptoms prove more severe, only then will we move to the addition of bio-identical hormone supplementation. But, in general, we only use hormones, starting at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest time necessary, if all other efforts to re-balance the system, naturally, have failed. Thankfully, this has become the new standard of care for all physicians these days — western and holistic medicine alike.
If you suspect perimenopausal symptoms are affecting your day-to-day well-being, contact us to schedule a consultation and get you back on the road to balance.