Menopause is when you’ll get hot flashes, sleep problems, lose your sex drive, feel unsexy and put on weight, right?
So at 43, you are wondering “Why do I have all that plus the added insult of heavy periods and worsening PMS”?
Photo by Anne Lanphear
Most women associate menopause with problems, but fail to realize that the period of 10-12 years preceding menopause, known as perimenopause, is where the real challenge is due to shifting and unpredictable hormone levels.
As someone who is fully settled into menopause and is happier and healthier than ever before, I wanted to share with you how you can take charge of your health in perimenopause in order to have an easier menopause later on.
Perimenopause Equals Hormone Imbalance
Perimenopause can begin anywhere from 35-45 and is a challenging time because the ovaries (which produce progesterone and estrogen) are starting to go into retirement. As opposed to menopause, where your sex hormones don’t shift anymore, and are at new low, steady levels.
What Happens To Estrogen In Perimenopause
Estrogen is not in decline in your perimenopause years, it is shifting. It surges one month and drops the next month. Estrogen in perimenopause is unpredictable and unstable. When it is high (termed estrogen dominance), it can cause heavy periods, PMS, bloating and irritability. When it is low, it can cause the blues, hot flashes, cravings and night sweats.
What Happens to Progesterone in Perimenopause
Progesterone, our soothing hormone, is in a free fall and once it drops, it never returns. We become permanently progesterone deficient in perimenopause, at a time that we need it the most.
Progesterone is made my the ovaries when we ovulate. Although you may still be menstruating regularly, you are likely experiencing anovulatory periods, which means that you are not ovulating. When you don’t ovulate, you don’t make progesterone. There is nothing wrong with you, this is simply your body’s way of moving towards the natural stage of life where you become infertile. But it does mean less progesterone and that can be very problematic for some women because progesterone helps your thyroid function better, is protective against those estrogen surges and it calms anxiety.
What Happens to Cortisol in Perimenopause
Cortisol, our main stress buffering hormone, is made in the adrenal glands and is secreted in various amounts throughout the day.
As women transition through perimenopause, overnight cortisol levels can increase. This is linked to problems with sleep-wake patterns, hunger, energy levels and immune system health.
There is also some evidence that cortisol can elevate in the presence of exogenous and endogenous estrogen levels, and remember those estrogen levels are like electrical power surges in perimenopause. Rising cortisol levels are associated with poor health and more severe hot flashes.
Perimenopause is a great wake up call and time to do a thorough life assessment. If you’ve not tended to your own needs on a physical and emotional level, menopause will likely hit you over the head and you’ll be beset with multiple and uncomfortable symptoms.
4 Simple Things You Can Do in Perimenopause Now To Have an Easier Menopause Later:
- Get the inflammatory foods out of your diet. Things like commercial dairy, gluten, GMO corn and sugar are inflammatory for everyone. Other foods such as grains can be inflammatory for others. If you find the right way of eating for you, you will lose stubborn weight, feel better and be able to deal with the challenges of shifting hormones that are a given in perimenopause.
- Take some magnesium, especially if you suffer with hot flashes. Magnesium is a mineral that we can easily become deficient in due to stress because the body dumps it when we are under stress. A good amount to start with is 300-400 mg per day, preferably with dinner as part of your wind down ritual.
- Know your baseline hormone levels-A DUTCH hormone test will tell you not only your absolute estrogen level but also show what your body is doing with the estrogen (this is called estrogen metabolites). It will also give you a more thorough look at the adrenals than a saliva panel does and can also look at your melatonin. It’s a great all around hormone test for perimenopausal women who want to take ownership of their health.
- Do an honest life assessment-Where are you now? How is your health, really? Do you sleep? Are you happy in your job, relationship? What can you do to make things better? How can you nurture your spirit and body?
Need some help navigating the rough perimenopause waters? Are you struggling with putting your finger on exactly what is going on in your body and life? Well, I’ve been through perimenopause and menopause and am here to tell you that you can be healthy and well balanced in your 40s, 50s and beyond and can help you make sense of this time of your life.
Women who are ready to take control of their health but just need a little guidance can book a complimentary, no-strings-attached, 20 minute session with me right here to find out more about how I work to help you get your hormones back into balance.