Easing Your Way Through Puberty #2 – Perimenopause
Excuse me? Puberty number two?! And you thought you were done dealing with those crazy hormonal up’s and down’s when you were a brace-faced 12 year old. I cheekily refer to perimenopause (the years before actual menopause) as a “second puberty” because it is a time of hormonal changes, a time of transition. You got through puberty; I promise we can get you through perimenopause.
Menopause and perimenopause are not synonyms; they are NOT the same thing. Simply put, menopause is a time of low estrogen, and perimenopause is a time when estrogen goes up and down. While estrogen is going on a wild ride, progesterone is on a slow decline.
Perimenopause is the 2 to 12 years before menopause. You’re likely to experience classic symptoms like hot flashes, heart palpitations, poor sleep, mood changes, heavy and irregular periods. The average age of perimenopause is 45.
Menopause is the phase that begins 1 year after your last period, and the aforementioned symptoms will likely settle.
Luckily, not every woman experiences the dramatic up’s and down’s of estrogen during perimenopause. Therefore, they may only experience mild changes that won’t bother them too much. For the rest of the ladies out there who do experience significant symptoms, your conventional medical doctor may prescribe the oral birth control pill, or an antidepressant.
There is another way. Naturopathic doctors ease your transition into menopause by supporting progesterone, and metabolizing estrogen.
Here are my top 5 tips for easing into menopause.
No. 1 - Take Stock
This may sound “woo woo”, but look at the transition into menopause as something positive. This is a time for women to take stock. Many women decide to take a fresh look at their relationships, profession, and the way they care of their own health. Maybe the kids are (finally) moved out, maybe you’re now part-time or have fully retired. You may now feel like you’re finally in the position to decide how you get to spend your energy. Take some risks, focus on yourself. The world is your oyster.
No. 2 - Reduce Alcohol
Alcohol has a “double whammy” effect on perimenopause. Not only does it interfere with the healthy metabolism of excess estrogen, it also reduces progesterone’s calming influence in the brain. Please do not exceed 4 standard drinks per week.
No. 3 - Soy
Soy is a phytoestrogen. It exerts a weak estrogen-like effect – but it is NOT estrogen. Phytoestrogens binds so weakly to estrogen receptors that they can act more like anti-estrogens. Soy can be beneficial in both perimenopause and menopause. During times of relatively high estrogen (like perimenopause), soy can block estrogen receptors and treat heavy periods. During menopause, soy is slightly pro-estrogenic, because there is less estrogen to block. This is why soy can relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes1. Furthermore, soymilk consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Of the 39 studies, 26 found a protective effect, 8 found no effect, and none of the studies showed an increased risk. I like encouraging 1-1.5 cups of organic, non-GMO soymilk daily.
No. 4 - Acupuncture
This is one of my favourite ways for women to not only decrease hot flashes, but to also take time for themselves. In a group of perimenopausal women who experienced at least 4 hot flashes daily, 60% experienced at least a 50% decrease in the number of hot flashes at the end of the 2-month study2.
No. 5 - Magnesium
This mineral calms the nervous system, is a sleep aid, improves the function of insulin and the thyroid, and is necessary for the production of progesterone. There’s also research that states that low magnesium levels make vitamin D3 ineffective3, and we know that osteoporosis is a concern for menopausal women.
Food sources of magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, and avocado. However, most women need a supplement. Chat with a naturopathic doctor and they can pick a dose and form of magnesium that is best for you.
These recommendations are merely skimming the surface of what naturopathic medicine can provide to women. In part 2 of this blog series, I will explain why adrenal gland support is necessary, what is topical progesterone and why it’s awesome, and I’ll review the slew of medicinal plants we have to offer.
Keep in mind; thyroid disease can look like perimenopause. Part of a holistic treatment plan for perimenopause will be to rule out a thyroid disorder. This is done through a simple blood test.
Don’t let hormones hold you back from enjoying these years of empowerment. You can schedule a complimentary 15 minute consult to see if naturopathic medicine is the right fit for you.
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace a consultation with a licensed health care provider.