I wanted to talk about perimenopause today because it is rarely discussed yet it is such a huge thing women go through around their 40’s and 50’s. Too many women are suffering in silence and too many women don’t even realize that they are in perimenopause and not in actual fact going crazy!
We really need to talk more about this subject because when you enter into perimenopause (which is where I am) and then menopause (not there yet!) it can have some quite unpleasant effects on you, making obtaining balance of mind, body and spirit very challenging indeed!
Women need to know what to expect, be armed with knowledge of what might happen and why things are happening, and know how to look after themselves during this period in their lives.
Let’s look at perimenopause only for now. I’ll talk about menopause at another time.
First, I need to point out that I am not in the medical profession and so am not an expert on this subject in any way, shape or form. What I write here in this post are my opinions only based on my experiences and research.
What causes the onset of perimenopause?
When perimenopause begins it is because of our bodies natural decline in hormone production. Vital hormones in female bodies, such as oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, initiate a process of gradual production decrease, leading to the many symptoms women report to feel.
Did you know that if you suffer prolonged periods of stress it can cause early onset of perimenopause? It is true! Smoking can also cause it to begin earlier than would normally be expected. There are also a variety of medical conditions that can bring on early symptoms of perimenopause, but because I am not a doctor, I won’t go into those!
When does perimenopause normally start?
The age of onset of perimenopause can differ for all women, but from what I have read, I believe it can start as young as 40. For me, I think (wild guess based on when I started to feel a bit loopy!) onset was in my late 40’s. How long you are perimenopausal before becoming menopausal is anyone’s guess! However, I have found this diagram that provides a rough estimate.
Here is a list of some of the symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Erratic periods (light, heavy, irregular, skipped altogether)
- Painful periods
- Heavy periods
- Worse pre-menstrual syndrome
- Night sweats
- Tendency for mood changes and depression
- Brain fuzz – problems with memory and/or concentration
- Muscle and joint aches
- Raised thermostat – always or mostly always feeling hot
- Urinary problems – leakage when coughing or sneezing
- Weight gain
- ….and there are way more possible symptoms!!
Sounds pretty awful doesn’t it! Were you nodding your head at some of those symptoms? Well there is nothing we can do to stop the onset on perimenopause but there are certainly things we can do to help ourselves!
Before I list what we can do to help ourselves, I interrupt this program for a bit of comedic relief. FYI – this video lists some extra symptoms that I haven’t included above. It really made me LOL – hope it has you LOL’ing too! 🙂
Hehe! Ok – so back to the serious stuff!
It is because of the perimenopausal issues that come with being this age, that you will notice that middle-aged women are often very focused on healthy choices and lifestyle changes. It all makes such a huge difference to how well we feel! The thing is, it would be to our benefit to start looking after ourselves in this way MUCH earlier rather than waiting until perimenopause to begin!
Here are some things to start with that I believe can help:
- Exercise – whether you like it or not, getting your booty moving makes a huge difference not only to your body but to your brain! It lifts your mood and it clears the cobwebs! At just a tad over 5 ft, I’m not an athletic type or an exercise lover but I do enjoy long brisk walks. Find what you enjoy and can sustain and make it a part of your routine – just like brushing your teeth!
- Good Nutrition – the days of eating crap are over red rover! We need really good nutrition. Lots of leafy greens, lean protein, everything in moderation.
- Give up smoking if you’re a smoker. I used to be one on and off before giving up once and for all 5 years ago so I know how hard it is. Trust me! But it is worth it. I am free now! Free from the expense. Free from the time-consuming habit. Free from the embarrassment and shame. Free from the worry for my health. It is not easy but if I can do it than I totally believe you can too!
- Get good sleep! Did you know that not enough sleep = weight gain? True! You also feel pretty tired, moody and unpleasant to be around if you don’t get enough sleep! If you have an overactive mind (which I can sometimes suffer) think about listening to a meditation CD or relaxation music when you go to bed. Allow at least 30 minutes of NO social media/electronics/tv before going to bed. If noises keep you awake (like a snoring husband haha!) consider wearing some ear-plugs to bed. Make sure you are dressed in light, cool, breathable clothing and feeling comfortable.
- Cut down the amount of alcohol you drink. We just don’t handle it so well when we get older folks! It’s also not good for us in excess!
- Calcium – make sure you’re getting enough! The best sources of calcium include dairy, almonds, broccoli, kale, salmon, and soy products, such as fortified tofu. If you’re not getting enough in your food, then take a supplement. We need it for strong bones! During perimenopause, plummeting oestrogen levels can cause loss of bone mass.
- Vitamin D – for good bone health. As pointed out above, plummeting oestrogen levels can cause loss of bone mass. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. The top sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified milk. However, apparently it is pretty difficult to get the full amount of Vitamin D that our bodies need from food alone. Most likely you will need a supplement, especially during the winter months when the necessary radiation from the sun is not available.
- Vitamins B12 and B6 (according to my research) aid in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, a key brain chemical needed to stabilize moods and promote feelings of wellness and contentment. Dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, and shellfish are some of the most potent food sources for vitamin B12. B6 can be found in vegetables such as carrots, spinach, peas, potatoes, and also milk. If you don’t eat enough of these things, perhaps a supplement might be useful for you.
- Magnesium – perfect for ladies going through perimenopause. A magnesium supplement promotes relaxation and better sleep. It calms the nerves and aids in relief of stress or tension. I take two at night before I go to bed of this product of Sandra Cabot’s – ‘Magnesium Complete – the great relaxer’. Of course, do your own research and find a product that suits your own needs.
- Self Care – look after yourselves ladies! Go for a pedicure, a massage, take some time to lie in a hammock and read a book. Meet up with girlfriends. Don’t always martyr yourself as we often tend to do. We are important too! Make it a regular habit to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. We deserve it. We need it!
- Some people report that having a Mirena IUD inserted makes a huge difference to menstrual problems. Others disagree. We all need to do our own research and make our own choices.
- I tried a natural progesterone cream (because I have zero progesterone hormone levels) that has to be compounded (made up) by a specially trained person at your local pharmacy. You rub a small amount (around 1ml) into your forearms each evening. I didn’t find it changed any of my symptoms. I’m not sure if I tried it long enough though. It’s a very popular option in the USA but not so popular here in Australia within the medical profession.
That’s enough from me! What about you? Are you in the perimenopause phase too? What have you found that helps relieve your symptoms? Is there something you could add to my list above? I am still learning too!
Ciao for now,
- This post is linked up with Essentially Jess’s #IBOT
- The images within this post are hyperlinked to their original source