Vol 5 | Issue 3 | Things to Know About Perimenopause and Menopause

Things to Know About Perimenopause and Menopause

What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is that time in a woman's life, often referred to as “the change of life” when hormonal changes begin, which usually occurs between age 35 and menopause (menopause normally begins around 48-52). Menopause is simply defined as no menstrual cycle for at least one year.  Perimenopause is that period in time prior to that.  Early perimenopause is defined as a change in the menstrual cycle length of more than seven days. Late perimenopause is characterized by two or more missed periods and an interval of 60 days or more between periods. Perimenopause is usually easily recognized due to all the symptoms and noticeable physical and emotional changes that occur. 

So biologically, what’s happening?
Essentially, perimenopause is the wind down of a woman’s reproductive system from child-bearing to non-child-bearing. Perimenopause is the stage of a woman’s reproductive life that begins eight to ten years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually begin to produce less and less estrogen. With less estrogen, biological changes become noticeable.  Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and menstrual cycles cease. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the decrease in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many changes occur in a woman’s body and many women experience the recognizable symptoms of menopause.

What are the symptoms?
Here’s something interesting. The symptoms of perimenopause are the same as menopause. The only difference is, during perimenopause the menstrual cycle is still active and in menopause menses has stopped.  Both phases have the same symptoms: headaches, memory loss, depression, anxiety, night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, insomnia, heart palpitations, fatigue, urinary problems, vaginal dryness, and bone loss. The only difference is that periods still occur during perimenopause (irregularly). In the menopausal phase it is often noted that the symptoms begin to lessen and/or disappear.

What is menopause?
Menopause is the period of time when a woman stops having her monthly period and experiences symptoms related to the lack of estrogen production. By definition, a woman is in menopause after her periods have stopped for one year. It is a normal part of aging and marks the end of a woman's reproductive years.

The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause triggers physical changes such as weight gain, hot flashes as well as many emotional changes -- such as depression, apathy, anxiety and changes in memory. Like any other point in a woman’s life, there is a relationship between hormone levels and these physical and emotional symptoms.

This one is sneaky. Sometimes it is assumed that hot flashes are the first true sign of perimenopause, but many women experience anxiety long before hot flashes set in. Anxiety can be the first sign of perimenopausal hormone transitions, but many women do not connect a rise in anxiety levels to the physical changes caused by changing estrogen levels. Perimenopause can be an added stressor to an already stressful overly busy life, and hormonal imbalances can adversely affect your nerves, mood and mental function. Anxiety can shake your very core and reduce your self confidence. Many women begin to feel lost and confused with a strange lack of confidence in themselves.

You may found yourself feeling apathetic, a little bit down, unable to "pick yourself up," or you might even feel depressed. Well, you're not going crazy. There a simple biological changes occurring during perimenopause that contribute to feelings. There is a connection between the hormonal changes during perimenopause and depression, affecting the way you feel. The imbalanced ratio of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can be the physical basis for depression. The estrogen dominance so common in perimenopause can exacerbate symptoms of depression and apathy.

Finding yourself not remembering appointments, someone's name, or recalling something that is and has been very important to you?  Well, you are not losing your mind. The same is true here as with anxiety and depression.  The changes in estrogen levels during perimenopause are creating the impaired memory function.  Supplementation is important here.  B vitamins and essential fatty acids are known for their brain-helping properties, but at this time you may find that some additional help with an herbal supplement is helpful.

Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. Your skin may redden, just as if you were blushing. Hot flashes can also cause profuse sweating and may leave you chilled. The exact cause of hot flashes isn't known, but the signs and symptoms point to factors affecting the function of your body's thermostat — the hypothalamus. This area at the base of your brain regulates body temperature and other basic processes. Lowered levels of estrogen confuse the hypothalamus, causing it to inappropriately sense that the body is overheating. This provokes an internal chain of reactions that women experience as hot flashes. The estrogen reduction you experience during menopause may disrupt hypothalamic function, leading to hot flashes.

Weight Gain
As many women enter perimenopause or approach menopause, they find themselves experiencing unexplained weight gain — especially around the waists and hips — despite their best attempts to diet. Often the methods of weight management that worked for them for years are suddenly ineffective. In fact, weight gain in the abdomen is one of the most common complaints of perimenopausal women.

Estrogen is stored in fat cells, and when you enter menopause, your body responds by holding on to fat cells in an effort to boost the lagging estrogen levels. It then becomes tougher to lose fat and much easier to keep the pounds on. Also as estrogen levels drop, your level of androgens increases in relation to the estrogen. Unopposed by the higher levels of estrogen your body used to have, the androgens produce male characteristics -- in this case, the shift in body fat from your hips, thighs and buttocks to your midsection, resulting in the "apple" shape that is more common in men and in postmenopausal women Low progesterone levels (which in relation to estrogen is popularly called "estrogen dominance") also cause a number of side effects including increased bloating and water retention -- not be actual fat, but can makes you look and feel heavier. It can also cause blood sugar fluctuations -- which can increase your appetite and slow your metabolism.

What to do?
Coping with apathy, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and hot flashes is no picnic. Often women are confused with what is going on in their bodies and they begin to question themselves and their self confidence. Am I losing my mind?  Is this memory loss permanent? Will I ever feel motivated again? How am I ever going to cope with these awful symptoms and manage my life?

There’s no need to suffer through these symptoms unnecessarily.  Once you have a clearer understanding of the physical causes for these changes, you can make informed and empowered choices to support your body with these symptoms and help your ability to function better in life. You can chose to address the situation naturally and nutritionally and get back to feeling like your old self again. Like most health challenges the basics apply here too. Reduced intake or no coffee and alcohol, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise even though your energy and enthusiasm may be low.

There are also highly effective herbal supplements designed specifically for women's health and menopause that you may find will help you through this time.  Many women have resorted to natural remedies for relief.  And, of course, the most well renowned is Black Cohosh, which is great, but it’s not enough on this own.  Perimenopause and menopause is a multi-platform issue requiring a multi-platform solution.  More than one single herb is required to balance all these symptoms.  Here are some suggestions:

Female Menopause and Sleep Eaze:
These products address the issues of hot flashes and sleep problems. About 65 to 75 percent of women experience hot flashes, most commonly during late perimenopause. The intensity, duration and frequency vary. Sleep problems are often due to hot flashes or night sweats, but sometimes sleep becomes erratic even without them.

Alive, Tense Ease, Relax and Mental Clarity Extra:
These products address the issues of mood changes such as, anxiety, apathy, irritability or increased depression during perimenopause.  As mentioned above, the decrease in estrogen levels are the catalyst to all the mood and emotional changes that most women experience during perimenopause and menopause. Lower hormone levels directly affect physical and emotional wellbeing.

Cal/Mag with Boron and Mineral Complex:
These products address the issue of Bone Loss. With declining estrogen levels, you start to lose bone more quickly than you replace it, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.

Ox Redux and Cardiotone + CoQ10.
These products address the issue of changing cholesterol levels. Declining estrogen levels may lead to unfavorable changes in your blood cholesterol levels, including an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol — which contributes to an increased risk of heart disease. At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the "good" cholesterol — decreases in many women as they age, which also increases the risk of heart disease.

Also recommended:
ADR Complex | Adaptostym |Age-Defi | Energi | Female Gland Balance | Sugar Control

Click here to check out all our all natural female health and menopause support formulas