Apr 6, 2023
Perimenopause and menopause can be tricky to navigate, but understanding the basics is a great start.
For many women, perimenopause and menopause can trigger a variety of physical and psychological changes that can be hard to cope with. Symptoms can include hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbances and more. Let's face it, this time can really suck for us. Knowing how to manage these symptoms, as well as underlying causes, is essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing during this time in your life while not going crazy in the process.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the causes of perimenopause and menopause, provide tips for managing the physical and mental symptoms associated with these changes, and explore the positive aspects of aging. We’ll also touch on how diet, lifestyle modifications, and alternative therapies may help women achieve better health through this transition period in their lives.
What Is Perimenopause & Menopause?
Are you in your 40s, and experiencing hot flashes, mood swings, or brain fog? It's probably perimenopause. This occurs when your ovaries produce less estrogen, which is the hormone that's responsible for your menstrual period. Perimenopause usually starts in your 40s, but if you smoke, it could start up to two years earlier. This "journey" can last anywhere from a few months to 10 years. Once 12 months have gone by without a period, menopause is confirmed.
Menopause typically occurs in your early 50s when your ovaries stop producing eggs and you've gone without a period for a full year. However, the signs of menopause may begin to appear years before that, during perimenopause. During this time, the hormones estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) start to decrease, which can lead to bone loss and an increase in LDL cholesterol levels.
To confirm menopause and determine age of final menstrual period, your doctor can check pH levels of your vagina, the FSH and estrogen levels in your blood, and test for anti-Mullerian hormone. Even after symptoms like hot flashes have gone away, it is important to stay active and have a healthy diet to reduce the health risks associated with postmenopause like osteoporosis or high cholesterol.
Signs & Symptoms of Perimenopause & Menopause
The signs and symptoms of perimenopause and menopause can vary for each woman. However, most women will experience some common signs and symptoms.
The first indication of perimenopause is typically irregular periods. This could mean that your periods come too close together, or too far apart, or that the amount of blood flow is heavier or lighter than normal. If you are noticing changes in your period, this could be an indication that perimenopause has started.
Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Hot flashes and night sweats are a common symptom during both perimenopause and menopause. These occur when the body’s temperature rises for no apparent reason and can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Honestly, you feel like your whole body is on fire on the inside. Hot flashes can be accompanied by heavy sweating and an increased heart rate.
Mood Swings & Other Mental Health Symptoms
Mood swings, anxiety, and depression are also common during perimenopause due to the hormonal changes taking place in the body. Women may find themselves feeling overwhelmed or irritable due to the sudden shift in hormone levels. It is important to take note of any new mental health symptoms so that they can be discussed with a doctor if needed.
How to Manage Symptoms of Perimenopause & Menopause
Maneuvering through perimenopause and menopause comes with a variety of symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes. To help manage these effects, hormone therapy is the most commonly recommended treatment. It is designed to restore natural hormone levels that were present prior to the onset of menopause. This could come in the form of a patch or taking low-dose birth control pills.
However, there are other treatments available that can be combined with hormone therapy to help limit menopausal symptoms. Regular exercise has been proven to provide some relief and low-dose antidepressants may be an effective treatment as well.
It is also possible to make simple lifestyle and dietary changes that can help control menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Some suggestions include:
Reducing alcohol consumption
Keeping cool in warm environments by using air conditioning, fans or light blankets
Drinking plenty of water and avoiding overstimulating beverages such as coffee and soda
Eating regularly throughout the day, avoiding large meals or skipping meals (sorry, intermittent fasters)
Getting enough sleep on a regular basis
Eating a balanced diet with foods rich in phytoestrogens like soybeans, sesame seeds and tofu
Taking charge of your health during perimenopause or menopause can make a world of difference in how you feel, both physically and emotionally. Hormone therapy is a great way to reduce symptoms associated with this transition phase of life, but other treatments combined with lifestyle modifications can also help you regain balance.
Natural Supplements to Help With Perimenopause & Menopause Symptoms
If you're looking for a more natural way to manage your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, there are a number of supplements that may offer some relief. Magnesium is one of the most commonly used supplements for helping to ease anxiety and sleep disturbances related to hormonal imbalances. It's also been shown in some studies to ease night sweats and hot flashes. Flaxseed, its oil, and products such as lignans are also popular for helping people with mild menopause symptoms.
In addition, popular botanicals found in menopause supplements include:
These herbs can be found in many forms such as pills or tea, and may offer benefits like reducing hot flashes and night sweats or improving mood swings. As always, before adding any supplement to your routine, check with your healthcare provider first as they can advise on appropriate dosages and safety concerns.
Navigating through perimenopause and menopause can be a daunting experience. Don't forget that you are not alone and there are a multitude of resources out there to help you through this transitional phase in life. There is a plethora of lifestyle, diet, and natural supplement options out there that may help to alleviate the symptoms. Remember, it is important to stay educated and informed while talking to your healthcare provider, so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your body. With the right resources, you can confidently make your way through this stage of life.