Menopause is a natural stage that all women eventually enter in their lifetime. It is the official end of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Many are familiar with menopause and what it means for the female body. However, women do not just wake up suddenly to menopause. There is actually a transitional stage between normal reproductive cycles and menopause, called perimenopause. It’s at this stage that women experience many of the symptoms commonly associated with PMS and/or menopause. There are some key signs that a woman is entering this phase, as well as some natural remedies for perimenopause treatment.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a transitional phase where hormonal changes in a woman’s body begin occurring before the official onset of menopause. It signals the natural ending of her reproductive years and encompasses the time leading up to menopause. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s forties, however, it can occur as early as her mid-late thirties. The average length of perimenopause is four years, though for some women it can be as short as a few months and, for some, it can be even longer than ten years.
Although perimenopause signals the waning of fertility, ovulation still occurs during this time, albeit irregularly. Because of that fact, women can potentially still become pregnant during perimenopause, though the chances are understandably slimmer due to the decline in fertility.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Fluctuating and declining hormone levels in perimenopausal women create a variety of symptoms, however, their severity and manifestation differ from one person to another. The most common signs of perimenopause are weight gain, irritability, mood swings, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and hair loss or acne in some.
Changes also occur in menstruation cycles, meaning differences in intervals between periods, heavy or light blood flow, cramps, or mood swings. As estrogen levels decrease, the vaginal tissue can lose its elasticity and its ability to self-lubricate. This can lead to bladder or vaginal infections as well as painful intercourse. In addition, the loss of estrogen can result in decreased arousal or desire. Loss of estrogen occurs in the later stages.
Some women suffer bone density issues during perimenopause, as they may lose more bone mass than can be replaced. In addition, with less progesterone and more cortisol in the blood, good cholesterol may decrease and bad cholesterol may increase.
While menopause is inevitable for all women, there’s a method of perimenopause treatment that can provide relief from the symptoms. Conventional treatments include low-dose oral contraceptives, progesterone, vaginal rings, or bioidentical hormone replacement.
For those seeking relief from their symptoms without direct medical intervention, there’s also a natural path of perimenopause treatment. Consuming fermented soy foods provides the body with isoflavones, which mimic the role of estrogen in your body and can help balance hormone levels. Ground flaxseed contains lignins, which are important modulators in your hormone metabolism. Flaxseeds can be added to salads, smoothies, or other dishes. They can even be ground up and added to your coffee!
Chasteberry, natural Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) taken daily may also be effective in relieving symptoms. In addition to these supplements, Evening Primrose Oil or Black Currant Oil reduces inflammation, while B vitamins can help women deal with any stress brought on by menopause.
Consult with Your Doctor
If you begin to notice the symptoms indicative of perimenopause, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Often, perimenopause can be diagnosed by the symptoms alone, however, your doctor can perform a series of blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. In addition, a PAP smear can show the thinning and drying of vaginal tissue.
Menopause is not something to be feared. An experienced functional medicine doctor can help you navigate this time of transition. Whether you’re looking for bioidentical hormone replacement or you’re simply seeking natural perimenopause treatment, you need someone you can trust.
Lorraine Maita, MD is an award winning physician, speaker, and author of “Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier.” She can make you slim, sharp, sexy and supercharged. She is an expert in anti-aging medicine, bioidentical hormone replacement, weight loss, medical nutrition, supplements, and executive health. Contact the office today for your hormone evaluation!