Though a long and often tumultuous time in a woman’s life, little is known of the traditional folk-wisdom about menopause. Other than comparing hormones they are taking, no one discusses it, as if it were the plague! Instead of fear and loathing, it’s time to go through the change of life with knowledge and forethought.
Early menopause symptoms
There are many signs of early menopause (now called perimenopause), and each woman has a different combination of them. Here are some:
– Anxiety and/or irritability.
– Blood sugar imbalances.
– Depression and/or crying.
– Dryness of vaginal wall.
– Heart palpitations.
– Hot flashes.
– Irregular menstrual cycle.
– Night sweats.
– Panic attacks.
– Reduced sexual desire.
– Sagging breasts.
– Skin dryness or itching.
– Sleep problems (insomnia or being wakeful in the middle of the night).
– Urinary problems.
– Weight gain.
What exactly happens?
There is a span of about 6 to 10 years, called peri-menopause when your body gradually makes the shift out of menstruating mode. Your body skips ovulating some months, though you may still have your period. When this happens, your body does not secrete progesterone, so you have estrogen dominance. Your monthly flow may be light or spotty, other times very heavy when progesterone levels increase. It’s not unusual for your period to come more often, like every three weeks, for several years before it tapers off. Although your estrogen level may fluctuate when you don’t ovulate many months, generally peri-menopause symptoms are caused by the shortage of progesterone. This is the opposite of actual menopause symptoms, which are caused by low estrogen levels.
In menopause, your body does not stop producing
Estrogen, just your ovaries do. As the ovaries stop, the adrenal glands take over the job. If the adrenals are too stressed and worn down, they cannot adequately handle the job. This is also true of perimenopause, where many of the problems are caused by stresses on the three hormone systems that work together in your body.
What stresses your hormone systems? We immediately think of a bad day at work or a fight with our other half. Certainly those are stressful, but there are lots of other stresses:
– extreme weather or change of seasons;
– working long hours;
– caffeine and refined sugars;
– vitamin and mineral deficiencies;
– environmental toxins;
– ongoing allergies;
– not getting enough rest;
– chronic illness or surgery;
– ongoing fears, guilt, anxiety;
– long-term stress like moving, loss of a loved one;
– a lack of healthy fats which are essential for the body to create hormones
Balance your hormones
What can you do to help your body? There are so many alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which is actually horsed estrogen! There are vitamins and minerals, many herbs, homeopathic remedies, magnets, and even topical creams. Ideally, you would start preparing before you are too far into peri-menopause. But no matter where you are in the change, here are some things to try:
– Essential fatty acidic, and especially oil of evening primrose
– B vitamins (a B complex is best, preferably as a liquid)
– Magnesium and vitamin C in several doses throughout the day
– Aloe Vera juice
– Plus supplements
– Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles in that whole area, returning them to their younger resilience and controlling your bladder
Estrogen and foods
For women with symptoms of low estrogen, like hot flashes and night sweats, a safer alternative to HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is supplementing with something like soy estrogen. In foods, they’re called phytoestrogens, which are not associated with breast or uterine cancer. If you don’t want soy, because of genetic engineering (usually only organic soy is safe), or allergens, there are many other foods with phytoestrogens, including:
– Beans & legumes
– Olive oil
– Sea vegetables
– Sunflower seeds
– Sweet potato
This time can be one of great turmoil for a woman whose frustration with the changes in her body mirrors the frustration with the rest of her life. We can choose to unite our bodies and minds in a lifestyle that is healthier and more fulfilling for us.
We are freed of the job of preparing for and creating life, and can instead use our physical and emotional creative energies towards something else important to us. At this time, we can choose to remain passive and silent, and therefore become more frustrated and old, or we can speak out on important issues and act on our creative impulses and therefore become more vibrant and alive than ever before.