Natural Help For Symptoms of Perimenopause
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You started noticing changes to your menstrual cycle, you’re experiencing sleep disturbances and hot flashes, and your mood is all over the place; you’re thinking, could this be perimenopause?
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is defined as the transitional period from your reproductive years (pre-menopause) to menopause as progesterone and estrogen levels begin to fall. Women typically start to notice some of these changes beginning in their 40’s and up to their 50’s, some women even starting as early as in their late 30’s. The duration of perimenopause can vary, but the average length is normally around four years. In early perimenopause estrogen is typically higher, and progesterone begins to lower due to less consistent ovulatory cycles.
In later perimenopause, hormone levels start to resemble closer to what we see in menopause, as ovulation and menstrual cycles becomes even less frequent, with both estrogen and progesterone levels decreasing. Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without menstrual bleeding, in the absence of any surgery or medical condition that may have caused your body to artificially stop bleeding.
Clinically, we often see that some women are caught by surprise when they start experiencing these symptoms, and may assume that they are too young to start experiencing these hormonal changes. This may result in a delay seeking care to help support and manage the symptoms they are experiencing, and a reduction in quality of life. Perimenopause is a natural part of aging, and it doesn’t have to get in the way of living life to your fullest; a Naturopathic Doctor can help address your concerns and support your body through these changes by supporting the whole person.
What are some of the signs and symptoms of perimenopause?
Perimenopause can be highly symptomatic for about 20% of women but almost all women will experience some symptoms to a certain magnitude. One of the most common complaints we hear in office is that women state they just don’t feel like themselves anymore, and often do not realize that the symptoms they start describing are due to the hormonal changes occurring in their body.
Signs and symptoms of perimenopause may include:
- Changes to the menstrual cycle including periods that may be heavier, more erratic, cramping, and bleeding
- Mood swings including anxiety, depression and irritability
- Loss of libido and sexual desire
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Insomnia and difficulty sleeping
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Dry and thinning hair
- Weight gain, especially around the abdomen in spite of proper diet and exercise
- Breast pain and tenderness
What tests are available for perimenopause?
Blood tests: If you’ve noticed your menstrual cycle has started to become irregular, day-3 FSH, LH and estradiol may provide important data on menopausal status. In addition, AMH may be useful to help determine ovarian reserve. A thyroid panel may be ordered to rule out any thyroid problems that can mimic perimenopausal symptoms. Furthermore, a fasting panel for lipids, insulin and HbA1c may be ordered to assess risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease that may be increased for women through this transition and at menopause.
Saliva testing: We may use salivary testing to help assess cortisol rhythm. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in periods of stress. What some people don’t realize; however, is that the adrenal glands also produce estrogen and progesterone, with this role becoming more significant as the ovaries slow down production of these hormones. This important role of the adrenal glands helps to promote a smoother transition through perimenopause and to menopause. If the adrenals become overworked or tired due to prolonged stress, this can affect their ability to provide support through this transitional period.
Testing is not always necessary, your Naturopathic Doctor will take an individualized approach to help determine whether any of the above tests will be helpful for you based on your signs and symptoms.
How can Naturopathic Medicine help?
Toronto Naturopathic medicine focuses on a whole body approach when assessing natural help for symptoms of perimenopause and menopausal symptoms. This includes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health to assess the totality of symptoms. Many women are seeking alternatives to standard hormone replacement therapy, SSRI’s, or other conventional treatments to support this period of hormonal changes. There are several safe and effective therapies Naturopathic Doctors can use to support individuals in this phase of life, that will help achieve optimal health and improve quality of life to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Natural Help For Symptoms of Perimenopause may include:
Eating a diet focused on whole foods can help promote balanced blood sugar and hormones during this transition. Focusing on high quality proteins, healthy fats including olive oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables can help provide your body with the nutrients it needs during this phase of life.
We have all stress in our lives from many aspects of our lives; however, when we are continually exposed to this stress it may start to have impacts on our physical, mental and emotional health. Learning ways to help manage this stress can have profound effects on our mind and body. This may include targeted supplementation, mindfulness based strategies, and self-care practises to help our bodies manage this chronic stress.
Examples can include taking an Epsom salt bath, meditating for 10 minutes a day, or even taking some time to do some deep breathing exercises. Your Naturopathic Doctor will discuss how stress may be playing a role in your symptoms, and appropriate strategies to help balance and manage it.
More clinical trials have been conducted that have shown acupuncture can be effective in reducing some of the signs and symptoms (notable hot flashes), as well as quality of life in women with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
Many botanicals have been shown to help support women suffering from hormonal symptoms. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor to discuss if any of these may be helpful for your individual symptoms.
Vitex: A hormone balancing herb that can help improve irritability, sadness, breast tenderness, mood and sleep during perimenopause and menopause.
Rhodiola: A wonderful female adaptogen that can supports fatigue, focus and symptoms of burnout; perfect for women that may be experiencing difficulty managing stress levels or adrenal fatigue along with perimenopausal symptoms.
Ashwagandha: A calming herb that can help to relax the nervous system, and improve stress and cortisol levels. In addition, it has also been shown to improve sexual function and memory in perimenopausal women.
Black-cohosh: A herb with estrogenic effects, may help to reduce both the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, and thus sleep disturbances.
Bio-identical Hormone Therapy: Bioidentical hormones have a molecular structure that are identical to that of our human hormones, but are made from plant based extracts. Bio-identical hormone therapy may be a helpful adjunct to your treatment plan to help support your hormonal health and changes, and alleviate perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.
The Take Home Message
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, please reach out to any of our qualified Toronto Naturopathic Doctors to support your health during this time and enjoy a smoother transition; you do not need to suffer during perimenopause. It’s important to work with a qualified health care practitioner that has experience in hormonal health, and with these modalities to ensure a safe and effective treatment plan is developed just for you.
There are many natural options for help with symptoms of perimenopause that your Toronto Naturopathic Doctor can implement swiftly to help manage your perimenopausal symptoms and improve your quality of life!