Perimenopause is typically two to five years before menopause, but sometimes women have symptoms ten to fifteen years before stopping their menstural cycle. When symptoms arise at a young age it is called early menopause.
Perimenopause and Menopause symptoms include, but, are not restricted to:
• Hot flashes—a sudden sensation of intense body heat, often with profuse sweating and reddening of the head, neck, and chest. These symptoms occur with mild to severe heart palpitations, anxiety, irritability and, rarely, panic. Hot flashes are the most common symptom of a woman’s changing estrogen levels around the time of the last menstrual period (menopause).
• Breast tenderness
• Worsening of premenstrual syndrome
• Decreased libido (sex drive)
• Irregular periods
• Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
• Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
• Urinary urgency (a pressing need to urinate more frequently)
• Mood shifts – seemingly for no reason
• Restless sleeping
While some women bypass the hot flash stage, others begin having them in their 30s. Hot flashes are most frequent and intense during the first two years of post-menopause, when estrogen levels have dropped below a certain point. Sleep patterns usually improve within 6 to 12 months after hot flashes begin.
Irregular periods are common and normal during perimenopause. However, other conditions can cause abnormalities in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations apply to you, see a Naturopathic doctor to rule out other causes:
• periods are very heavy, or accompanied by blood clots.
• periods last several days longer than usual.
• spotting between periods.
• spotting after sex.
• periods occur closer together.
Potential causes of abnormal bleeding include hormonal imbalances, birth control pills, pregnancy, fibroids, blood clotting problems or, rarely, cancer.
The holistic protocol to eliminate menstural cramps, perimenopause and menopause symptoms requires one to change thought processes about oneself in the scheme of life, replacing those thoughts with positive affirmations. Changing thoughts include the following:
• I now take charge of my mind and my life.
• I am a powerful, dynamic woman! Every part of my body functions perfectly.
• I love me.
• I am balanced and peaceful in all changes.
• I bless my body with love.
In addition to changing self-defeating thoughts, nutritional changes provide significant relief for peri- and menopausal symptoms.
It is a known fact that Japanese women tend to suffer with menstrual symptoms or hot flashes only about 1/3 as often as American women. Women on vegetarian food plans also complain of hot flashes far less than women who eat meat. Of course, you can eat steaks and hamburgers, but sparingly.
Naturopathic doctors and nutritional professionals suspect that the difference is largely due to the use of soy products and many women have realized that by incorporating some soy in their food plan, their menstrual symptoms and menopausal symptoms have abated considerably.
Other important supplements are:
-Flaxseed: High in phytoestrogens (especially lignans), flaxseed also is high in omega-3 fatty acids — a key helper in fighting heart disease. And, like soy, it’s a good all-round helper in your body. It’s high in phytoestrogens, flaxseed can help minimize symptoms like hot flashes. Studies have shown that it can help lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol. Studies have shown that it helps fight breast cancer and other cancers. It can help prevent heavy bleeding — a common symptom when you’re first beginning to enter premature menopause and going through erratic periods. Because it’s high in omega-3 acids, it help ease symptoms like breast tenderness, cramping, and other PMS-like discomfort.
-Red Clover (available under the brand name Promensil) is another phytoestrogen high in bioflavonoids. Like other phytoestrogens, red clover has been shown to reduce hot flashes, help fight osteoporosis, and generally minimize other menopausal symptoms. But there have recently been other studies that found that it wasn’t as helpful as initially believed. As with so many other supplements, the jury is still out.
-Vitamin E and Citrus Bioflavonoids: This combination is a hot-flash buster — with studies showing that taking these two supplements together helps combat hot flashes. 400 IUs of Vitamin E along with 1200 mg of bioflavonoids taken in the morning and again before bedtime has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. (One note: Vitamin E isn’t safe for everyone. If you have rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, or take digitalis drugs, Vitamin E can be harmful. So be sure to check with your naturopath about the appropriate dosage.)
One study (conducted in the 1960s. . . unfortunately there have been few more recent studies) found that, after only one month, over 50 percent of the 94 participating women taking 1200 milligrams of bioflavonoids along with 1200 milligrams of Vitamin C stopped having hot flashes completely and another 34 percent had a drop in hot flash frequency and intensity. Studies have also shown that bioflavonoids also help relieve moodiness, anxiety, irritability and other emotional side effects of menopause—and can help fight vaginal dryness. Vitamin E helps with vaginal dryness (you can use it as a vaginal suppository—put the capsule in your vagina.)
-Vitamin A or Beta Carotene: If you’re suffering from vaginal dryness—or if you’ve noticed a change in your skin texture, a drying or loss of elasticity, Vitamin A or beta carotene can help. Vitamin A (which is what beta carotene converts to in your body) helps maintain tissues, skin, and mucous membranes—help fight against vaginal dryness and skin changes that often come with low estrogen levels.
-B-Vitamins: This family of vitamins helps in coping with premature menopause, both in terms of helping combat symptoms and fighting negative long-term risks. B vitamins can keep your energy levels up; support your liver function ( a definite plus if you’re on HRT, as oral estrogen is broken down by your liver); prevent vaginal dryness; increase your resistance to infection; help maintain your adrenal gland function — which is where the precursor to estrone (the form of estrogen still produced by your body after menopause) is produced. B vitamins are considered stress fighters — so can help you to deal with the emotional symptoms that crop up during premature menopause such as: anxiety, irritability, mood swings, even insomnia. In addition, if you’re on HRT, it’s a good idea to be sure you’re getting B-vitamins either through your diet (whole grains, beans and brewer’s yeast are all good sources of B vitamins) or in a multi-vitamin or B-complex supplement, since studies have shown that HRT may cause a deficiency in B2, B12, B6 and Biotin.
-Calcium: A definite must to help prevent osteoporosis, calcium can also help lower blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels (that sometimes rise in women on some forms of HRT.) Magnesium: Magnesium is a very important calcium helper — and also helps fight the crashing fatigue that often comes at the beginning of premature or early menopause by boosting energy levels. Potassium: helps boost energy. It regularizes your heart beat, which can help if you get palpitations — a fairly common symptom of menopause. In addition, it can help you cope with water retention and bloating, both of which are side effects with certain forms of HRT, particularly progestins such as Provera.
-Black Cohosh: helps reduce hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. It reduces cramps, heavy periods and other menstrual irregularities. Studies conducted using black cohosh have proven that it is effective, especially for hot flashes. Some researchers believe it prevents osteoporosis and reduce bone resorption, although no long-term studies conducted on humans have substantiated this.
-Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus): This (like black cohosh) appears to act like a progesterone and has been used in Europe for many years to alleviate PMS symptoms as well as menopausal symptoms. It diminishs both LH and FSH and appears to affect your pituitary function. Different studies have proven that it reduced menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and irregular bleeding. It reduces breast tenderness, primarily because chasteberry suppresses prolactin production.
Typically, it takes about three to four weeks to notice results. One note, however: While chasteberry is widely used in Europe, there have been no double-blind placebo studies conducted on it.
-Evening Primrose Oil: A good source of GLA (gamma linoleic acid), evening primrose oil has been used by many women to help fight PMS symptoms — many of which are the same as menopausal symptoms. It’s a good bet to help prevent bloating, water retention, breast tenderness, cramps and vaginal dryness.
-St. Johns Wort or Sam-E: If you notice you are more easily discouraged or are easily emotionally hurt, St. Johns Wort or Sam-E is highly effective. Widely considered a natural elixir, these two herbs relieve irritability, duldrums, and fatigue. Over 23 different studies have proven that it’s effective in relieving duldrums, irritability and feeling lackluster–when hormone levels drop.
-Kava Kava: Reduces anxiety, relieves duldrums, and levels mood shifts. Kava Kava has been proven to be effective for the majority of women. One recent study found that women with menopausal symptoms taking 100 mg of Kava Kava three times a day reported a significant difference after one week.
-Valerian: If you are experiencing insomnia, a common symptom, Valerian helps. It is used widely in Europe to treat sleep disturbances, as well as for nervousness and menstrual issues. It is also known as an anxiety reliever — and relieves mood shits and tension.
-Modifying your food plan in small ways can have the greatest positive effect on your body. Remember to include plenty of low-fat, high-fiber foods.
One of the most commonly complained about symptoms of menopause is the weight gain that seems to come along with it. Put simply, your body is not burning calories in the same way it once did. If you change your food plan–even if it is already a healthy one – you will eliminate a few pounds around the waist. Changing your food plan, simply by avoiding a few foods that are bound to make other symptoms worse, while increasing the foods high in certain vitamins while remaining low in calories, will help you to maintain your figure while giving your body the nutrients it needs to eliminate the majority of symptoms.
-For instance, foods high in potassium, including most fruits, will help keep your mind sharp while promoting healthy water flushing throughout your body (which will reduce cramps and bloating), while keeping your muscles and bones lubricated and strong – including your knee joints and your thinning vaginal walls. In short, this is the time in your life when “an apple a day” could not ring more true!
-Oily fish–including salmon, tuna, and vegetable oils, are often recommended by nutritionists to keep your mind sharp. These oils are also useful in keeping your muscles from drying, while assisting your digestive system.
-Everything from Vitamins C and E to herbal remedies such as Dong Quai and Wild Yam Root are superior to abating the menstrual and menopausal symptoms than pharmaceutical drugs.
You can explore the countless ways in which these small changes or additions to your nutrition will not only mitigate the unique symptoms you are experiencing, but the ways in which you can identify these symptoms quickly and create a healthy life during your menstrual years and long after menopause.
Soy is a mystery to most Americans. Soy is somewhat tasteless. However, you do not need to move to Japan to figure out how to add it to your food plan. You do not need to give up eating cheeseburgers to enjoy the occasional veggie burger, but adding some soy to your food plan has abated the negative symptoms of menstruation and menopause for millions of women.
The one huge caution with Soy nowadays is that Soy is another food source that has been Genetically Modified because of world demand and windfall profit margins. Major manufacturers decided to control its reproduction worldwide, therefore, Soy grown in Eastern countries could be Genetically Modified (Genetically Modified Organisms). Thus, ONLY buy organic Soy. The standard for any food to be labeled Organic is that it is non-GMO. Whether that standard is followed is on a case-by-case basis. The best rememdy for knowing if a food source is non-GMO is doing your indenpendent research.
In addition to modifying your food plan and adding herb and mineral supplements, you will feel better and enhance your general well-being when you add such items as:
• Use relaxation techniques—breathing-for-relaxation exercises or meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.
• Stop smoking if you smoke.
• Get more sleep as-well-as going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
• Decrease the amount of alcohol.
• Drink only decaffeinated tea/coffee—stay away from hot drinks if you have severe hot flashes, you’re not giving your body reason to “heat up” and produce a hot flash.
• Eliminate carbonated beverages—Replacing with water and juice will keep your bones and muscles well-lubricated, prevent osteoporosis from settling in, and temper your general aches and pains.
• Achieve a healthy weight (within BMI for your body height) and maintain it.
• Drink at least eight glasses of water each day—Drink room temperature beverages rather than hot or iced-cold
• Dress in layers, so you can remove clothes as needed.
• Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk.
• Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan. You are more likely to have a hot flash in a warm environment than in a cool one.
• Sleep with fewer blankets.
• Eat smaller meals – Five small meals a day to avoid the heat generated by digesting large amounts of food.
Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD provides mind, body, spirit healing. Her knowledge of metaphysical healing and use of natural supplements for disease and symptom prevention affords her a unique perspective. http://www.gen-assist.com