Menopause is a key transition period in a woman’s life and is defined as the cessation of menstruation for a period of 12 months. The perimenopausal phase (phase before final menstruation) can begin up to 10 years prior to menopause.
During perimenopause, the ovaries begin to decrease their estrogen and progesterone output. As hormone levels decline, symptoms can be varied, unpredictable and unrecognized in women. Recognizing symptoms early can help you take steps to improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of other poor health outcomes.
Common perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood dysfunction
- Cognitive decline
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Decreased libido
- Vaginal dryness and atrophy
Common treatment options to decrease symptoms:
Consuming Phytoestrogens in Food & Herbs:
There are multiple foods and herbs that contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived compounds that are similar to our own estrogens and their active metabolites. Consuming phytoestrogens can help mitigate the effects of low estrogen on the body. Dietary sources include soy products and wild yam, while herbal sources include Angelica Sinensis, Cimicifuga Racemose, and Medicago Sativa.
Engaging in Regular Physical Activity:
Exercise stimulates endorphin activity in the body and has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. In addition to reducing menopausal symptoms, exercise has also been linked to numerous other health benefits such as: reducing excess weight, increasing bone density, improving cardiovascular health, and improving mood.
Removing Trigger Foods:
It is a good idea to re-evaluate your nutrition during perimenopause and menopause, as your body may become more sensitive to foods that you used to tolerate. Caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, and poor blood sugar regulation may be associated with an increased incidence of hot flashes.
Adding in Herbal Supplements:
The literature is still developing on the use of herbs in managing symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, but herbs can be a wonderful method for mitigating symptoms. Common herbs used include Trifolium Pratense, Gingko Biloba, Glycyrrhiza Glabra, Hypericum Perforatum and many others.
Hormone Replacement Therapy:
The use of only progesterone or both estrogen and progesterone may be used to manage symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Hormone therapy has been shown to improve both the vasomotor symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, night sweats), and vaginal atrophy, and also improve bone density. Treatment dose and duration, risk assessment, and monitoring are done on an individual basis, as hormone practice is never one size fit all.
Perimenopause and menopause are key time periods in a woman’s life and individual assessment is necessary to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for your needs. Botanicals, nutraceuticals, bio-identical hormone therapy, and mind-body medicine may be employed to help you enjoy a higher quality of life during this phase.