Am I Perimenopausal?
There’s a common conversation that happens between many women as they enter their mid to late 40s. Perhaps you’ve had this with a family member or friend.
You’re sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee – or even a glass of wine. You’re discussing the challenges you’ve faced since reaching the 40-something era. Maybe your friend says they have really struggled to lose weight or maintain a weight they’re happy with since reaching 40. You agree. You talk about how your sex life has gone downhill as of late; you just don’t feel like it. Or how you just can’t get over how tired you always feel.
You and your friend chalk it up to the onset of menopause. After all, you both agree you’re around that age and these are common hurdles that come with it. With the clink of your coffee mug or wine glass you sing “CHEERS”, and you go on to discuss other topics, enjoying the afternoon or evening time together.
But let’s rewind for a second here.
Are your issues actually related to perimenopause? Is it possible to improve these and related symptoms and take back control of your health and your life?
Let’s dig a little deeper!
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time in a woman’s life when the body begins to transition into menopause (which is the time where a woman’s period stops and ovulation no longer occurs). This can happen at a variety of different ages, but it is most often within your 40s. Some of the most common symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep issues, mood alterations, and period irregularities. Perimenopause usually lasts from one to four years, or up until the body stops releasing eggs (1).
Yet, surprisingly, many women may experience the perimenopause stage for 8-10 years (2). This is a long time for your body to experience vast hormonal fluctuations. And it can place a ton of stress on your body while it tries to compensate and find some kind of balance. It can also leave you feeling less-than-optimal.
Undeniably, the hormone, estrogen, has a huge impact on your health and your cycle. Too much or too little of this hormone will impact how you feel, your energy levels, your ability to sleep, your weight, and whether or not your period is regular. It’s also responsible for the onset of menopause, or for perimenopause.
Yet, an imbalance in this hormone doesn’t necessarily mean that menopause is beginning. It can also mean that maybe you’ve been far too busy with other life aspects to really tune in to your body and any changes that are happening. This isn’t necessarily your fault. As women, we juggle a lot. With the worldwide web, there’s also a ton of misinformation out there. It’s confusing – to say the least.
Yet, the Future Female is a force to be reckoned with. She has an ambitious career, likely has a family, and really does it all. Does this sound familiar? If so, there’s likely one area that you’re neglecting and that is your own well-being and health.
There’s a saying that goes, ‘You can’t give your best without first feeling your best.’ With that in mind, it’s time for you to start taking charge of your health and well-being once again. The reality is that your symptoms may not be related to perimenopause at all, which means they may very well be within your control.
Supporting Your Overall Health
While these issues you’re experiencing may very well be perimenopause, you need to take a proactive approach to prove whether or not this is actually the case. You can explore a variety of factors relating to your health that could potentially be causing these issues, including the following.
1. Birth Control
The female reproductive system is very complex. Some women on birth control experience higher sexual drives, while others experience a lowered sexual desire (3). There’s also a variety of different types of birth control with varying amounts of synthetic hormones.
It is recommended over the age of 40 to recognize your contraceptive needs and possibly consider more permanent sterilization or your partner getting a vasectomy. This is because your body is going through hormonal fluctuations or may begin to do so. With the added synthetic hormones, this process may get a whole lot more complicated. This is particularly true for women who have a family history of blood clots or breast cancer (4). However, HRT or birth control may be used to help ease perimenopausal symptoms in some women until they find other and more natural methods to balance their hormones.
While the birth control situation varies from woman to woman, it’s still something you want to keep in mind, especially during this perimenopausal phase of life. Ask yourself how birth control may be affecting your life? Is it something you should talk to your doctor about?
Another major factor is your diet. And this is where a lot of women get confused. Here’s another common saying: “You are what you eat.”
While overused, there is some accuracy to this statement.
Your body uses the food you eat to create energy (more on this energy creation process in the next section) and to regenerate or create cells. If you’re not consuming foods with the nutrients your body needs to function at its best, you’re likely not going to feel all that great.
These nutrients further contribute to the production, creation, and regulation of hormones throughout the body. If you’re deficient in a necessary mineral or vitamin, hormonal imbalance is inevitable.
It all starts with your diet.
If you’re eating high-calorie and processed foods most of the time, you probably aren’t getting what you need. Most pre-packaged food items don’t contain enough nutrients to keep your health afloat.
Food can provide medicinal and therapeutic effects. Here are some tips to get you started:
3. Mitochondria Issues
The mitochondria play a huge role in your body’s function. These are the energy powerhouses of the cells. They take the nutrients in the food we eat and turn it into usable energy.
In recent research, mitochondria dysfunction has taken center stage. In fact, problems with this part of your body’s cells can lead to chronic and debilitating diseases (4). After all, every organ, tissue, and cell in your body needs energy to do its job.
Surprisingly, stress is thought to play a key role in mitochondria dysfunction (5 ). With stress rampant in society, it’s easy to pinpoint stress as a main contributor to health issues and hormonal imbalances. But this still isn’t the whole picture. Usually, hormonal imbalances come down to a variety of factors.
At the same time, you can help your mitochondria function better through antioxidant consumption and proper diet. It may also help to actively find ways to reduce the stress in your life, such as through regular movement, meditation, or other relaxation techniques. Find time for yourself every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Your body and health need it just as much as your mind craves that quiet time.
4. Other Lifestyle Factors
Sleep, stress, exercise, and more are also key ingredients when it comes to your health. Sleep should always be a priority – especially during times of stress. Again, finding ways to de-stress is important. Exercise is also another crucial factor.
Undeniably, exercise has an array of benefits. Some experts even refer to it as the ‘magic pill’ for overall good health. But too much of anything is never good and the same goes for exercise.
When it comes to movement, it’s about finding a balance and finding an activity you enjoy. For example, moving your body by walking each day has various health benefits (6). Or perhaps you love dancing, go dance! Mix it up with resistance weight training. Maybe yoga helps you relax and move your body, which means you should definitely sign up for that next class.
The goal is to move – and that’s in whatever way you enjoy or that feels best.
Be mindful when moving though! You don’t want to overdo it and throw your body into a higher state of stress. Yes, too much movement or too much exercise can do this. Allow your body rest days. Partake in active recovery activities, such as stretching or foam rolling.
Take Time And Listen To Your Body
If you’re questioning whether or not you’re perimenopausal, it’s time to take action.
First, assess your current lifestyle. What factors of health can you improve? What experimentation within your own life can you take on? This might include something as simple as going for a walk each day or planning out your meals ahead of time to ensure you stay away from temptation. Do this for a few weeks and determine if anything has changed. A good way to do this is by keeping a journal or a diary where you record your efforts and how you feel before and after.
In reality, it’s not always perimenopause that’s knocking on your door. Sometimes, it’s your general health giving you signs that it needs a change. It’s time to TUNE IN and LISTEN.
Not sure where to start? Book a Discovery Call with me today. Start taking charge of your health and optimizing it the best you can. Next time you have a talk with a friend and you are swapping symptoms and stories, it’s good to know what to do, when to do it, and take action now. Let’s sing “CHEERS” to that.
Wellness & Epigenetics Coach, Consultant, Physician, Health Advocate, and Mentor