What is perimenopause?
As you get older there will be a natural decline in egg numbers which can result in occasional anovulatory cycles (a cycle where you don’t ovulate). Eventually you stop ovulating altogether which is menopause but in the meantime, you might have sporadic anovulatory cycles interspersed with cycles where you still ovulate. During the ten or so years leading into menopause (when oestrogen decreases dramatically), women can experience a hormonal roller-coaster going from low to high and back to low again.
This lack of ovulation can lead to changes in hormone levels. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestrogen increase (in the body’s attempt to encourage ovulation). However, without ovulation your body won’t produce progesterone and so you end up with a level of oestrogen which is higher than normal and not balanced by a corresponding amount of progesterone. This can make us uptight, anxious, moody and uninterested in sex. With higher oestrogen and little progesterone to balance it, periods can become erratic and lead to flooding. Fibroids can become an issue during this period where oestrogen levels can be very high. The transition into menopause can also be difficult if oestrogen has been high or erratic for a number of years leading into menopause.
What are the signs or symptoms of perimenopause?
The implications of these hormonal fluctuations can include:
Heavy Periods including flooding
What can you do?
Support your liver and gut to detoxify and process hormones.
If the liver and gut are not working effectively the excess oestrogen can be recycled causing even bigger fluctuations in oestrogen/ progesterone balance.
Enjoy foods that help the liver such as bitter foods like rocket, dandelion tea. Enjoy lots of cruciferous vegetables. Drink water and lemon. Use fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha to keep gut bacteria balanced. A diet high in prebiotic fibers will feed these bacteria, and help us to maintain good health.
These can be found in vegetables, fruits and legumes. Include lots of anti-inflammatory foods such as found in a Mediterranean diet. Think fatty fish, garlic, herbs, salads and of course the occasional red wine for medicinal purposes.
The adrenals often become depleted during these years. Often women are at the peak of their careers, juggling teenagers, elderly parents and large mortgages. This is a tricky time and these hormonal shifts can have a huge impact.
Ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, yoga and meditation are all really important to ensure stress doesn't become overwhelming.
Balance the hormones with herbs & nutrients.
Depending on what the problem is, there is often a herb to bring the body back into balance. If progesterone is low as is often the case Vitex (chaste tree) can help to lift progesterone. If unopposed oestrogen is high, rosemary, turmeric, Indole-3-Carbinol or Calcium D-Glucarate can be used to reduce oestrogen levels and allow progesterone to rise. Zinc and B6 are also important for hormonal balance. Tribulus can be used to increase sex drive. No matter which hormone has become unbalanced, there is a great deal we can do naturally to bring balance back into the body.