By Nicole Woodcock - Nicole is a Clinical Naturopath passionate about the natural wisdom of the human body, and the power of nutrition and herbal medicine to restore balance and overcome illness.
Lately, women are becoming more and more confident around the idea of ‘fabulous at 40’. But is that really how you feel…? Or, do you feel like you are on a rollercoaster ride of emotional and physical symptoms, ups and downs? Are your tests all ‘normal’ and you’re told there are no pathological reasons for the way you feel? How many times have you been told you feel the way you do because ‘you’re a busy mum’ or because it’s ‘normal’?
The answer may be peri-menopause, the transition period before menopause. At 40 years of age, progesterone levels start to decline as they signal to the ovaries to start to slow down and ovulation becomes erratic and irregular. This causes unevenly changing levels of estrogen in the body and intermittent symptoms including changes in menstrual cycle patterns (shorter or longer cycles); irregular periods (heavier or lighter); dysfunctional bleeding; and a myriad of other physical and emotional symptoms.
Some women go through peri-menopause with few or no symptoms, for others peri-menopause has a significant impact on their life and relationships. Some women feel great one week and completely dysfunctional the next.
Symptoms can include:
mood changes (irritability, depression, anxiety, or nervous tension);
loss of skin tone and integrity;
weight gain (particularly around the abdominal area) or difficulty losing weight;
cold hands and feet;
sensitivity to caffeine and alcohol;
uncomfortable or painful intercourse;
changes in libido;
breast changes; and
of course, we can’t forget the most common symptoms; hot flushes and night sweats.
The thing is, peri-menopause can last two to three years until women officially reach menopause (when the menstrual period stops entirely), which is a long time when you’re feeling pretty average. The normal age of menopause is between 45 and 60 years of age, with an average of 50 to 51 years. The good news is that women do not need to drag themselves through peri-menopause for years, leaving a trail of destruction. Embarking on menopause with a positive and informed approach is the first step towards transitioning into this new phase of life.
Naturopathic medicine – which encompasses dietary intervention, lifestyle factors, and herbal and nutritional supplementation – has been shown to support the hormone fluctuations during peri-menopause, which may reduce the severity of symptoms. If appropriate, a Naturopath may also recommend functional pathology to assess hormonal status.
While Naturopathic advice is tailored to each client’s individual circumstances, here are two examples of evidence-based recommendations that are commonly prescribed to women to support their transition through peri-menopause:
Stress management during peri-menopause is vital. Incorporate activities into your day that help you relax and make time for yourself. Relaxation techniques including yoga, mindfulness, nature therapy, and deep-breathing have shown to reduce peri-menopausal symptoms.
Consume a diet rich in ‘phyto-estrogen’ foods. This can help modulate hormone fluctuations and reduce symptoms of peri-menopause. This can be as simple as having two tablespoons of linseed per day (also known as flaxseed) and regularly including organic soy foods (tofu or tempeh) into the diet.
If you’re feeling flat and can’t work out the cause, or for any other issues where you think hormones might be at play, get in touch with Nicole and let her empower you with knowledge and resources to improve your health and wellbeing.