‘How do I know if I’m in perimenopause?’
I get asked this question a lot in my Hot Women workshops. The menopause and peri-menopause is something we’re surprisingly not taught in school! Our mothers probably never discussed it, or knew it was a ‘thing’, and our friends’ symptoms range from hot sweats every few hours to ‘I don’t know what the fuss is all about!’ Dr Google is a bit of a minefield too!
First Some Definitions
The menopause is officially 1 year after your last period. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51.
The perimenopause is the phase before the menopause when our egg supply starts to dwindle, resulting in a period of fluctuations and reductions in sex hormones. For some, changes can be experienced several years before the menopause and changes generally start to happen in our 40s. Some people only notice changes a few months before the menopause.
What Symptoms and Signs should you watch out for?
- Irregular periods – cycles may lengthen or shorten. In your 40’s you may find it helpful to track your cycle, using an App, or just simply noting Day 1 of your period in your diary.
- Your periods may become lighter or heavier.
- If you suffer with mood swings or PMS before your period, you may find this more exaggerated in perimenopause.
- Hot flushes may start. This is one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause experienced by some 75-85% of women. For some these are mild and for others, they can be debilitating. Some women go on to experience hot flushes beyond the menopause.
- You may find that your sleep becomes disturbed and that you experience greater warmth in the night, or the dreaded night sweats (aka The Duvet Dance!)
- Your breasts may become more tender, especially before a period.
- You may experience a lower sex drive
- Some people feel more fatigued
- Brain fog may be experienced.
- Anxiety can be triggered and exaggerated during this time
- Vaginal dryness and painful sex can become an issue as oestrogen levels really start to drop.
- The list goes on!
You can ask your GP to carry out blood testing. However, measuring LH (Leuteinizing Hormone) and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), the hormones produced in the brain that direct the production of our sexual hormones, may not be entirely helpful. The perimenopause is defined by hormone fluctuations, which may be above or below range within a short space of time. Hormone testing offers a snapshot into what’s going on. Therefore it may be more useful if you track levels over time, and measure your actual levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
DUTCH – Dried urine testing for hormones is interesting and fairly new. Again it’s a snapshot, but it can give you an indication of how your body is processing and detoxifying hormones. Whether you are producing more of the healthy oestrogen metabolites or the potentially problematic oestrogen metabolites, which have been indicated in a higher risk of certain hormone sensitive cancers. This is a useful test if you are considering HRT, are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms and if you’ve suffered with hormone related health issues in the past, or have a family history of hormone related issues.
How Can I Manage My Menopause Naturally?
- Consider the interplay of other hormones. If your blood sugar, thyroid and adrenal hormones are imbalanced, this is likely to impact on your sex hormones and menopausal symptoms. Tackling stress and supporting our adrenals is key.Adrenal dysfunction can result in thyroid dysfunction, and both are exacerbated by blood sugar issues.
- Get your diet right. In essence, you need to balance your blood sugar by avoiding too many sugary, processed and refined foods. Working with a nutritional therapist will help you tailor a diet that suits you, that tackles any underlying potential deficiencies and food sensitivities that could be making your symptoms worse. We can also help you with testing of adrenal, thyroid, sex and blood sugar hormones where appropriate.
- Limit Your Exposure to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals. This is a whole blog post in itself, but choosing natural beauty products and cleaning products, eating organic foods, and avoiding cooking in, and eating from plastics is a good place to start.
- Support Your Digestive Health – This includes the entire digestive system from liver to bowels. If your liver is struggling to detoxify hormones and you’re unable to eliminate them through stool etc, this can exacerbate hormone imbalances and symptoms. Not only does this involve moderating caffeine and alcohol but considering nutrient intake and sometimes genetic makeup.
If you’d like to understand more or have a chat about how we might be able to work together to support your health, please contact me to arrange a free 15-minute no-obligation phone call on 07909 732017.
If you are local to Bath or Corsham, I run regular Hot Women Workshops to support women seeking understanding and a natural approach to perimenopause and beyond.