The menopause transition is no joke! For those of you who have been through menopause, are going through perimenopause, or who live with a woman going through these stages, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Some women are lucky enough to sail through the menopause transition relatively effortlessly, but the majority of women struggle with at least a few frustrating symptoms, including hot flashes, disrupted sleep, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, fatigue, joint stiffness and pain, weight gain, and heavy bleeding. Each woman goes through her own unique menopause transition, but I do think that all women can benefit from a few tips to make the transition smoother.
The transition is made up of three phases. Perimenopause is defined as the time leading up to the final menstrual period; menopause is the year following the last menstrual period; and post-menopause is the time following the year of menopause.
As you reach the age of perimenopause, your ovaries start to produce less and less estrogen and progesterone. This typically begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but can begin much earlier in some women. The transition typically lasts around 7 years, but can last much longer.
It is important to understand that there are three forms of estrogen: estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Estradiol is the form of estrogen most depended upon during the reproductive years. Estriol is is dominant during pregnancy. And estrone is the primary estrogen during menopause. As ovary function declines, so does the production of estradiol. During menopause, the body is more reliant on estrone, which is produced primarily in the adrenal glands, followed by the liver and adipose tissue.
The knowledge that we become more reliant on our adrenals and liver during the menopause transition is very important. If you want the transition to go well, you have to support the health of these glands/organs. The biggest threat to the adrenal glands is a high stress lifestyle. Good lifestyle habits, such as enough sleep, healthy diet, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and time off, will keep your adrenals happy and functioning well.
The liver is a key player in keeping the body detoxified. Things like alcohol, sugar, processed foods, over-the-counter medications, mainstream health and beauty products, unfiltered water, and common household chemicals can really slow down liver function. Avoiding exposure to these things as much as possible will go a long way towards keeping liver function healthy and strong.
There is a third source of estrone production: adipose tissue, i.e. fat cells. The fat pad that develops over the lower abdomen (over the ovaries) in many menopausal women could be avoided if their adrenal and liver health were protected earlier on in life. If you don’t want more fat cells, you would do well to support your adrenals and liver.
The healthier you are going into perimenopause, the smoother the transition will be. It is still very likely that you will experience some symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, disrupted sleep, and vaginal dryness. There are many things we can do to manage and ameliorate these symptoms naturally. As mentioned earlier, each woman and her menopausal transition is unique, and so too will be the treatment of her symptoms. I have the best luck using Nutrition Response/Morphogenic Field Technique testing to pinpoint what supplements will work best for each individual. And, of course, symptoms will change throughout the transition. I have also found German auricular acupuncture to be helpful for managing hot flashes, sleep, and mood changes.
As with most things having to do with our health, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits is the single most powerful tool we have to support us through the menopause transition. Nutritional and herbal supplements and acupuncture are a great option to treat and fine tune whatever symptoms remain. If you need more help preparing for or getting through your menopause transition, we can help!