It’s Not PMS: Symptoms of Perimenopause
Symptoms of perimenopause may go untreated and undiagnosed for years and years, causing a woman to experience unnecessary stress and worry. This is the first in a series of articles that will teach you how to recognize and alleviate your perimenopause symptoms. By balancing both your stress hormone levels and blood sugar hormone levels with diet and exercise, you may be able to reduce or eradicate your dependency on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and synthetic medications. Plus: Take our quiz to find out if you could be at risk for breast cancer…
It’s never too early to start eating healthfully, balancing your hormone levels and educating yourself about the symptoms of perimenopause. So whether you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s, read on to learn how to recognize and treat symptoms of perimenopause.
What’s wrong with me?
Symptoms of perimenopause often go undiagnosed because there is so little information about this stage of a woman’s life. Most women know that menopause is defined by the cessation of the menstrual cycle and typically hits between the ages 45-55. But few women know about perimenopause. Perimenopause is the stage in a woman’s life that prepares her body for menopause during the 3-5 years before menopause actually hits. During this stage, your estrogen levels may rise and your other hormone levels will drop, causing a host of symptoms.
Some symptoms of perimenopause are associated with those of menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia are a few, but because women continue to menstruate throughout perimenopause, they might not even realize their bodies preparing for menopause and that their fluctuating hormone levels are the cause of the changes in their bodies.
This stage of life is difficult to diagnose because most symptoms of perimenopause match up with those of PMS, or even just a bad day: Anger, anxiety, backache, bloating, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, loss of sexual desire, and irritability are a few examples. Women who don’t know they’re going through perimenopause may experience these symptoms for years and years without even considering that dropping hormone levels may be to blame. In the meantime, they may simply feel like there’s “something wrong” with them or that they’re going crazy. They may attribute their extra stress and irritability to the increasing pressures of advancing in their career or raising growing children.
So how can you tell if your bad mood is merely a by-product of a bad day or if it’s actually one of the symptoms of perimenopause? Track the frequency of your mood swings, food cravings and other related symptoms. If they are triggered only by specific events, such as your period or a stressful confrontation with a coworker, then you probably have nothing to worry about. But if you’re experiencing the symptoms all the time and can’t figure out what they’re related to, it’s a fair bet that your hormone levels are fluctuating, causing you to experience perimenopause symptoms.
Despite the estimated 35 million women who are going through perimenopause, the medical community is only now just beginning to recognize it as a distinct stage in a woman’s life. Your hormone levels may act up as early as 35 or as late as 55, but whenever they do, remember that perimenopause is an important, healthy and natural stage of your life as a woman. In short, there is nothing wrong with you or your body!
How do I get my hormone levels back in sync?
Once you have established that your ailments are symptoms of perimenopause and are related to a hormonal imbalance, it’s time to decide how to restore your hormone levels to normal. There are three main groups of hormones in your body, all of which can bring on symptoms of perimenopause when unbalanced.
- Blood sugar hormones: Insulin and glucagon
- Adrenal hormones: Sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) and stress hormones (cortisol and ACTH)
- Ovarian hormones: The sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
Many physicians automatically assume that perimenopausal women are experiencing symptoms because they have imbalanced sex hormones. They may immediately prescribe synthetic hormones and administer Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Side effects of HRT are often numerous and unpleasant. Some women who undergo HRT report that although their physical symptoms have been alleviated, something still just doesn’t feel quite right.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with HRT if a patient truly needs it. The problem is that many physicians don’t consider the fact that it may be a woman’s blood sugar hormones or stress hormones – not her sex hormones – that are the cause of her perimenopausal symptoms.
By adopting healthy habits and making certain modifications to their routines, many women can restore their stress hormone levels and blood sugar hormone levels to a normal balance, thus completely eliminating symptoms of perimenopause. If symptoms of perimenopause can be alleviated without medication and synthetic hormones, why not give natural remedies a try?
Before turning to HRT, try improving your health using the noninvasive and natural methods of eating well and exercising. Check out part II of this series for a healthy diet plan that will help balance out your hormone levels and relieve your symptoms of perimenopause.