Not precisely, but it’s always fun to guesstimate! Certain factors do influence the age at which menopause begins, but it’s not always the ones you’d expect. At the risk of disappointing many of you, it’s true that certain links between PMS and perimenopausal symptoms have been proved scientifically, but only with respect to some symptoms.
What you can control is your diet and lifestyle, and there are natural ways to prepare for the transition to make it less of a bumpy ride.
Can you calculate when menopause will occur so you can plan your life better? Not really. The best indicator of the age at which menopause will kick in for you appears to be your mother’s age when her menopause began. Ethnic origin also plays a role: women of African or Hispanic descent hit menopause a little earlier than everyone else, whereas on average, women of Asian ancestry reach it a little later than Caucasians.
There are two other factors to consider, and the age of your first period (menarche) is not one of them. You’ve probably heard it said that girls are developing earlier than before. Well, that’s not just gossip: the average age of menarche has indeed dropped from 13 in 1920 to 12 today. However, it would seem that the number of menstrual cycles is not predetermined, given that the average age of menopause is still 51.
Factors that may influence the onset of menopause:
- Smoking: damages the ovaries and may make them age more quickly
- Some medical treatments: chemotherapy and surgery involving the ovaries may hasten the arrival of menopause
The PMS link
In 2004, a group of researchers published the findings of a study1 that examined the links between PMS symptoms and those of perimenopause (the last decade during which women menstruate). The results showed that women with PMS symptoms have twice the risk of experiencing mood swings, memory and concentration problems, and low libido as “the change” approaches.
For these women, the risk of having trouble sleeping during this period is around 72%. If we consider that PMS and perimenopausal symptoms are the body’s reaction to hormonal changes, it makes sense that the body would react in both cases. Simply put, you can usually tell you’re in perimenopause when the nuisances become unpredictable and ill-timed.
A second study2 from 2014 confirmed these findings, while also revealing that PMS doesn’t necessarily involve hot flashes. Unfortunately, given that most women are affected by hot flashes, the odds of experiencing them remain high.
While it’s true that you can’t control your hormones, there are things you can do to make them less bothersome. A healthy lifestyle can help you avoid the worst of both PMS and perimenopausal symptoms, so keep the following tips in mind:
- Adopt a healthy, balanced diet
- Eat enough fibre to promote healthy bowel movements, which also help you eliminate excess hormones
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day
- Exercise regularly: 20 to 30 minutes is enough to provide a benefit, and a brisk walk is enough to get your endorphins flowing, which will improve your mood
- Minimize stress, as it can have devastating effects on your mood and your body’s ability to manage hormones
- Sleep better by relaxing before bed, limiting caffeine and avoiding screen time before bed: the blue light computer, tablet and TV screens emit has the same effect on your brain as morning sunshine, halting the production of melatonin and therefore keeping you from falling asleep quickly and affecting your sleep
If making these adjustments to your lifestyle still doesn’t cut it, a few plants could come to the rescue.
Vitex agnus castus is the go-to plant for your menstrual cycle. It helps balance hormone levels and reduce symptoms associated with sudden variations. It can also help with PMS and perimenopausal symptoms.
While the following products are very effective, they work on the symptoms and have no regulatory effect:
- Sage reduces the frequency and intensity of hot flashes
- Valerian promotes deep, restorative sleep
- Hypericum evens out moods
Given that hormone fluctuations, stress and anxiety affect the adrenal glands, a combination of rhodiola, zinc and flowering oats is highly recommended. Rhodiola is so effective for clear thinking, even under stress, that Russian cosmonauts use it in space… In the end, it’s as effective as hormone therapy.
By adopting a healthier lifestyle and accepting a little help from our plant friends, you can better manage the hormonal onslaught and stay Zen despite it all.