Perimenopause is used to describe the transition phase a woman's body undergoes as she prepares for menopause. The word literally translates into "around/near menopause". Menopause is when the body naturally stops the menstruation process and usually occurs in a woman's late 40s or early 50s.
The transition to the menopause or perimenopause phase, may last for months to years as a woman's body begins to experience shifting hormone levels. Perimenopause usually start in your early 40s, but symptoms can appear as early as your mid-30s.
Clinically, perimenopause can be divided into an early stage and a late stage. In the early stage, a woman will start skipping periods and by the time she reaches the late stage, she will be bothered by irregular painful periods that can last anywhere from 60 days to 12 months apart.
Once a cycle of 365 days has passed without a period, a woman has finally reached menopause.
What happens to a woman's body during perimenopause?
The varying menstrual cycles that signal the start of perimenopause, are caused by declining ovarian function and fluctuating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone.
When women are in their reproductive years, the levels and fluctuations of their reproductive hormones are very predictable because of their cyclic nature. But as these levels become less predictable during perimenopause, it can cause some unwanted and strange symptoms to occur, on top of erratic periods.
The most-common perimenopause symptoms are:
- Irregular periods
- Painful cramping and heavy flow
- Hot flashes
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
- Decrease in fertility
- Changes in sexual function
- Mood changes
- Breast tenderness
These perimenopause symptoms are the ones you have probably heard of, but there are some more uncommon symptoms that may catch you by surprise.
Let's look at 9 of the more unusual symptoms of perimenopause and menopause:
- Bad body odor caused by excessive sweating and heat flashes. The fluctuating symptoms of estrogen tricks the body into thinking its overheating and this causes excessive sweating and embarrassing body odor.
- Change in vision. Hormones can affect the ocular tissue composition, causing a change in tear production that leads to scratchy and dry eyes, and changes in vision.
- Short-term memory problems and concentration problems has been reported by women as unusual perimenopause symptoms.
- Skin problems. Dry and thin skin, chin hair and easier bruising all comes with the territory of lowered estrogen levels.
- Hair loss. Hair loss and thinning hair is another unwanted symptom of perimenopause. Female-pattern baldness (inherited androgenic alopecia) may also be triggered during this time.
- Cold flashes are another unusual symptom of perimenopause and the messages sent to your brain that you are overheating. Your body responds with excessive sweating to shed heat, triggering a cold flash.
- Change in taste. A drop in estrogen decreases mucus production, even in your mouth. This can lead to a dry mouth and changes to your taste buds.
- Urge to get pregnant. During perimenopause, it is still possible to get pregnant. Your biological clock is screaming at you that this is your last chance.
- Loss in bone mass and osteoporosis. Estrogen plays a role in bone density and decreasing estrogen levels can cause the loss of bone mass. This can weaken your bones to the extent that they may develop osteoporosis.
Natural treatments and lifestyle changes to relieve perimenopause symptoms
Lifestyle and dietary changes are aimed at reducing inflammation, pain, cramping, stress, mood, bloating and digestive symptoms. Specific natural remedies aim to directly address the body's fluctuating estrogen levels.
- Exercise like yoga, swimming or walking, can help to reduce cramping and help to release endorphins that can boost your mood. Exercise also helps to fight against weight gain and bone mass loss.
- Reduce your stress. Stress and anxiety cause a heightened immune response and increased inflammation throughout the body. This can increase your period pain, reduce the quality of your life and can cause moodiness.
Dietary changes and whole food supplement support
Your diet contributes to the inflammation levels in your body and can affect your mood. Eating plenty of refined and sugary foods can worsen both.
Processed food often contains harmful environmental toxins, including xenoestrogens and other hormones. Xenoestrogens are found in plastics and pesticides and wreak havoc on your hormone levels. It is best to stick to organic produce and grass-fed meats and exclude processed foods altogether.
Women can also benefit from taking a wholefood supplement such as Bio-Strath which is a bioavailable plasmolized yeast product which is packed with essential nutrients to help eliminate excess inflammatory prostaglandins and estrogenic waste products. It also contains minerals like calcium and magnesium that help keep a woman's bones healthy and strong.
The following foods can help a woman at this stage of her life:
- Organic fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and phytonutrients (kale, spinach, broccoli, berries, citrus, etc.)
- High-fiber foods (nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, ancient grains)
- Probiotic foods (cultured yogurt, kefir water)
- Fermented foods (kimchi, kombucha)
- Omega-3 fish oils (fights inflammation)
- 8 glasses of water to help with hydration
A.Vogel's MenoSupport Complex helps with all stages of menopause and bone health.
Phytoestrogens (the plant-based estrogens) contained in the product are a popular treatment for perimenopause and menopause symptoms. They act like a weaker form of estrogen inside the body and bind to estrogen receptors. This means they can help to stabilize fluctuating estrogen levels and help reduce perimenopause symptoms.
Isoflavones are one of the main groups of phytoestrogens and are found in soy products like tofu, soymilk and soy flour. Studies have shown that soy supplements such as menosupport complex can reduce hot flashes and other perimenopause symptoms. The application of topical soy products has also shown improvement in vaginal health and can help reduce painful sex.
Key takeaway points
Perimenopause is the transition of your body into menopause. It is a period in a woman's life that takes place due to fluctuating female reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Specific lifestyle improvements and supportive supplements will help to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause. Both the usual and unusual ones.