How to Cope with Perimenopause?
Most women, even today, grow into womanhood without actually knowing what their bodies are going through as they mature. Until she’s taken high-school biology, a girl getting her first period is clueless as to what’s happening, and why she will have this experience once a month for the next 30 to 40 years. Likewise, adult women are clueless about menopause – what it is, when it will happen, what the changes will bring about, and most of all, what to do about it.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is referred to colloquially as “THE CHANGE.” Meaning, the period when a women reaches the end of her childbearing years. The expression also has other, less* clinical, and certainly less* polite, meanings; what we’re concerned with here is what is actually happening. Menopause is the point in time when a woman has reached the end of her fertility, and can no longer conceive a child. Men are fertile their entire lives, but Nature is practical – pregnancy and childrearing are both perilous and hard on a woman. Women do lose* their lives carrying babies and giving birth, and after a certain age, the risks outweigh the rewards. Childrearing is also hard – it takes energy to chase toddlers, and educate them in the common-sense things of life. Nature knows this, and puts a firm end to the process.
Menopause is divided into three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause begins, on the average, around age forty-five, and continues, on average, around age fifty-one. These are averages; women will experience perimenopause both earlier and later than the given average, and some women will have longer or shorter periods of perimenopause. It depends on many factors, so there is no actual way to determine when a given women will start the cycle. Menopause is the point when a woman has had no menstrual periods for a period of one year. Once menopause is reached, the postmenopause phase begins.
The onset of perimenopause begins the menopause cycle. It can last for years, and is marked by unpleasant side effects as the woman’s hormone levels begin to change. A woman in perimenopause may experience hot flashes, mood swings, depression, irritability, vaginal dryness, and headaches. These are the results of fluctuating hormone levels. A reduced* libido is not necessarily a symptom of menopause; testosterone in the hormone most involved with libido, and menopause does not affect its production. However, as you age, your ability to produce* testosterone falls, so a drop in production may coincide with perimenopause. Other symptoms of menopause are more likely to contribute to a reduced* libido; insomnia, hot flashes, and depression all deplete a woman’s energy, leading to a reduced* sex drive.
There are ways to cope with the symptoms of perimenopause; however, don’t expect them to come from your allopathic ob-gyn. The allopathic treatments for menopause are often worse than the disease, especially hormone replacement therapy. The world of alternative medicine relies on natural treatments to help a woman through this phase of her life as gently as possible.
Listed below are some (not all, by any means) methods to help a woman cope:
It’s an old adage, but it’s nonetheless true: you are what you eat. Consumption of highly processed foods during this phase of life causes symptoms to increase* instead of improving*. Generally, a diet with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed grains provides* better* nutrition. You should particularly try to consume foods with the following nutrients:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
A healthy weight is good for you in general, not just because of perimenopause. Weight can become a problem for a woman in perimenopause, so do your best to keep your weight under control* before you get there. If you are overweight, work on losing it; it will benefit your life greatly in many, many ways.
Becoming a moderate (and we’re not talking politics here) is a good way to cope with menopause. Many foods condemned as evil are not really evil at all; in fact, most of them are necessary for you to have a well-rounded, happy life. Take salt, for example. Salt is a necessary nutrient for metabolism. Without salt, your body cannot process water, and you could literally die of dehydration in a bathtub of fresh water. Much hype has been given to salt causing problems with your cardiovascular system, and touting the benefits of a low-salt or no-salt diet. Salt is one of the things your body needs and cannot manufacture on its own. Without proper salt intake, you die. Period. A high-salt diet may be a factor in high blood pressure, but recent research is actually showing a low-salt/no-salt diet to be more of a factor in cardiovascular disease than a normal to high-salt one. So, practice moderation in your salt intake, but don’t go overboard.
Sugar has also gotten a bad rap. Sugar is not responsible for the diabetes epidemic raging in the nation. Highly processed foods, especially carbohydrates, are more to blame than sugar. Make your own sweet treats*, and moderate the sugar in them. You’ll have far tastier treats* than those coming from the factories, and you’ll be in control* of what goes in them, as opposed to all the artificial things found in Twinkies.
Don’t dive head-first into the low-fat myth. Fat does not make you fat; it is necessary for your body in many ways – our brains developed on a high-fat diet, and we require the EFAs (essential fatty acids) for proper brain function. Fat is also proving to be an appetite controller. What is necessary is to avoid trans-fats, found in all processed foods with the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” attached to the name of a fat. Saturated fats are not Satan’s spawn; just don’t eat them like they’re going out of style. Corn oil, or olive oil are polyunsaturated/mono-unsaturated fats and are your first choices for a healthy fat.
Moderate drinking is absolutely fine, and depending on what you drink, may actually aid* you in your quest to be healthy. One drink a day, or perhaps two or three drinks a week is a good way to go.
There are a wide variety of supplements available to help a woman through the menopausal cycle. Finding a knowledgeable person to assist you is invaluable. Look for a holistic physician, a naturopath, or find a locally-owned health food store with a good reputation. The staff at such a store usually display a large body of knowledge, and are very friendly and helpful to first-time shoppers. The Internet is a great resource – type “supplements for menopause” into the search engine of your choice, and start your research. Menopause is as individual as women – while we will all experience the same types of symptoms, none of us experiences them in the same way, so research what’s available to you, and start experimenting until you find the combination of supplements that works best for you.
Menopause is inevitable; short of dying young, there’s nothing you can do about it, so you’re much better* off learning to live with it. You can have a relatively harmonious journey, if you’re willing to do what it takes to make it so.