Let me set the scene. It is a late Tuesday night. You just got the kids to bed…finally. You settle in to watch your recorded episode of “This is Us.” You start tearing up the minute the opening theme song starts to play, even though nothing of note has even happened yet. By the middle of the episode you are sobbing uncontrollably.
To add to your misery, you find yourself elbow deep in a box of Thin Mints, berating yourself because the waist band of your “stretchy” pants is tight.
Your husband comes in, and seeing you in this state, asks you if he can do anything for you. You shoot him a look so full of rage that he immediately retreats to the basement.
What in the world is going on here?
Are you a crazy person?
But it might not be your fault.
In fact, if you are between the ages of 35 and 50, you could be going through the “lovely” stage known as perimenopause.
Perimenopause creeps up on you. Just when you thought the pregnancy and post-partum hormones had finally subsided and you could have some calm back in your life, unexpected physical, emotional, and mental changes start happening.
Some of the more common symptoms of perimenopause are: mood swings, increased stress, less patience, lack of libido, itchy skin, GI issues, joint pain, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and forgetfulness.
Why is this happening?
The number of ovarian follicles (eggs) that you have stored in your body start dwindling, causing your hormone production to change. Your estrogen level (the primary female hormone) is going through dramatic peaks as it tries desperately to hold onto the eggs your body has left. However, what goes up must come down, so the estrogen level eventually plummets. It is essentially a roller coaster of hormone production.
Is there anything I can do about this?
Lifestyle changes can help. Eat foods rich in vitamin C (papaya, bell peppers, citrus fruit, dark leafy greens). Reduce caffeine and alcohol. Eat adequate amounts of omega-3s (salmon, tuna, walnuts, or ground flax seed are good sources). Beans and lentils are superfoods which offer several benefits to women going through perimenopause. The combination of high fiber and protein help to keep blood sugar stable, helping with mood swings. And, of course, drink plenty of water.
Stress reduction is very important. A lot of woman in this age group are experiencing new and challenging stressors such as aging parents, busier older children and teens, and more demanding careers.
Stress relief can help. Examples for stress relief include yoga, hobbies, exercise, watching a favorite television program, reading, and going out with friends. Most growth hormone production happens during deep sleep, so planning for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night is essential in restoring hormonal balance.
It is important to mention troubling symptoms to your physician. They aren’t all in your head and you shouldn’t always just chalk them up to “having a bad day” or “getting older” or “being stressed.”
Perimenopause is a medical issue and should be treated as such.
You deserve relief and there are many ways to find it if symptoms worsen. Be aware, however, that there is an enormous amount of information available (some of it controversial) regarding this subject, and it can be very overwhelming and oftentimes misleading. The best person to help you navigate this complicated subject is a knowledgeable and trusted physician who understands this period of a woman’s life.
Going through perimenopause may seem like your body is at war with itself. But the more information you have about it and the more you stay tuned in to your own body, the better equipped you will be to deal with it.
Sun Tzu from his classic book “The Art or War” states, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
You might be thinking “The Art of War?” Isn’t that a bit dramatic? Why yes, it IS dramatic. I’m premenopausal; what do you expect? Now where did I hide those Thin Mints?
Is anyone else experiencing perimenopause? How do you cope with it?