Women’s bodies face a variety of changes throughout their life. Through puberty, childbearing years, perimenopause, menopause, and beyond, women’s bodies require an approach to wellness that evolves along with them.
One of the most significant changes in a woman’s body is the hormonal shift of perimenopause into menopause. Perimenopause is a gradual process that occurs as the ovaries begin to decline, causing an imbalance in hormone production during the monthly cycle. This can occur anywhere between two and ten years prior to menopause. It typically begins in the 40's but can also start in a woman’s late 30’s as well. Perimenopause lasts until the ovaries stop releasing eggs, menstruation stops, and menopause begins. During the transitional phase, women often notice hormonal fluctuations, in their menstrual cycles due to a drop in progesterone production and a temporary rise in unopposed estrogen levels. Typical symptoms during the 40’s may include irregular periods, mood swings, trouble sleeping, fatigue, weight gain, food cravings and increase in breast growth and tenderness. Women may also experience vaginal dryness and reduced libido that often indicates a decline in estrogen and testosterone production. Symptoms often come and go during this period until menopause is established in the early to mid-50’s. For some women, this can be an horrific time in their life, especially if they have other stressors or health issues going on. Many women begin to feel that they have lost control over their body and have no idea what to do. It is important for women to remember that, perimenopause is not about ageing, but a natural change in a women's life. Luckily, there are ways to smooth the transition. Early assessment is essential to confirm what is going on and at what stage a woman is at. In many cases, early intention with herbal medicine can help reduce the symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, making the transitional period easier to deal with. Diet, lifestyle, sleep health, alcohol intake, exercise and stress management all need to be addressed. In some cases, the use of Bio-identical Hormones may be necessary, and are best started during this transitional phase if required. This is also a time that woman may experience the onset of other health issues that may or may not be associated with hormonal imbalance. These include Autoimmune Issues, Thyroid Issues, Resistant Weight Loss and Type 2 Diabetes, Chronic Fatigue, Blood Pressure Changes, Sleep Disorders, Hair Loss as well as Body Aches and Pains. Any health changes during this period should be addressed alongside a hormonal review. I always recommend a full blood work up that includes base line hormones, full thyroid, liver and cholesterol, iron panel, fasting insulin and glucose as well as the stress hormone cortisol be done as a Wellness Health Review for all women in their 40’s. Once completed we can then implement a program to address the cause of the imbalance and set a plan to manage each women's journey into menopause and beyond. In recent years, interest and research in women’s health has grown, adding evidence to the observation that implementing healthy habits that include good nutrition, stress management, maintaining circadian rhythms and utilising herbal botanicals, can offer important aspects to healthy ageing during the hormonal phases of our lives.