Perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s but can start in her 30s or even earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs.
the average age for menopause being 50 in Ireland, perimenopause generally starts for women in their mid-40s. However, it is possible for perimenopause to start in the late 30s (early or premature menopause) and early 40s.
Hormone production and rebalancing
As hormone production in our ovaries slows down, our bodies are designed to produce estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, at other sites in the body. For instance, estrogen, progesterone, and androgens are produced in the adrenal glands, body fat, the skin and the brain.
According to medical sources around 10% of women in Ireland experiencing difficult symptoms will require medical treatment such as HRT. The majority, however, will not require this treatment. If symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats become unbearable, HRT may provide relief for some women. For most of us, symptoms can be managed through lifestyle changes such as adapting our diet and nutrition, taking exercise and learning to relax. Difficult symptoms may be alleviated by using alternative or complementary treatments and therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, and naturopathy.
The sooner we accept that we are perimenopausal the better. By addressing the symptoms and spending some time and energy looking after our health we will be able to keep them at bay.
Perimenopause can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years. Technically, premenopause lasts from when a woman has her first period to when she gets her final period and enters menopause.
If a woman experiences menopause before age 45, doctors refer to this as early menopause. If menopause occurs before age 40, it is known as premature menopause.
There are some instances when a doctor might recommend a medication- or surgically-induced menopause. This will cause menopause to occur earlier or more quickly that it would do naturally.
While hormone levels fluctuate naturally during premenopause, a woman is unlikely to have symptoms related to a loss of estrogen.
Instead, a woman in premenopause will usually have regular or semi-regular periods, be fertile, and may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Symptoms of PMS include:
- mood swings
- anxiety or irritability
- tender breasts
There are great natural remedies that help.
Nutrition and Supplements – Herbs for Menopause
Try the following natural remedies and menopause treatments, including herbs:
- Soy foods. The isoflavones in soy foods help balance hormone levels and have some estrogenic activity. There is ongoing research about the safety and efficacy of isolated soy isoflavone supplements. While the initial results look promising, we currently recommend using natural soy foods rather than supplements. Choose from tofu, soy milk, roasted soy nuts or tempeh.
- Flaxseed. Substances called lignins in flaxseed are important modulators of hormone metabolism. Grind flaxseed daily in a coffee grinder at home and use 1 to 2 tablespoons a day.
- Dong quaiquai. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is known both in China and the West for its ability to support and maintain the natural balance of female hormones. It does not have estrogenic activity. This is one of the herbs for menopause that should not be taken if a woman is experiencing heavy bleeding.
- Black cohosh (Cumicifuga racemosa). One of the best-studied traditional herbs for menopause, black cohosh is used to help alleviate some symptoms of menopause and is considered an effective hot flash remedy. Black cohosh seems to work by supporting and maintaining hormonal levels, which may lessen the severity of hot flashes. Many women report that the herb works well but it isn’t effective for everyone. While any therapy that influences hormonal actions should be a concern, black cohosh does not appear to have estrogenic activity and thus may be safe for women with a personal or family history of breast cancer.
- Vitamin E. A daily dose of 400 IUs of natural vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) can help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes in some menopausal women.
- B vitamins. This group of water-soluble vitamins may help women deal with the stress of menopausal symptoms.
- Evening primrose oil or black currant oil. These are sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that can help influence prostaglandin synthesis and help moderate menopausal symptoms.