When my mother went through "the change," her house felt like an ice box. Like many other women in perimenopause, hot flashes were one of her common complaints. To make matters worse, she was working the graveyard shift at a time when her body needed every additional ounce of support. Lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition, and stress from work only exacerbated her perimenopause experience.
Perimenopause is defined as the transitional time between a woman's fertile years and her menopausal years, which is marked by 12 consecutive months without menstruation. For most women, this occurs around the age of 50, but could occur later in some and even as early as the late 30s for others. As a society, we're taught that it's normal for women going through perimenopause to experience hot flashes, moodiness, night sweats, decreased libido, and fatigue, but the symptoms seem to vary from culture to culture. For example, women in India don't have many complaints outside of menstrual changes whereas Japanese women report shoulder stiffness. Plenty of studies have shown that Japanese women consume a larger amount of soy rich in phytoestrogens, which could be a reason why they don't report hot flashes, but this likely has more to do with other lifestyle and dietary factors as well.
If I haven't already emphasized the detrimental role stress can play in women's hormone balance in this series, let me do so again! In my first couple years seeing clients one-on-one for nutrition consulting, the vast majority were women in perimenopause or slightly older women who had hysterectomies at a younger age and were suddenly experiencing perimenopause symptoms. All of these women had one thing in common: their adrenal glands were in need of some TLC!
When a woman enters into perimenopause, her ovaries begin to slow the release of eggs. Those eggs produce the majority of progesterone in a woman's body to prepare the uterus should the egg be fertilized. Once the unfertilized egg leaves during menstruation, so too does the surge of progesterone. For women in perimenopause, the adrenal glands take over the responsibility of producing progesterone when the ovaries slow or stop releasing eggs. For many women, the adrenals simply can't keep up. Chronic stress depletes the adrenal glands. You may recall in my previous post I discussed the pregnenolone steal, in which cortisol is prioritized over progesterone. Ultimately, the combination of stress and perimenopause can leave a woman's progesterone depleted.
I encourage all women to have a hormone panel done with your annual physical. It helps to know where your hormone levels are at. I am not a fan of synthetic hormones because of their potential consequences. To learn more, check out the Nurses' Health Study.
We are all biologically unique. The beauty of whole herbs lies in their vast array of constituents. Where one constituent may be what one person's body is in need of in that moment, a different constituent of that same herb may be serving another purpose for someone else. In my next post, I'll highlight some of my favorite herbs to support women through perimenopause.
Resources Women in Balance Institute. "Menopause Around the World." Women in Balance Institute, 19 Sept. 2014, womeninbalance.org/2014/09/17/menopause-around-the-world/.
Writer Danielle Cicak is the Northern Colorado and Wyoming Sales Representative and Regional Educator for WishGarden Herbs located in Louisville, Colorado. In 2003, Danielle began her career working in the supplement aisles at Natural Grocers. Inspired to help others with their health and wellbeing, she pursued an education in holistic nutrition from the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado. As a Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), Danielle served as a Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) before advancing to become the NHC Development Specialist where she led and developed the NHC training program for Natural Grocers. As a Colorado native, Danielle is thrilled to work with another local, family-owned business that promotes health and activism through education: WishGarden Herbs! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, creating healthy dishes in her kitchen, and enjoying the beauty Colorado has to offer!
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.