by Jeff Butterworth B.App.Sc, N.D
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual.
If 50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 20, then perimenopause seems to be the new PMS. It’s very common and affects women between the ages of 35 to 50 generally, and we are seeing it starting to happen on a more frequent basis and in younger women.
During the years before menopause levels of progesterone typically decline, while estrogen levels remain stable or even increase. This creates a situation commonly referred to as oestrogen dominance as the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen changes and triggers the following symptoms.
Some of the symptoms that women suffer when progesterone declines include: weight gain, increased PMS, breast swelling and tenderness, mood swings, poor memory, irritability, poor sleep, water retention, aches and pains, heavy periods, fibroid growth.
Another hormone which is influenced is testosterone. Testosterone levels may start to decline during this phase and can be quite difficult to observe. These symptoms can be: reduced sex drive, reduced response to sex, reduction in general sense of wellbeing, reduced energy and ambition, depression and reduction in muscle mass.
The final piece to the puzzle is the reduction in oestrogen levels leading into menopause. The ovaries reduce production of oestrogen, which triggers the elevation of follicle-stimulating hormones and luteinising hormone, which triggers the characteristic symptoms of menopause. The ovaries continue to produce some oestrogen along with the adrenal glands, however if the drop is dramatic and the adrenals cannot cope then symptoms can be dramatic until the body balances itself and may include: hot flushes, reduced energy, night sweats, vaginal dryness, depression, mood swings, dizziness, headaches, memory loss, urinary incontinence, arthritic aches and pains.
So it is critically important that from the age of 35 and leading up to 50 that women are aware of the changes that are starting to occur and support the endocrine control centres during this phase to avoid these symptoms and ensure a healthy menopause.
If these symptoms are suppressed with hormonal treatments or ignored, then the underlying attempt of the body to try and manage this transition naturally is sabotaged and it leads to a range of other issues, such as: weight gain, thyroid reduction, skin breakouts, mood swings, depression, irritability, insomnia, premature ageing and premature menopause.
3 simple steps to treating perimenopause naturally
1. Diet and lifestyle
Eating a low processed, alkaline and high antioxidant diet is important to allow the bodies detox and elimination systems to work efficiently. One of the reasons why oestrogen increases is because the body lacks the ability to metabolise oestrogen in particular. So it requires optimal liver and digestive function.
If liver function is sluggish then many of these symptoms develop so we suggest taking an additional liver support supplement containing natural amino acids and herbal medicines.
For digestion it is important to take fermented drinks and vegetables to build up the gut’s natural balance and defences. These bacteria assist in the breakdown of hormones excreted by the liver. Our eight week program has recipes for these drinks.
2. Manage stress levels
Stress is a common issue with women at this stage of life with busy lives, running households and careers to manage. Often women take care of themselves last and stress impacts on the endocrine balance. The adrenals become exhausted and cannot take up the additional production of oestrogen leading into menopause and the result is the dramatic symptoms of menopause. So managing stress is critical. Ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, yoga and meditation are all really important to ensure stress levels are kept to a manageable level.
3. Balance the hormone control centre
We know hormones are starting to shift at this time of life towards menopause. It largely depends on how well your body copes with this process. Your hormonal control centre, the pituitary and hypothalamus axis is the centre that regulates your hormones. What we often find is diet and lifestyle sometimes are just not enough to correct the underlying imbalance.
This is where some key herbal medicines come into play. Sage, vitex and black cohosh when combined together have a unique synergistic effect that nothing else can achieve. Luckily, Happy Hormones contains the perfect ratio of these three herbs.
Happy Hormones works directly on this control centre to allow the body to balance its own hormone levels naturally. And let’s not forget this is a natural process. You should not have any symptoms. Women living a traditional lifestyle and eating traditional foods don’t experience menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms. So it’s very much a western condition and we need to rely on natural medicines to allow the body to control its own hormone levels.
The current approach to treating perimenopause in particular is to replace any deficient hormones, namely progesterone and testosterone or DHEA, which is another hormone which is reduced. Although there may be initial relief the problem with this approach is threefold.
First, when you provide the body with an external hormone it immediately reduces its own natural production. So when menopause rolls around the situation is only compounded.
Second is the oestrogen levels stay elevated. This does not treat the issues of oestrogen dominance and having prolonged elevation of oestrogen is not good for the body on many levels relating to cancers.
Finally, the supplementation of hormones confuses the endocrine system, leading to the body lacking the ability to control hormone levels, resulting in further hormonal imbalance.
It’s a slippery slope once you get onto it, however thankfully there are effective natural options that can help you to regain your health and restore a natural sense of calm and balance.
Jeff Butterworth is a Naturopath with over 20 years experience specialising in treating hormonal disorders. Jeff developed the Happy Hormones (www.happyhormones.com.au) program after discovering a unique way of treating hormonal disorders that has long lasting and dramatic results.