Menopause is defined as the complete cessation of menstrual cycles, with the average age of onset in the United States at fifty-one. Perimenopause, on the other hand, usually begins several years before menopause but can vary in length from as little as a few months to ten years.
Perimenopause is often a physically and emotionally turbulent phase where a woman is still having menstrual cycles but transitioning toward menopause. Estrogen levels drop, and anovulatory cycles begin where an egg is not released. This leads to a drop in progesterone, which can cause a whole host of symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, insomnia, fatigue, lowered libido, weight gain, moodiness or depression, poor concentration, joint pain, vaginal dryness and painful sex.
One thing to realize about perimenopause is that it isn’t an illness; it is a natural transition in life. However, the more symptomatic a woman becomes, the more this indicates hormonal imbalances caused by potentially serious underlying health issues that need to be addressed. The second thing to realize is that bringing a hormonally craved body back into balance requires patience and time. Every woman is unique with regard to which strategies are going to work best to manage symptoms.
What are some of the most common health issues affecting perimenopause? At the top of the list is stress! The adrenals regulate stress through the production of cortisol, but it is also the adrenals that take over sex hormone production when the ovaries start to shut down. Long-term stress depletes cortisol levels, causing our desperate adrenals to “steal” from its sex hormone production, abnormally or prematurely lowering estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone.
Two other common complicating factors include liver toxicity and an under functioning thyroid—both of which are prevalent in a significant number of women reaching perimenopause in the United States! Attending to gut issues is also critical, as many important microbes in the gut help to metabolize and recycle hormones in the body.
While the wisest approach would be to prepare for perimenopause before we get caught off guard, there are luckily many successful ways to treat it. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and nutritional therapy are extremely effective in treating all kinds of hormonal imbalances, including perimenopause. Acupuncture has been shown to raise both estradiol and progesterone levels, reduce stress, support normalizing adrenal function, relieve anxiety and depression, and help restore both liver and gut health.
At Vital Health, we dig deep to uncover the root causes of your hormone imbalances. Using deep nutrition, targeted dietary and herbal therapies as well as acupuncture, you can put both perimenopausal and menopausal “angst” behind you and look forward to your wise woman years.
©2022 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health