Puberty was so much fun the first time! We get to do it twice!
Many women find it hard to accept the notion of menopause. With pop culture always dwelling on the negative, we tend to forget that there are upsides to this phase of life! Here at Hormone Wellness MD, we want to change the narrative on midlife health.
How to Feel Empowered About Menopause:
Flip your thinking! It is time to embrace the fact that you are a human with a lot of value outside of being a reproductive being. If you haven’t already, now is the time to set healthy boundaries. Notice disempowering language and thoughts. Dedicate time for self-reflection. Explore the strength and power in this transition. Many women are so focused on caring for others. Often, midlife body changes are a wake up call that we need to devote time and attention to caring for ourselves.
Perimenopause is puberty in reverse. Remember those pubescent moments and how they were confusing and sometimes scary? Thankfully, as an adult woman, your brain is fully developed so your approach to this transition will be very different. You have autonomy, wisdom and resources to guide you through.
Reclaim your body! Many women have spent most of their lives as a caregiver. For some, this included pregnancy. Whether you’ve gone through pregnancy or not, your body has been working hard trying to recover. It is time to reclaim it for yourself! How can you take up some more space in your life for your own health? How would you feel if you accomplished this?
Perimenopause, Menopause and Post-Menopause:
Perimenopause is the period of time when hormone changes begin until 12 months after the last menstrual period. Menopause is the “magic” one year of no periods. Once you’ve experienced one year of amenorrhea (no menstration), you enter post-menopause. Women are likely to spend at least ⅓ of their life in the post-menopause stage. Therefore, it is important that women celebrate this stage of life!
Actionable Tips for Menopause Symptoms:
In perimenopause, most women encounter symptoms such as irregular cycle, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood changes. On average, a woman goes through this phase from 7-14 years (but that is highly variable). Sometimes women choose to “suffer” through it, but with it being such a lengthy phase in life, why not try to “live” as vibrantly as you can.
Women often complain that they aren’t doing anything differently, but they are noticing that they are gaining weight. This is mainly due to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when carbs are not used for energy but are deposited as fat. This fat is usually deposited into the abdomen or into the liver. Since the energy from food can’t enter the cell and is deposited into fat, women often experience fatigue.
To limit weight gain, you may want to consider timed eating or intermittent fasting. Timed eating has been found to lower insulin resistance. Another option is to try a low GI (glycaemic index), anti inflammatory diet. You can also try fiber supplements, or an insulin sensitizing supplement called Berberine. (Note, before taking any supplements you should clear them with your PCP. Berberine can interact with statin medications.) Lastly, some patients find using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) helpful so that they can get real time data on what is spiking their blood sugar.
Hot Flashes (VMS):
Hot flashes are also known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS). About 80% of women experience VMS during perimenopause. The #1 question women will ask is, “how long do hot flashes last?” The median duration is 7 to 10 years. There are several basic things you can do to minimize hot flashes:
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid Caffeine
- Avoid refined carbohydrates like sugars, bread, white rice, and pasta.
- Adopt stress management practices.
Some patients ask, “why does perimenopause feel like PMS?” Perimenopause is a relatively estrogen dominant state, meaning that estrogen is not properly balanced with progesterone. Progesterone is grounding, it helps promote feeling calm and sleeping well. When progesterone is low, emotions are often labile and sleep deteriorates. We may experience challenges with short term memory. Higher estrogen states may result in sore breasts or heavier, irregular bleeding.
To overcome this, you can adopt cortisol lowering practices such as meditation, yoga and tapping as well as better sleep hygiene. To support clearing the estrogen excess, focus on liver health. Lowering the toxic burden in the liver by limiting alcohol and toxins such as fragrances, personal care products and plastic exposure (like water bottles) is a great first step. Advanced testing like Dutch Plus is a great way to assess just how your body is detoxifying estrogen and stress hormones.
Meanwhile, during this phase, progesterone is falling. Progesterone helps to make GABA, which is a calming neurotransmitter. Therefore, lower progesterone can disrupt sleep and mood. As a remedy, you can try herbs or bioidentical progesterone. When given orally, B Progesterone is metabolized to GABA in the brain. This helps balance mood, improve sleep and control often erratic perimenopausal bleeding patterns.
Sex & Libido:
Increased pain during sexual intercourse may occur earlier in the transition. While many perimenopausal symptoms such as VMS and mood tend to improve with time, ongoing targeted treatment is required for improvement in vaginal symptoms. Don’t suffer through it. GSM (genitourinary syndrome of menopause) is much easiter to fix when it’s addressed promptly.
Vaginal DHEA can help to increase sexual desire. Commercially available, bioidentical vaginal DHEA is a clean product, containing only food grade fat and DHEA. It just treats the vagina and isn’t significantly systemically absorbed. It acts on all 3 layers of vaginal epithelium. If you’ve heard of Estradiol, it only acts on 1 layer. Don’t wait to get the pleasure you deserve. If you aren’t ready to take action, but are curious to learn more you can read Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski Ph.D. or enroll in the Libido Rescue DIY online course!
Watch the Video!
This article was written in addition to an Open Office Hours (OOH) lecture presented by Dr. Polly Watson on 11/30/21. Hormone Wellness MD members get FREE access to OOH replays! Everyone gets through menopause diffferently. You deserve to enjoy midlife and celebrate all that you have worked hard to accomplish. If you are interested in becoming a member, we invite you to book a Discovery Call. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Now is the time to reject the negative cultural messaging about midlife and reclaim your vitality.