Recognizing and Treating Hormonal Imbalances during Perimenopause
By: Dr. Eric Honing
You don’t feel as great as you used to. You’re moody, irritable and you can’t keep the weight off. You’re tired all the time and can’t seem to get enough sleep. Your family may be treading on eggshells around you. It’s almost like you’re living in a perpetual state of PMS – and that’s not really too far off. Just like those times before your period, your hormones are out of whack – but they’re not getting any better. Welcome to perimenopause!
Symptoms of Perimenopause
It’s not always easy to tell that you’re experiencing perimenopause. The symptoms of this hormonal imbalance can be difficult to pinpoint and may be mistaken for other medical conditions. However, there are four major changes that you are likely to notice during this time:
-Mood changes. Mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability and nervousness are common in the early stages of perimenopause.
-Weight changes. As your hormone levels change, it becomes much harder to lose weight. Weight distribution also changes, causing fat to be deposited around the middle area instead of the thighs and hips.
-Sleep changes. During this period, you may also have trouble getting enough sleep. You may not sleep as heavily as you used to and may wake up frequently throughout the night.
-Libido changes. Declining hormone levels during perimenopause may also lead to a decreased libido.
Of course, these aren’t the only symptoms that you may experience during perimenopause. You’ll probably also notice changes in your menstrual cycles. You may have heavier bleeding, irregular cycles or more cramping. You may experience more headaches, especially closer to your period, and may notice increased swelling and stiffness in your joints. Together, all of these symptoms can lead to a reduction in your vitality and productivity during what may be a very busy time in your life.
But I’m Too Young!
Many women may live with the symptoms of perimenopause for years before they seek proper treatment. They may suffer for as long as 15 years, only realizing what’s going on when their periods come to an end. You may think that you’re too young for this to be happening to you, so the symptoms must be originating from another source. But the truth is that perimenopause can begin well before you reach middle-age.
Perimenopause may begin anywhere from 10 to 15 years before menopause, so you will probably begin to notice symptoms during your mid to late 30s – but it may even begin sooner. And it can greatly disrupt your life. Most women have children at this age. In fact, if you’re among the many women who delay having children until they are more financially stable and established, you may even have young children at home when perimenopause begins to affect your life.
The hormonal imbalances of perimenopause can have wide-reaching affects on your quality of life. You may be trying to improve your overall health by eating more healthfully, exercising and reducing the effects of stress in your life. These are all very important steps to a healthy lifestyle, but they can be difficult to do when you’re dealing with perimenopausal symptoms. You may feel down, out of sorts and may not have the energy you need to keep yourself healthy.
Effects on Your Overall Health
Hormonal balance is vital to your long term health and prevention of illness. All of your hormones have to work together to keep your health in optimal condition. If one hormone is dominant, it would be as if one section of the orchestra were over-powering the rest. That section may sound wonderful on its own, but you can’t hear the entire symphony over it.
That’s essentially what’s happening in estrogen dominance. When estrogen over-powers your system, it can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including poor bone health, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes) and, perhaps most importantly, breast cancer. By identifying and correcting this hormonal imbalance early, you can reduce the amount of time your body has to deal with excessive estrogen – which, in turn, decreases your risk of breast cancer and other health problems.
You may wonder how likely this is to be a problem for you. Estrogen dominance is actually extremely common in women, especially in the modern world. Progesterone typically begins to decline before estrogen – generally about 10 to 15 years earlier – and this sets you up for the imbalance. However, today’s world is also overrun with compounds called xenoestrogens. These compounds come from external sources – such as foods, plastics, pesticides and household cleaners – and basically act like estrogen in your body.
As the symptoms of perimenopause come together, many women seek out help from their regular doctors. However, these doctors often do not have the proper training and expertise in hormones to recognize what’s going on. That’s why so many women are being prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. In many cases, these drugs actually can help certain symptoms of perimenopause, but they don’t get to the root of the problem: your hormones will still be imbalanced.
A hormone expert physician will focus first and foremost on balancing your hormones with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Once your hormones are balanced, you will see drastic improvements in all of your symptoms – even those you may not have realized you were experiencing, such as dry skin or thinning hair.
Eating right, exercising and de-stressing will also help your hormone balance, but you need to have the energy and motivation to get there – and for that, you need hormone balance. That’s why it’s so crucial to work on your whole body health. Spiritual balance is also important, as this can go a long way toward helping you alleviate stress and deal with your symptoms.
Your health begins with you. You are the CEO of your body. You’re the one who ultimately needs to know and understand what’s going with your health, because it is your health. So take charge! Do some research and learn how your hormones are affecting your overall health. Find the right physician who will listen to you and work with you as a team. Devise a healthy nutrition and exercise plan and find the relaxation techniques that work best for you. The right doctor will help you achieve the best level of health and wellness possible so that you can live a long, happy, healthy life!