Updated: Jun 30
The transition into menopause is a normal process but the symptoms most
associated with it are not. While some women experience a smooth transition into menopause others, experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms during this transitional period.
Understanding how the body works and what is happening during this phase in your life can help you navigate your way through the symptoms, and possibly even avoid them altogether.
The Three Stages of Menopause
This is the time when women may begin to notice changes in their cycle and period. It can start years before they actually go through the menopause phase. If they are estrogen dominant and/or experience high levels of stress, it can make the symptoms worse.
The start of menopause is marked by a drop in progesterone, followed by a drop in estrogen. Menopause officially occurs once the period has permanently stopped for over a year. If a woman is estrogen dominant, this initial stage is more pronounced and symptoms can be more severe. The stress factor also makes symptoms worse.
Once the period has stopped and the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen and progesterone, the adrenal glands must pick up the slack, producing a small amount of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone to cover a women's needs for the rest of her life. Stress can mess with this process, which is the biggest reason why women experience symptoms during this time.
Signs and Symptoms Of Perimenopause & Menopause
It all starts with the perimenopause stage. Periods start to become irregular and the symptoms of “menopause” may begin. As long as there is a period, ovulation may still be occurring. Once there has been a cessation of periods for 12 months, the perimenopause stage is over and the menopause stage has begun. Symptoms can still occur during the menopause stage.
They can be longer or shorter than what was experienced through adult life, and they may not show signs of consistency; one month may be longer than normal and the next may be shorter. Many women have experienced period irregularities in the past and may not notice the change. Or, periods can become more of an issue with excessive bleeding, especially if fibroids are present. Every woman will have a different experience depending on many factors. Eventually, the periods start to become more infrequent, and often monthly symptoms like PMS are less severe.
A hot flash is an increased sensation of warmth or heat and can include sweating. It often comes on suddenly and can include symptoms such as warm skin, tingling in the fingers, faster heartbeat, and a flushed or red face. Hot flashes are an adrenal issue and stress and anxiety are frequent triggers. Alcohol, smoking, and caffeine can also trigger a hot flash. They can last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Applying an ice pack or drinking ice water may provide some relief but the key is to prevent them altogether. Balancing hormones with a focus on managing stress and supporting the adrenal glands is the key.
During both perimenopause and menopause, many women have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. They either have trouble falling asleep, cannot stay asleep, or both. They may also experience hot flashes in the middle of the night. Once again, the adrenals are involved as they control the production of our “awake” hormone cortisol. Cortisol is supposed to decrease steadily in the evening so that we can easily fall asleep. If there is too much cortisol, we do not sleep. Some women find themselves waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 AM and then are unable to fall back to sleep. This is also an adrenal problem. We secrete ACTH, a hormone produced in the pituitary to prepare the adrenals to release cortisol in the morning when we wake up. However, when the adrenals are not functioning properly, then cortisol can start pumping immediately, which means sleep is not going to happen for the rest of the night. Developing a relaxation strategy, going to bed at the same time every night, and supporting adrenal function can help.
A decrease in estrogen can also cause a decrease in lubrication and blood flow, which can lead to vaginal dryness and make sexual intercourse difficult.
Many women find that during this time, they become angry more easily and often feel irritated. Depression is another symptom. Reduced hormone levels can affect the brain, especially the areas that control emotions. The nervous system can also be more agitated, especially if stress levels are high and blood sugar fluctuates up and down. Adrenal support, reducing stress and stabilizing blood sugar by eating whole foods and eating regularly all help.
Joint and Muscles Pains:
Hormones help maintain joint health and muscle function. So, it is quite common for women to feel more aches and pains. Balancing hormones and regular exercise, especially stretching and range of motion exercises can be beneficial.
This may be the most difficult symptom. There is a link between estrogen receptors in the brain and memory issues. Many women feel like their brain is foggy and their focus and concentration are not what it once was. Sleep issues can play a role in memory issues. Focus on adrenal support, relaxation techniques, and low-intensity aerobic exercises.
Perimenopause weight gain is an issue many women experience during this transitional phase. If they are dealing with hormonal imbalances, stress, and sleep disruptions it can lead to high cortisol levels which can lead to weight gain, increased ghrelin (hunger hormone), and make weight loss very difficult without the right nutrition and lifestyle habits to support their body during this phase.
4 Ways To Minimize Perimenopause & Menopause Symptoms
Eat a diet rich in whole foods.
Get enough sleep. 7-8 hours is ideal. Go to bed and get up at the same time each night and morning to develop a habit. This will be helpful for sleep issues you may be having. Have a relaxing herbal tea before bed such as chamomile, valerian, hops, passionflower, or a combination.
Practice deep breathing. It helps lower cortisol and relaxes the nervous system. As a technique, it can be used throughout the day to combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
Exercise can help lower cortisol, improve moods and help with sleep issues. Even adding in 5-10 minutes of movement per day will be beneficial.
As you can see, stress, cortisol, and the adrenal glands play a key role in
perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms. Supporting the body with the right nutrients, lifestyle habits, reducing inflammation and good adrenal support can all help to greatly minimize the symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. If you need a little support and direction be sure to check out the Nourish To Thrive Program - a 12-week 1:1 program that focuses on helping women deal with hormone imbalances so they can feel their best.
Key Supplements For Happy Hormones During Perimenopause & Menopause
DIM: (Diindolylmethane) is a great option as it helps to balance estrogen and encourages the production of beneficial estrogen metabolites.
B Vitamins: B Vitamins help with liver detoxification and removing harmful estrogens. B vitamins also play a key role in helping your adrenals respond to stress.
Black Cohosh: Some studies indicate that black cohosh may be helpful for hot flashes.
Probiotics: A healthy gut is essential for healthy hormones and aids detoxification which is needed for hormone balance and optimal health.
The transition into perimenopause and menopause does not mean you have to accept all of the common symptoms associated with this phase in a woman's life. By supporting your body with the right nutrients and lifestyle practices you can have a smooth transition into this next phase of life.
Be sure to come follow along on Instagram for more tips @lauramartire.hw