Too Young for Perimenopause? Think Again

PerimenopauseAre you in your late 30’s or early 40’s? Have you noticed that you feel more anxious, irritable and tired than you used to? Do you have heart palpitations, headaches or find your weight is creeping up the scale? Are you less interested in sex, have vaginal dryness or itching or urinary incontinence?

We chalk many of these symptoms up to being busy with kids, work, or life in general but they may be signs of perimenopause. Hot flashes and night sweats are the symptoms we hear the most about, but you might experience many of the symptoms listed above long before you have a hot flash.

Let me step back and distinguish between menopause and perimenopause. Menopause is the point at which a woman stops ovulating. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause, during which the ovaries slowly decrease the production of reproductive hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. And yes, that decrease can begin when women are in their 30’s and 40’s, many years before actual menopause.

The three hormones I mentioned above are essential for reproduction, but they also have other functions in the body that carry on beyond the reproductive years. As the ovaries begin to decrease the production of hormones, other glands such as the adrenals, should begin to increase production. The problem we have in today’s world is that we are stressed, overworked, drink way too much caffeine and eat too much sugar. These things all lead to exhaustion of the adrenal glands, which impairs their ability to produce the necessary level of hormones to keep symptoms at bay.

One of the best things a woman can do to improve the way she feels during perimenopause is to support the adrenal glands. Here’s how:

  1. Get enough B vitamins – The B vitamins, especially B5, a.k.a. pantothenic acid, are critical to adrenal health. The best food sources are nutritional and brewer’s yeast, fresh fruit and vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), brown rice, wheat germ, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. You could also take a Vitamin B complex.
  2. Load up on vitamin C – Vitamin C is also vital for the proper functioning of the adrenals. It’s tough to get the amount you need from food when the adrenals are already fatigued, but top sources are peppers, kale, broccoli, guavas, strawberries, and kiwi fruit. An ideal supplement would be a 500 mg capsule form taken a few times a day, even up to 4000mg is safe.
  3. Try adaptogenic herbs – these herbs have a normalizing effect on the body without over stimulating or inhibiting a normal body function. Maca, Ashwagandha and Siberian Ginseng can help bring balance to the adrenal glands. All can be taken in capsule form. Maca can also be purchased as a powder and added to smoothies or yogurt, though, I’ll admit that it doesn’t taste very good. Best to start with small doses until your palette adjusts (1/2 a teaspoon).
  4. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco – these substances are highly toxic to the adrenal glands. Cut down on caffeine consumption slowly by replacing some of your regular coffee with Swiss Water Decaf, green tea or herbal teas. This will moderate withdrawal effects. Limit your alcohol to special occasions and lighten up with low alcohol beer or wine spritzers (½ wine, ½ soda). As for tobacco, just quit altogether.
  5. Avoid sugar, white flours and processed foods – there are a whole bunch of reasons to avoid these foods including the unnecessary stress they put on the adrenals. Make your own meals instead of buying ready-made, buy eat whole grains instead of refined flours and use stevia, maple syrup, honey or agave syrup (in moderation) instead of white table sugar.

Following these 5 tips will go a long way to supporting the adrenal glands and helping to relieve some of the perimenopause symptoms you may already be experiencing. But you also need to de-stress. Periods of stress due to circumstance are easier to manage but continuing to lead a high-stress, busy lifestyle will continue to tax your body, never giving your adrenals a chance to recover. So in addition to incorporating the steps above, make sure you also pare down your schedule and make time for yourself.

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