The “change of life” or menopause is a natural part of aging for most women when menstruating ceases. Around age 40, women may begin to notice irregular periods, increased feelings of anxiety and stress, have trouble focusing and even suffer from panic attacks. These mood changes are the result of declining progesterone levels, the phase that precedes menopause known as perimenopause. This can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years and can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Progesterone and estrogen live in harmony in a woman’s body after she goes through puberty and begins menstruating. If these two hormones work harmoniously during the menstrual cycle, it promotes a feeling of balance and well-being. If you become pregnant, progesterone levels increase and you experience feelings of contentment and happiness. After giving birth, estrogen and progesterone levels plummet and can cause post-partum depression until the hormones rebalance again.
It’s no secret to the medical community that progesterone has a profound effect on your mood. There is plenty of clinical research documenting the increased rise in perimenopausal symptoms in women when they reach their late 30s and 40s, the time progesterone production begins to decline. Most women only experience mild symptoms, but an unlucky few can be nearly incapacitated by the abrupt mood swings, stress and anxiety, sleep problems and have trouble focusing, making things difficult for them at home and work.
Take the Perimenopause Quiz
Take this brief quiz to determine if you may be experiencing perimenopause:
1. Do you feel anxious or irritable more easily and more frequently than usual?
2. Do you sometimes have difficulty focusing on the task at hand or suffering from occasional memory loss?
3. Are you experiencing sleep disturbances such as taking longer to fall asleep, difficulty remaining asleep, and not feel rested in the morning?
4. Are you experiencing physical changes, like weight gain even though your eating habits have stayed about the same? Is your skin drier or oilier than usual? Do feel more fatigued after your normal daily activities?
5. Are you experiencing feeling suddenly hot or waking up in the night with night sweats? Do you feel palpitations in your heart for no apparent reason?
6. Are you experiencing vaginal dryness and a decreased interest in sex?
7. Are you urinating more frequently, even though you are not drinking significantly more liquids?
8. Is satisfaction and happiness with your life seeming decrease, even though nothing has change significantly in your career or relationships? Do you feel depressed sometimes without being able to explain why?
9. Have your periods become irregular, sporadic, or has your flow changed from what was once normal for you?
10. Are you in your late 30’s and early to middle 40’s?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, then you are most likely entering into the life stage of perimenopause. No two women will experience it the same. Some will have say yes to all of the above while others may only be experiencing two or three changes from the norm.
Sometimes perimenopause can last for several years or more; but the good news is, there are ways to help ease the transition.
Combat weight gain, stress and anxiety by cutting out high carbohydrate sugary foods, limiting the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume and stay away from spicy foods that can trigger hot flashes. Filling up on vitamin and mineral loaded fruits and vegetables will help keep your weight in check, provide hydration to your skin, and help you avoid sugar crashes that will be more extreme with the fatigue that accompanies perimenopause.
Finding ways to relieve stress are critical when you are going through perimenopause and menopause. Regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, provide an outlet for anxiety and stress, and promote better sleep. Nothing is more stressful than insomnia and the severe fatigue and loss of mental focus that comes with it. Keeping stress at bay will also help with symptoms of depression, which is common for many women going through perimenopause.
It is especially important to get the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients in your diet to help ward off perimenopause and mood swings that are a result of radical hormonal changes. Getting plenty of vitamins C, E, and the complex B’s can improve cognitive function and are helpful to reduce symptoms.
Herbs like evening primrose oil can help relieve hot flashes and calm anxiety. Ginkgo biloba has been linked to improved mental concentration, stimulates the libido and promotes blood flow to the brain. St. John’s Wort is helpful for reducing insomnia, calming anxiety, relieving depression and also stimulates the libido.
Always be sure to check with your doctor before taking any supplements to avoid unfavorable and dangerous drug interactions.
Perimenopause and mood swings are an unavoidable phase of life for most women, but it does not have to be miserable. Take charge of your symptoms with a few dietary changes, supplements to increase your progesterone levels and increased exercise. These changes can help you sail through the change to a positive new phase of life.