The more years I spend researching, learning, observing and helping women the more it becomes clearer as to the underlying causes of a lot of your perimenopause symptoms (and mine!).
When I first found out I was menopausal, I'd never heard of the perimenopause so I started doing things a 'menopausal' woman should do, taking one of those 'menopausal' supplements, and ... getting worse; it gave me hot flushes. It was then I realised it wasn't a straightforward thing and probably far more complex that I'd ever given any thought to.
Well, that was 6 years ago and I'm a lot older :) and definitely a lot wiser about all things peri and menopause and so I do like to set out my stall that they are very different phases in a woman's life as well as her biology, and the 2 shouldn't be mistaken or treated as the other.
There is a massive movement in media, parliament and business right now to highlight menopause and support women who are going through it, and this is fantastic, but my current area of concern is women who are 'perimenopausal' being dismissed as 'not menopausal' and not being understood or supported as they don't tick the right set of symptoms.
Before I get stuck into the 2 major reasons for your symptoms let's look at what those symptoms can be:
Firstly you can still have periods, in fact now they may be very heavy
You can have a high sex drive (not a bad symptom!) but flies in the face of low libido
You can feel really cold and not have a hot flush, in fact you can have cold flushes in the evening
You experience anxiety regularly
You may or may not have night sweats between 1 and 3 am (ish)
You may wake around 4am and not get back to sleep, your head full of negative thoughts
You may sleep well and still wake up exhausted
You may have bad sleep and feel like a zombie
You may have developed achy joints and muscles
Lost motivation for exercise and social life
Lose your patience quickly, plus have brain fog and overwhelm
Mess up your diary regularly
Not be able to retain information, and be performing below par at work
But you have regular periods and you're under 45, so in the eyes of the medical profession you are not perimenopausal and that is frustrating, worrying and demoralising; leaving many women to wonder if they have early onset dementia, or accept anti-depressants as this is still the archaic option for sorting out 'anything that may be wrong with a woman' that we can't put our finger on.
It's atrocious if you think about it, we can't tell you what's wrong but you tick a list 'like depression' and so let's treat you 'like you're depressed'; it's unbelievable that so many women are still be fobbed off in this way.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
How can just 2 things cause all of those symptoms above and be making your life absolutely miserable with no signs of improvement or hope on the horizon?
These 2 things are pretty major and it's an affliction on the modern western woman. It's less so in other cultures so they're not experiencing the same symptoms of perimenopause as you are.
These 2 issues that are the root cause of what's going on with you emotionally and physically are:
Stress that is leeching your nutrients and causing your fatigue
Lack of nutrients in your body to keep it running properly
Pretty major then!
One is more easily resolved than the other - nutrients. I separate this from 'nutrition' in that you should be eating a good balanced diet, and packing in as much fresh food as you can. If you need help here knowing the best foods to eat, check out Eating for the perimenopause and beyond, my guide to helping you choose the right foods to pop in your shopping!
I meet many women who 'don't like vegetables', and this is a problem as your body severely needs them if you have any of the symptom set above. Modern life is hectic and the food industry and given you the option to have fast and processed foods. Even if you're cooking pasta from fresh it's still falls into this category, this is where I was 8-10 years ago, and this could be causing your night sweats. Getting on board with eating fresh foods and plenty of veg like the dark leafy greens and berries, plus nuts and whole grains will really help you boost your nutrition.
But this isn't enough.
I meet many women that eat amazingly well and they still have all the symptoms I mention above - so how can that be?
Stress leeches all the available nutrients it can find in your body to help combat the stress you have. It's doing the right thing, it's trying to fix you, but it hasn't got enough raw ingredients to work with. So it's taking them from your bones, muscles, gut and ultimately brain. It's causing your sleep depravation and your aches, your low moods and your lethary.
This is when nutritional supplements have to step in and take up the slack to help your body get back into balance and start you on the path to feeling good again.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS TO RELIEVE YOUR STRESS
You may think you're not stressed, it may not be in your head and you may not have anxiety, but you can still have stress in your body. You juggle a lot in life, your work, your family, your parents, plus any other challenges you take on, all these are layers of stress building up in your body. If you're a person that 'can't say no', and then regret that and then feel stressed at living up to everyone's expectations, obstacles put there by saying yes... this is even more stress. If you do things because you feel 'you should' you're stressing yourself to achieve even more.
Layers and layers of stress are mounting up, and then along comes the stress of hormonal change in the perimenopause and that can be like the 'straw that breaks the camels back'. You feel like you've been hit by a sledgehammer, it came out of the blue, or you've been descending into this for a couple of years and look back and don't recognise the woman you once were.
Is any of this sounding familiar?
And wouldn't you like it to all just vanish, so you can get back to feeling like your old self?
Just how do you combat this stress that's in your body?
I'll give you some ideas here, and if you'd like further help contact me for a clarity call here
There are many things you can do to combat the stress in your body, these are:
Feed cortisol so it can do its job properly (this is the stress hormone) - nutritional supplements
Bring down and rebalance your cortisol levels -herbal supplements, remove stimulants from your diet
Look at how you deal with 'stress' situations in your life to handle them better emotionally - this stops your body getting stressed in the first place
Reassess your exercise regime if you do a lot to get the 'quick fix' but that then wears off easily
Add in mindfulness and/or meditation (or equivalents like Yoga/ Qi Gong) that help your mind, your body and your energy to come back into the present and for you to feel regularly grounded and calmer
Read this book 'Understanding Your Menopause', which will guide you through these changes in a supportive way giving you the clarity you need
THE CHINESE MEDICINE VIEW
You may not know that I'm a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner, this is a theory set of looking at your symptoms and joining the dots to find the root cause that is creating this imbalance that is then allowing these symptoms to arise. Although no two women may have the same symptom set, they will have the similar root causes, just maybe a different combination of. In understanding and resolving the root cause, a lot of symptoms can dissappear in a matter of weeks.
In chinese medicine what you're experiencing in your perimenopause (and I was the same too) is depletion. This a lack of something, and this is why you feel cold and tired, you're missing warmth and you're missing the energy to give you life. The cause of these 2 things comes back to stress, and not enough nutrients in your body to help dissipate it.
If you think of an olympic athelete, or a tennis player they're at the top of their game, the most physically demanding stresses are put on their bodies; just look at a 5 settter Wimbledon final!
They couldn't be there without the right nutrition in their body, they'd have so many injuries and get fatigued so quickly they wouldn't be able to go on.
Now we come to us women, and we've been running around hold up our worlds for 20 or so years, and not putting in the nutrients we need to support this, and then we get to the hormonal change, and our bodies are saying 'enough', and they're telling you with symptoms. If these symptoms were physical pain would you do something about them?
Your body has whispered to you for years that it needs more, now it's shouting at you :)
NOW IS THE TIME TO GIVE YOUR BODY WHAT IT NEEDS
In chinese medicine we say GOOD FOOD + GOOD AIR + GOOD SLEEP = GOOD CHI!
Translate to nutrients, mindful activities and good sleep! There is no replacement for good sleep, it is literally the root of your health, and if you are awake around 4am, this is your body not allowing you to sleep because it's worried about your level of stress. I was the same for one month of my life, it drove me bonkers, I couldn't have gone on any longer without good sleep so it made me seek changes.
If you're feeling bl**dy awful are you ready to make changes? How can you go on like this? Can you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
I often see the question in forums 'when will the menopause end, I feel so awful?' Answer - it won't if you're feeling that bad. Your body is running on empty, if you don't top it up it will over time compensate and you'll live life at a much slower pace, probably have to give up work, won't have the brain energy to do anything much, will have a very long retirement and low health.
Does that sound as miserable to you as it does to me?
How about turning this around and flourishing instead?
Feeling better now than you have in years?
Feeling happier and looking forward to what's coming next as you have more energy?
This is what I want for you, and it takes 2 things:
Adding in nutrients
Assessing and dealing with your stress levels
I'm here to help, I have a variety of options from books, to videos to consultations, find the way that is right for you. I also offer women a free-no obligation clarity call, and you will receive my Supplement Starter Guide to help you get exactly the nutrients you need for your symptoms.
Check out the different ways you can get self help or support here.