When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Some people, during lockdown, have taken this time to rethink their lifestyles. Busyness, it seems, is not an indication of heightened status but rather a reflection of life’s priorities being slightly out of kilter. Women over 40 seem to be the worst ‘busy’ culprits. Putting up with health issues for years without a thought – too busy to sort it out.
But it is not okay to menstruate for two weeks out of four. Or have such extreme menstrual flow that you don’t want to leave the house. Having a short fuse, anxiety, night sweats, gaining weight without diet or exercise changes, not sleeping – these are all signs of the hormonal changes that start on average at 42 years of age, a full 10 years before hitting menopause. It’s a stage of life called perimenopause and it’s not talked about much.
It is characterised by fluctuating changes in our hormones. For the most part, an increase in oestrogen and decrease in progesterone. However it is difficult to detect from a blood test since, on any given day, your level could be seesawing up or down.
Oestrogen is our ‘womanly’ hormone. High levels cause breast growth and tenderness, increased fat storage particularly around the middle, increased mood swings, increased and or prolonged menstrual flow. Progesterone is our calming hormone. It helps with sleeping, anxiety, and low mood, is a natural diuretic and importantly keeps oestrogen at bay. Progesterone is often low in perimenopause.
Could you be in perimenopause? The best way to find out is to keep a diary of your symptoms. Tracking these over a couple of cycles will allow you and your healthcare professional to see what is going on for you.
If you are suffering with these kinds of symptoms, get help. There are many lifestyle modifications that can help, such as an ‘oestrogen detox’ by increasing your dietary fibre or increasing di-indole methane in your diet (foods such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower) to improve the ratio of good to ‘bad’ oestrogen (yes, there is more than one type) along with other easy adjustments.
There are also natural therapies that can help with symptoms, such as vitamin B6 (helps with PMS like symptoms and low mood) or magnesium (helps with anxiety and cramps), amongst many others.
So stop being simply busy all the time and think about your health and lifestyle. Who knew lemonade could taste so good?!