The term menopause is generally known; less known, however, is the term perimenopause. In a sense, it is the state of limbo from when irregularity of the menstrual cycle begins to the final period, in which the state of menopause is attained.
These years are instrumental for self care. Primary care can help to ease some of the more intense symptoms experienced in menopause. For example, having a lower baseline of estrogen can prevent the major discomfort of excessive hot flashes; choosing to assist the body in detoxifying from xeno-estrogens (estrogens not endogenously produced but rather enter the body from environmental pollutants such as car exhaust, plastics and foods) can be a life changing challenge for better health.
Firstly, eating foods that contain naturally occurring phyto-estrogens can be helpful; these can prevent stronger forms of estrogen from being active in the body. Soy (click here for a write-up on soya and breast cancer), clover, flax and other foods bring in small amounts of plant-based estrogen. To excrete the more toxic estrogens many supplements can be found on the shelves of health food stores. Often times, they will contain DIM, the metabolite of indole-3-carbonol; this phytochemical directs the body to metabolize estrogen through the 2-OHE pathway (basically, a positive aspect with respect to lowering breast cancer risks). Many herbs may also be in the formula, usually chasteberry, dong quai and black cohosh; these each support estrogen balance. Men, too, can benefit in participating in lowering their levels of estrogenic activity in the body.
Wild yam creams may help, though they do not contain progesterone; the premise for their action is to allow the body to produce more progesterone by providing the basis for the body (the phyto-hormones within wild yam are often the source for the production of bio-identical hormones) –this is a very subtle form of support.
Dietary health focused choices and regular exercise are great allies to looking and feeling optimal. Cultivating muscle mass and reducing body fat also supports lower levels of estrogen. Some weight gain is a normal part of menopause; the years in which perimenopause can be perceived, special attention to fitness, self love and respect, can ease the transition and prevent situations leading to disproportionate weight gain.
All in all, every women’s fertility cycle and the stages towards becoming a ‘wise woman’ hold the treasure of immense creativity, passion, joy and acceptance. Our cycles, like the call of the moon to the ocean, are inherently tied to emotional contentment and oft will magnify issues in need of resolution. The journey does not end in perimenopause with a distinct conclusion of menopause, but rather unfolds a new awakening into feminine awareness.