In my last blog post entitled “A Positive Change in the Change Room”, I mentioned a colleague of mine with whom I’ve reconnected with since moving to Victoria, BC named Lisa Polinsky, ND. At lunch one day, Lisa and I were discussing the article I wrote on my personal journey with perimenopause, and she started telling me how she treats perimenopause from a naturopathic perspective and I found it fascinating. I instantly thought, “My readers need to hear what this wise woman has to say about this very important topic”. I smiled sweetly at Lisa and asked her if she’d put everything she just said to me in writing so I could share it with you, my dear readers. I asked her to outline the most common symptoms of perimenopause and to then go over her approach to treating them as a Naturopath. Being the amazing woman that she is, she sent me the following soon after our conversation. Thanks Lisa!
What Are the Most Common symptoms of Perimenopause?
- Absence or irregularity of menstrual cycle
- Excessively heavy menstrual flow
- Hot flushes, night sweats
- Reduced or absent libido
- Dry skin, dry vaginal tissue, and urinary incontinence
- Weight gain, reduced metabolism, and cravings
- Digestive bloating, constipation
- Fatigue, insomnia, irritability,
- Feelings of overwhelm, difficulty coping
- Tender breasts, increased and ongoing premenstrual symptoms
- Feeling cold
- Hair loss
Treating Perimenopause from a Naturopathic Perspective
As a Naturopath, I use a three-pronged approach:
- Listen to all of the concerns a woman has and understand her whole health story
- Diagnose either clinically or with lab tests
- Create a customized treatment plan to assist her system to better manage the fluctuations of the hormonal transition.
Perimenopause is a normal phase of life but it doesn’t have to be a rollercoaster! It can be either a gentle transition into menopause or a wild ride through hormonal turbulence. Your experience depends to a large degree on how you’ve led your life thus far. Phases of hormonal transition such as premenstrual, pregnancy, post-natal recovery, and perimenopause (defined as from age 35 to menopause, the cessation of menses x 12 months) are notorious for revealing underlying imbalances in overall health. Physically, the impact of perimenopause is influenced by the following underlying imbalances: thyroid, adrenal, liver and mineral. These all need to be working at optimal capacity in order to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, emotional swings and energy levels.
Emotionally, perimenopause becomes a time of listening deeply to your body, your feelings, your anger and irritability and asking yourself: What is the message? What am I saying or not saying in my life? Am I still playing ‘nice’ and instead, really need to speak my truth? Your liver is an organ that holds anger and irritability and not expressing your feelings authentically stresses this main ‘filter’ in your system creating hormonal congestion further downstream. Increased alcohol, lack of exercise, fatty liver and any digestive issues will further worsen liver function.
Spiritually, the transitional time of doing more for self rather than for others can be a time of great strength and voice but also a time of upset and change. Seeking a spiritual aspect to life and finding meaning can bring great perspective to our lives. Often we must take stock and do things differently than we’ve done for the prior twenty or so years of our hormonal cycling. If we have been over-DOING and not balancing with just BEING we can find this a wake-up time of finding a new pacing in our lives.
Recently I was at a pool with my two children and a young friend where we spent two hours in an echo-y, loud, active environment. I realized while I was floating in the water that just being there by myself with three children was something that I could not have managed a couple years ago. My children were younger and family demands were higher. My practice and business demands were heightened. Household responsibilities seemed never-ending and I was experiencing fatigue, irritability, weight gain, low libido, hot ‘flushes’ and anxiousness. I was exhausted but given my determined nature, just kept going. It wasn’t’ until I tested my hormones via a salivary test panel that I learned the cause of my lackluster health concerns. I had low cortisol and DHEA (both adrenal hormones), low progesterone, low estrogen, mildly elevated testosterone and low thyroid function and low iron. Okay – time to take notice and take charge! Knowing where to target treatment really helped customize my plan so that within a few short weeks I noted a significant decrease in my symptoms.
My story is often mirrors those of the women who come to see me. They just can’t do life the way they’ve done it before but don’t know why, or where to start. Thankfully all the systems underlying perimenopausal difficulties respond quickly once identified and often domino from one to the next in terms of support. Low iron can slow down thyroid function as can high stress on the adrenal glands. It’s truly wonderful to watch the cascade of positive changes unfold when the deeper cause is addressed, the whole person is taken into account and a truly personalized plan is created. Hormones are messengers – what are your messengers saying to you?