Pre menopause symptoms can start in women from the age of 37 or 38 in our (western) cultures. Usually, however, these first signs of menopause aren't experienced by women until the age of 40.
The first signs of menopause are called peri menopause.
The word peri means 'around', though given that menopause officially starts when periods stop for good, this stage covers a long time.
Women with pre menopause symptoms usually have erratic periods for up to eight years before they stop. And the only true litmus a woman has of knowing whether her periods have stopped is after a year of no menstruation.
During this period when a woman's menstrual cycle becomes erratic, there are also other changes to her period. Some women's period becomes lighter or shorter, and some experience a heavier or longer blood flow. Not many women stop menstruating abruptly, though this can happen in some cases, even without an early menopause brought on by other factors like surgery or chemotherapy. This immediate cessation is not typical of pre menopause symptoms, however.
The reason for irregular periods in peri menopause is that women begin to skip ovulating in some months. In ovulation in regular menstrual cycles, women start off with what is called a primordial follicle. These are ovums surrounded by a layer of cells. The ovum is what is released from the ovaries each month in the menstrual cycle.
Every month, about 6 to 12 primordial follicles, with the ovum inside, start to grow into what is called a primary follicle. This happens in response to two hormones produced by the anterior pituitary gland. These two hormones are called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH).
So, at a certain stage of development, these 6-12 primary follicles start to accumulate a fluid inside them. This fluid has a high level of estrogen. This estrogen, in conjunction with FSH and LH, cause further growth of the primary follicles.
However, at some point one primary follicle becomes bigger. This means it secretes more estrogen within it, which leads to even further accelerated growth for it.
At a certain point, the amount of estrogen that is being produced sends a signal to the anterior pituitary hormones to stop releasing as much FSH and LH. This affects the smaller primary follicles and they start to die.
But because of the size of the biggest primary follicle, and the amount of estrogen it is producing, it's able to create a positive feedback cycle that means it still flourishes. And it is this primary follicle that is released in ovulation each month.
But as pre menopause symptoms start to occur in a woman's body, she has less primordial follicles to grow into the primary follicle that eventually ovulates.
Throughout a woman's life, about 400 will develop and ovulate, but as women age, this number approaches zero. Because the primary follicles produce estrogen, with less primary follicles, the levels of estrogen reduce in the body also. Estrogen levels need to be at a certain level for the surge of LH hormone that triggers ovulation to occur. Without this surge, a woman will not ovulate.
Estrogen levels in the developing primary follicles causes the endometrium lining the uterus to thicken and develop new blood vessels in preparation for ovulation. More growth would occur after ovulation, and if a woman doesn't fall pregnant, this blood and tissue would then be passed out of her body during the menstrual cycle. But if a woman hasn't ovulated, there may not be much to pass out. And as the number of primary follicles reduces, so will the number and frequency of her periods.
Interestingly, as women age, instead of just one follicle maturing, groups of them do. That's why multiple births have a higher chance of occurring then. But, it also means that there is an increased loss of follicles, and because of the other hormonal changes, less of these eggs actually ovulate.
It's not just erratic periods that can give a woman a clue she may be experiencing pre menopause symptoms. Other peri menopause symptoms include headaches, insomnia, aches in the body, tiredness, irritability, hot flushes, mood swings, a decreased sex drive, weight gain particularly around the abdomen and hips, breast tenderness, and water retention.
Fortunately, there are a lot of natural treatments designed to ease pre menopause symptoms:
Whilst some women are happy to choose only hormone replacement therapy, for many women, this is not really needed.
Natural remedies for menopause, in the form of vitamins, herbs, soy, and dietary changes, can help with the symptoms of menopause.
And even for those women who find they need or prefer HRT, alternative treatments for menopause can still be a useful adjunct for easing symptoms and staying healthy.
Naturopathic treatments use a variety of modalities like nutrition, herbs and vitamins, and homeopathy. Many naturopaths are also qualified in massage, though not all may offer this as a form of treatment, preferring to focus on nutrition and ingestive treatments. To find a good natural therapist, contact the governing body for natural therapists in your country.
Naturopaths are usually well trained in a basic understanding of what is going on in your body, and will make a treatment plan up based on their diagnosis on what your particular needs are. This typically takes the form of an interview with them or a questionaire. But if you are at risk of developing heart diseae or some other serious illness, you should not rely solely on a naturaopath. But they can still be a useful adjunct with your doctor.
And of course, you can also try pre-made natural remedies for menopause. They usually consist of herbs, and sometimes other active constituents.
Some herbs have been studied quite a lot in relation to menopause. These include black cohosh, which is used in popular natural remedies for menopause like remifemin. Black cohosh is a great natural remedy for menopause that helps with hot flushes, heart palpitations, painful periods, migraines, and anxiety.
St Johns's Wort is alternative herb which can be really a useful remedy, and is well researched. St Johns Wort is excellent for mild forms of depression and anxiety, although if you are taking prescription antidepressants you shoud not take St Johns Wort as well.
At different times in your life, your body will naturally lack different vitamins. While you can often get the nutrients you need from food, it's worth talking with your doctor about extra supplements that may help you throughout menopause.
Vitamins represent an important component of anynatural remedies for menopause. Whilst it is ideal to get all of our nutrients from food, unless we are very careful about our diet and only eat organic food, the chances that we may be missing some vitamins and minerals rise.
Having the right supply of vitamins helps protect our body from disease, and may help ease menopause symptoms. Look for a good quality multi vitamin that has:
- 400mg of Vitamin D
- 50 - 100mg of vitamin B6, but no more than 200mg
- 50 - 100 mcg vitamin B12
- 400 mcg folic acid
- 100mcg vitamin K
- 3mg Boron
- 600 mg magnesium - you may need to get this in an additional supplement
- 200 mcg selenium
If your multi vitamin doesn't quite have all the above, you may want to take the difference in an additional supplement. Don't take more than the suggested amounts though. It is just more work for your body to excrete the excess, and some fat soluble vitamins build up in your tissues and become toxic. And some minerals are toxic in higher doses.
Other vitamins that make a good natural remedy for menopause, to take in addition to the multi vitamin:
- Vitamin C - 500 mg twice a day. If your multi vitamin contains vitamin C, subtract that amount and take the difference
- Vitamin A - 5000 IU - Don't exceed this however as vitamin A is a fat suloble vitamin and can accumulate in the tissues and become toxic
- Vitamin E - 400 - 800 IU per day
- 1200 mg calcium split up into 2 doses at different times of the day. Only so much calcium can be absorbed by the body at a time
- Mixed carotenes like beta carotene - 3 - 6mg per day
- Coenzyme Q10 - 50 mg per day unless you're at risk of heart disease, in which case take 100 mg per day
- Phosphatidyl serine (PS) and acetyle-l-carnitine - take 100 - 300 mg PS, and 500 - 2000 mg ALC
Soy has recieved a lot of publicity in relation to menopause, and one of it's benefits is in helping alleviate hot flushes. The best source of soy is in food, and these days many cereal based products like bread and breakfast cereals come with soy in them. It's thus a true 'home' remedy for menopause!
The 'active constituents' in soy that provide that act as a natural remedy for the menopause are the soy isoflavones, and it is suggested that you take 50 mg of soy isoflavones per day by Dr Corio. However, she also writes that soy protein is needed for the body to receive the benefits of these isoflavones. So you should make sure you get 30g of soy protein a day from food.
Food sources of soy protein include tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and of course, soybeans.
Whilst not a natural remedy for the menopause in the classical sense of the term, diet (and exercise) play an important role. It's no good taking handfuls of supplements and neglecting the fundamental facts of what we eat.The zone diet and the mediterranean diet are both very healthy options that will also help control weight. However, even just increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat, choosing lean cuts of meat, avoiding processed meats, and using good quality fats like unprocessed coconut oil, will go a long way.
Sometimes being a woman is no fun, but you know what? There is no other creature like us on earth. We rule : ) Enjoy it! ~ Phyllis Adelle