Q. As a woman in my 40s, I’ve been having increased premenstrual symptoms every month for the past six months. I’m also having night sweats and extreme fatigue before my period. Do you have any suggestions?
A. It sounds like you’re beginning to experience some of the symptoms of perimenopause. This is the stage of life prior to menopause when hormones in your body are changing. It can last for a few years, or as many as 10 years in some women.
Your female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, rise and fall with every menstrual cycle. Many of the common symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome occur if your estrogen level is not balanced by your progesterone level. If this happens, you can experience breast swelling and tenderness, heavier periods, sugar cravings and bloating. Some women also have headaches or migraines.
Your night sweats suggest that your estrogen and progesterone levels are dropping lower than normal, which can cause changes in your body temperature. Other symptoms that can result from lower hormone levels include fatigue, depression, insomnia, anxiety and irritability.
There are many steps you can take to improve your hormonal balance and reduce your symptoms. They include the following:
• Decrease your stress with regular exercise and lifestyle changes. When your stress hormones are high, you may fail to ovulate, which can cause a lower than normal progesterone level.
• Use Western or Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and homeopathic medicines to help your body create better hormonal balance. See your naturopathic physician or acupuncturist for guidance.
• Eat a healthy diet and choose organic food. This will help you minimize your exposure to environmental chemicals that can mimic estrogen in your body and contribute to hormonal havoc.
• Avoid ingesting too many substances that are “energetically” hot or warming from a Chinese medicine perspective, such as ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper and coffee. These can make your night sweats worse.
• Eat regular meals. When you skip meals, your stress hormones increase and contribute to PMS symptoms.
• Have your hormones tested, including your thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone and adrenal hormones. It’s best to test your hormones about a week before your period is due. If you need to take supplemental hormones, do so with the guidance of your physician.
Your symptoms are not unusual. A few simple measures, can help you through perimenopause and menopause feeling great.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com