Are You Going Into Early Menopause?
We all know menopause is going to hit us.
But, when exactly will it hit us?
To fully understand when menopause may hit us we first need to understand the three stages of menopause.
The Three Stages of Menopause
Perimenopause or “menopause transition.” Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in the 30s as well. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1-2 years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women can experience menopause symptoms. Women are still having menstrual cycles during this time, and can still get pregnant.
Menopause. Menopause is the point when a woman no longer has menstrual periods. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. Menopause is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months.
Postmenopause. These are the years after menopause. During this stage, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, can ease for most women. But, as a result of a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Are You Going Into Early Menopause
Early menopause can be triggered by a number of factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Poverty (experts hypothesize that women in poverty have poorer eating habits)
- Smoking (this can increase your risk of early menopause by 30%!)
- Alcohol, although it is noted that yes alcohol may contribute to entering the phases of menopause at an earlier age, it is not necessarily deemed as “early menopause” – not sure what the difference is myself.
- Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Women who have had their ovaries surgically removed
- Premature ovarian failure (POF)
- An overload of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium can also be a cause
When premature menopause is suspected, you can ask your doctor to order blood tests that look at the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol. This work-up should also include the thyroid and the adrenal glands because they can be affected too.
Relief for the Symptoms of Early Menopause
According to WomentoWomen.com:
“Our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are constantly shifting throughout our life, and that’s normal. But as we age, the fluctuations and ratios between these hormones can become more extreme. When the body cannot regulate these shifts in hormone levels, women can experience common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, food cravings, and fatigue.”
We can balance these symptoms naturally with:
- A healthy, whole food diet
- Herbal remedies such as black cohosh, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam and ashwagandha have been shown to help support our hormone production
- Lifestyle changes such as removing environmental toxins, getting enough sleep
- Reducing chronic stress
- Getting more exercise
Health Concerns for Early Menopause
Our hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), are needed for the years leading up to menopause.
They offer protection against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
If you have been found to be in early menopause chat with your doctor, or a naturopath who specializes in women’s health and get yourself on a health plan to protect your heart and your bone health.
Some things to look at are:
- Vitamin D, to support your bones
- Strength training, to help build new bone and strengthen the heart
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that women who go through menopause before the age of 46 are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease or have a stroke
- Don’t smoke – or quit
- Take a high-quality omega 3, daily
- HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
Local Naturopaths Who Specialize in Women’s Health
Dr. Karen McGee
Dr. Heli McPhie
Dr. Nishi Dhawan