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The "M" word


Name these symptoms:

brain fog and forgetfulness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, reduced sex drive, pain with intercourse, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and night sweats, period irregularities and heavy bleeding, sore breasts, headaches, skin changes, mood changes such as anxiety, irritability, and depression, hair loss, heart palpitations, joint stiffness and pain, reduced muscle mass, weight gain, recurrent urinary tract infections and increased risk for osteoporosis, thyroid issues, high cholesterol, and heart disease.


If you said peri-menopause and menopause, you are correct! Growing up, I thought menopause was just some hot flashes and the end to your periods. Now I understand it to be so much more. These symptoms are real, disruptive, and different for every woman. Some women are lucky and don't really have any symptoms, but others have all of them!


I am not telling you these symptoms to scare you. I want to make you aware and let you know you are not alone! These biochemical changes in your body are natural, and the symptoms can be managed.


Peri-menopause and Menopause

Peri-menopause is the time during which your body makes the transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. It can begin as early as mid-thirties, but most women notice changes, such as menstrual irregularities, in their 40s. Estrogen and progesterone rise and fall unevenly during peri-menopause, but in an overall reducing trend. This causes a myriad of symptoms as mentioned earlier. Once you have gone one year without a menstrual period, you have officially reached menopause. This can be a quick process for some, but for others it can span a decade!


Your symptoms may mean something other than Peri-Menopause

The first steps are to rule out any other medical reasons for the symptoms you are experiencing with your healthcare practitioner. Three common ones are vitamin D deficiency, iron deficiency, or thyroid disease. These can mimic some peri-menopausal symptoms. Low vitamin D can cause fatigue, mood changes, and bone and muscle pain. Iron deficiency can lead to heart palpitations, period abnormalities, and intense fatigue. Thyroid disease symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, sweating, mood changes, lack of focus, hair loss, sexual complications, irregular periods, sleep issues, anxiety, and heart irregularities. Get these checked and under control if necessary. You may not be in peri-menopause after all.


And if it is Peri-Menopause

Once you are sure you are in peri-menopause, finding a good gynocologist trained in menopause who you are comfortable with is important. You can look on the website www.menopause.org for participating practitioners. Do not be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself. Find someone who will listen to your concerns and work with you to find solutions.


It is also important to be patient with yourself. Inevitably, your body will change, like all bodies do over time. What once worked for you may no longer work. It can make you feel like your body is out of your control. Instead, I challenge you to feel curious about your body changes and try new things. Maybe try something new like yoga or meditation because stress management is key during this time! Join a support group, like a fb menopause group (I will offer one in the near future so keep a look out), so you feel connection and not so alone. Lift weights to keep those bones healthy and stay active most days. Quality sleeping will also be critical, as it can become more difficult to achieve. Be sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene habits (a topic I will discuss on a different day).


Healthy eating habits are also an integral part to aging well. Focus on keeping hydrated, eating enough fiber daily and getting enough fruits and vegetables. If you are a drinker...now would be a good time to consider reducing the amount of alcohol you consume.

In addition, eating disorders are currently on the rise for peri-

menopausal women. Yes, eating disorders aren't just for teens as many people think. Women of all ages suffer, and we are most at risk when we feel out of control, or our body is changing. Get help if you feel like you may be suffering from an eating disorder. I can help find you resources if you need.


Reaching out to a Registered Dietitian, like myself, can help you build daily habits that will lead you to a healthy lifestyle and on the road to managing your symptoms.


Resources:




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