Yes, you could lay off the Haagen-Dazs, but if you’re in your mid-30s or 40s, your hormones could also be wreaking havoc on your waistline—and causing other annoying symptoms. Here we shed light on perimenopause, the years of hormonal upheaval leading up to menopause. Who knew? From The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol.
Perimenopause is not well understood by most women, and certainly not by their doctors. Most women don’t realize that perimenopause is much rockier and more difficult than menopause, because hormones fluctuate month to month, sometimes mildly and sometimes fiercely. In my midthirties, I figured menopause was some future cliff I’d fall from, around age fifty or so, in the distant future. Not so. Your body has been preparing for this cliff for years, and it will pay future dividends for you to understand the “perfect storm” of perimenopausal hormone imbalances. I had signs of imbalance already—and my more frequent periods, PMS, deteriorating libido, and growing waistline were the clues. You may find that old methods of coping (occasional exercise, yoga a few days per week, chocolate, a glass of wine most nights) don’t seem to work as well. Metabolism becomes less forgiving. You may feel more stressed out. Sleep erodes. Amygdala hijack can occur almost daily—meaning your “reptilian” brain and amygdala, not your rational being, take over, and overreaction may become the norm. Sometimes your spouse or partner feels like the enemy.
Perimenopause doesn’t have one particular hormonal root cause. Rather, it’s an expression of hormonal interdependence. In other words, you are not experiencing increased neurotic tendencies, but instead, the interplay of your major hormones at a time of great neuroendocrine chaos. This life stage need not be a death march through middle age; perimenopause is simply a period of biological rough waters that can be navigated optimally with a smart captain at the helm of the ship. That means you, with the help of this book and, if necessary, a trusted clinician.
Here are some signs that might indicate you’re suffering from perimenopause, not that you’ve suddenly lost your mind.
Do you have, or have you experienced, in the past six months…
Feeling far less jolly about doing the grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, and cooking than you did, say, ten years ago?
A preference for social isolation combined with wardrobe malfunction (you’re newly introverted, reluctant to wear anything other than your yoga pants if you have to leave the house)?
A need to unbutton your jeans to make room for the roll around your waist, which seemed to arrive overnight?
Emotional instability—for the first time in your life, you burst into tears at work when in a crucial meeting and your kid calls with an adolescent crisis?
A lack of satisfaction with exercise, since it doesn’t seem to affect your weight?
A general feeling of blah or reclusiveness; do you find yourself watching the clock and wondering when it might be socially acceptable to extricate yourself from normal activities and retire for the evening?
A problem sleeping (indiscriminant debates and ruminations awakening you in the middle of the night)?
A habit of waking up so sweaty that you need to change your nightgown and sheets, and perhaps even your husband (or partner)?
A face with crow’s feet and a permanently furrowed brow?
A lack of attention to personal grooming habits (you really don’t care how attractive you look)?
An attitude toward your children that’s less gung-ho and more ambivalent than it once was?
A menstrual period so unpredictable that you don’t know whether you’re in for spotting or flooding or some weird combination of the two?
Sudden forgetfulness when walking into a room (knowing you had a purpose but searching for clues as to what it was)?
A continual doubting of your own instincts and insights?
More frequent announcements to the family that “Mom’s going to take a nap now” or “Mom needs a time-out”?
A preference for chocolate or a glass of wine over sex (which, frankly, may just be your lowest priority)?
A notion that Zoloft or a little Prozac sounds increasingly appealing?
An opinion that addressing your mood issues by giving up sugar, alcohol, and flour, taking various supplements, and hormonal tweaking sounds like way too much work?