This year I turn 40 and for the past couple of years I have felt the hormonal shift going on within my body. While my doctor continues to claim that I am too young to be experiencing any symptoms of premenopause or perimenopause, I know that this is what I am suffering from. My menstrual cycles have been changing to where I may have my cycle a full 9 days where it used to last 5 days. My cycle used to come exactly the same time each month and for the past year or so it has been as much as a week late several times and it has also been as much as a week early several times also.
I will suddenly get extremely hot and my face and neck will turn beat red and I will feel as though my body is on fire. My mood changes are so extreme around my cycle that I don’t even know who I am. My doctor claims that it is PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) but the medication I’m on for that isn’t working so I fully believe I am having perimenopause symptoms.
Where the confusion lies is that there are similar symptoms between perimenopause and ME/CFS so for women my age, or older, it can be difficult to know which is acting up. Is it the hormonal changes or is it a CFS flare? Symptoms of perimenopause can begin as early as 10 – 15 years before a woman’s menstrual cycle actually stops. Symptoms of perimenopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal changes
- Hair loss
- Loss of libido
- Dry eyes
- Drastic mood swings
The symptoms of perimenopause that are the same as those symptoms of ME/CFS include:
- Sleep disruption/insomnia
- Weight gain
- Short-term memory impairment
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Fuzzy thinking/inability to multi-taskor brain fog
What happens to the body during perimenopause? According to Women to Women :
During perimenopause, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is frequently in a state of flux, which can manifest along with other symptoms as very heavy (and maybe even frightening) bleeding. In our culture, many women tend to be operating with an internal hormonal balance tipped toward the estrogen side of the scale. This tilt is often the result of a diet high in simple carbs and low in quality protein, a lack of essential nutrients and fats, and chronic exposure to environmental toxins and artificial hormones such as endocrine disruptors. Prolonged emotional and physical stress, which I define as anything that works against your state of balance, will also upset the hormonal applecart. In today’s fast-paced, disconnected, eat-and-run world, it is no surprise to me that younger and younger women are coming in to my practice with symptoms of hormonal imbalance and perimenopause.
In some cases, women in perimenopause may have low levels of progesterone in comparison to their estrogen levels. In other cases, the progesterone level is fine, but estrogen levels are too high. Another case we are seeing more frequently is where all three of the key hormones which flux during this time, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are too low. What’s most important to recognize is that each woman needs to be evaluated differently, preferably by a medical practitioner conversant in integrative or alternative medicine. More often than in the past I find conventional doctors are quite willing to discuss the reality of perimenopause, but natural, long-lasting solutions are still hard to come by. Most conventional practitioners don’t believe that people can change their lifestyle and eating habits. My response is that I know and have seen that they can. And I will tell you this: no woman needs to suffer with symptoms of hormonal balance, at perimenopause, menopause, or after menopause. You can feel better and you can start right now.
Being in perimenopause does not necessarily mean that you will follow an immediate and direct path to menopause. Some women go for years in this transitional state, whereas others sail through in just a few months. What does seem to influence the severity of symptoms is the weight of other burdens women may have placed on their bodies over the years. Poor nutrition, chronic stress, and a lack of daily exercise are three major amplifiers because they each play a significant role in the body’s ability to detoxify and maintain homeostasis. Lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking to excess are likewise compounding factors.