Better Living Through Science
Is it Perimenopause?
Have you ever been on a commercial flight and the captain comes on the speaker and says: " We've begun our initial decent into (destination city), please stay seated with your seat belts fastened until we are on the ground..." Well, I liken the time before menopause, which is perimenopause, to a nice flight: in order to get to where we want to go, we have to decend from the cruising altitude before landing. We haven't gotten there yet, but it is a time of change. Just like a plane descending from 40,000 down through the layers of winds, clouds, and air pressure layers, Our bodies are likely to cause us some ‘turbulence’.
The changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is marked by low levels of estrogen and progesterone . The change to lower levels during perimenopause gets our bodies ready for these new lower menopause levels. The fluctuations in these two hormones along with FSH (follocular stimulating hormone) and LH (leutinizing hormone)) are the cause of symptoms of peramenopause.
The perimenopause can give you an opportunity to make health commitments for your future and positively influence all areas of your life-physical, personal, social, and professional. Taking action while keeping a positive attitude will give you the best chance for a smooth landing.
What is the perimenopause?
The perimenopause is a normal transition in a woman's life. Although each woman's experience can be different, most women experience a decreased ability to become pregnant, as well as irregular and sometimes heavy menstrual periods during the perimenopause.
When does the perimenopause occur?
Menopause is your last monthly period and represents the ending of the active functioning of your ovaries. This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, but every woman follows her own biologic clock. The perimenopause is the time of change leading up to the actual menopause, and usually lasts about five years. It is commonly associated with a shift from regular to irregular menstrual cycles prior to stopping completely.
How will I recognize it?
During the perimenopause you may experience changes in your menstrual cycle and breasts. You may also experience occasional
hot flashes and night sweats.
Changes in menstrual cycle
The most common early sign of perimenopause is a change in your menstrual cycle. There is a wide variation in the length of menstrual cycles in normal women. As you enter the perimenopause, your own cycles may become much more irregular. Often, the interval between bleeding becomes shorter and the bleeding heavier.
You should talk to your health care professional if you are experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding, long intervals of spotting, or have gone more than two months without a period. These symptoms can be signs of abnormalities of the uterine lining, which are easily treated.
Variations in breast tenderness or fullness are common in all women throughout the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. During the perimenopause, you may be unable to predict breast tenderness or fullness as your cycle changes. Any lumps in your breast or leaking of fluid from the nipple should be evaluated by your health care professional, who may suggest a mammography based on your personal and family history.
Will I experience emotional changes?
Most women do not find the perimenopause to be difficult. In fact, for most, it is simply a normal transition in their lives.
During this time of life, emotional swings can occur in everyone, both men and women. They generally concern issues such as children leaving home, parents growing older, or career changes. They are not usually due to the hormonal changes of the perimenopause itself, and there is no evidence linking perimenopause with behavioral problems or other symptoms.
Hormonal shifts during this time, however, can cause sleep disturbances. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and a decreased sense of well-being.
Mood swings may occur as a result of the hormonal shifts, similar to what some women experience during a menstrual cycle, only more unpredictably. Low-dose oral contraceptives can help to even out these hormonal shifts. Talk to your health care professional if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Will my sex life change?
Most women do not experience major changes in their sex lives during the perimenopause. Your sex life will probably be the same after the perimenopause as before. You may notice more vaginal dryness during the perimenopause. This is your body's normal response to a decreased level of the hormone estrogen. This is rarely a problem during perimenopause. Your health care professional can discuss the options available to deal with vaginal dryness, such as use of lubricants available in any drug store.
What are some of the therapy options?
A number of alternative therapies-in the form of supplements, special diets, and exercise and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation-have shown promise and are gaining popularity among women in the perimenopause.
What about diet and exercise?
The perimenopause is a good time to plan for a vigorous, healthy second half of your life. That means establishing a healthy lifestyle, which includes activities such as regular weight-bearing exercise, a healthy diet with supplementation, and stopping smoking. Preventive health care is important throughout your life. If you are not already maintaining a healthy lifestyle, now is a good time to start.
I am happy to report that there are brand new, scientifically formulated & standardized nutritional products that are formulated to improve your health and quality of life during perimenopause.
The research shows that a combination of both phytoestrogens and enzyme inducers work best to help the female body maintain hormone balance and strengthen the body against the effects of aging. The most potent phytoestrogens are genistein and pomegranate, and the enzyme inducers are indole 3-carbinol (I3C) and flaxseed lignans.
These provide protection by working with the liver to help to maintain normal levels of estrogen metabolites. These ingredients should be provided at the levels found to be effective in clinical trials.
These ingredients are available in now in Estera supplements, from the Rolls Royce of Pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements: Pharmanex.
How long will it take for these supplements to work?
For the enzyme inducers, I3C and flax lignans, they have been shown to improve estrogen metabolite ratios within seven days. And symptom relief should be realized within 4-6 weeks of continuous supplementation at the recommended daily dosage.
What are phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that have a mild estrogen receptor binding effect. Particularly rich sources of phytoestrogens are derived from soybeans and grains such as flax seed.
Isoflavones comprise the most widely used phytoestrogen for menopause.
What are the health benefits of phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are the most studied of the botanicals for menopause-related conditions. During the past decade, interest in the potential health benefits of phytoestrogens has escalated, due to their wide range of biological effects. A large number of studies and systematic reviews have been conducted, which have associated genistein and other phytoestrogens with the ability to protect cells, including that of the breast, prostate, and colon, also cardiovascular health, bone health, and an attenuation of menopausal symptoms.* What are estrogen metabolites?
Estrogen is vital for many body functions, but high levels of lifetime estrogen exposure, poses serious dangers during the postmenopause years. The two main ways estrogen is metabolized in the liver produce two completely different metabolites – 16-alphahydroxyestrones, which retain estrogenic activity, and 2- hydroxyestrones, which are neutral.
2-hydroxyestrone is a neutral metabolite produced in a healthier ratio in people who are at a healthy body weight, consume a diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, and exercise frequently. It is important to incorporate diet and lifestyle choices that help the liver to increase production of healthy metabolites, such as 2-hydroxyestrone, while decreasing production of undesirable metabolites, such as 16-alphahydroxyestrone. Efforts to metabolize estrogen in a healthy way throughout life promotes a healthy balance of lifetime estrogen exposure, but for those who have not taken these steps earlier should increase their efforts.
What are enzyme inducers?
Enzyme inducers help to promote the 2-hydroxyestrone/16-alphahydroxyestrone liver enzyme ratio in favor of the 2-hydroxy enzyme system. A blend of I3C and flaxseed lignans support specific enzyme activity in the liver and direct the liver to produce the 2-hydroxy estrogen metabolites that are associated with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
What are the health benefits of Indole 3-Carbinol?
In human studies, I3C has been shown to favorably support the body’s ability to metabolize estrogen, including supporting the 2:16-alpha hydroxyestrone ratio and providing cell protection.
What are the health benefits of flaxseed lignans?
Studies indicate that flaxseed lignans support the favorable metabolism of estrogen metabolites by reducing the 16-alpha/2-hydroxy estrogen metabolite ratio. In pre-clinical and human studies, flaxseed lignans have been shown to help maintain biomarkers associated with normal cell health and free radical damage.
What is the role of chasteberry ?
Research indicates that chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) supports women’s childbearing health and may be helpful for pre-menopausal women seeking nutritional support during monthly cycles. Chasteberry is supported by extensive scientific research in Europe, indicating that it could help support the healthy balance of the pituitary gland’s production of key hormones associated with a woman’s monthly cycle. The German Commission E monograph lists the accepted application of chasteberry for common menstrual disturbances and menopausal complaints. Since 1943, over 30 clinical studies have been conducted on chasteberry, evaluating its effectiveness in relieving normal PMS symptoms. There is a brand new line of products called Estera designed for the three stages of a woman's life. See the bottom of this page for ordering details.
OK, so we know what the research shows, but how do I know what product to buy? I mean, I’m skeptical … Will a bottle on the shelf in the store truly have the levels of ingredients that it claims?
Are the ingredients standardized and formulated using a rigorous quality assurance process?
The safest way to pick the best quality product is to evaluate the company and make sure that it has pharmaceutical-grade processes and standardized ingredients.
The company needs lots of Phd scientists on staff (– full time!).
It needs to be an established leader in the industry.
The one company I’ve found which meets all of these criteria is Pharmanex. They employ more than 75 full-time scientists!