Remember when life in your 20s was simpler, easier and not as complicated?
Now you are a busy woman in your mid 30s (or 40s) experiencing irregular periods, having a hard time sleeping, feeling anxious, dealing with hot flushes or just feeling out of sorts. Well, I hate to break it to you but you may be on your way towards menopause!
No, say it ain’t so!
OR it may be indicative of a thyroid gland that’s decided to stop functioning the way it used to. Why you feel hot and bothered, anxious or depressed is only part of your story, but it is a signal that something’s off and you must take the time to check things out. There’s no one answer or solution to fix your health issues, but knowing as much as you can is powerful and that’s what we will get into below. With answers may come more questions, but at least it will give you a starting point to choose the best treatment options for you.
Could it be perimenopause? Let’s take a look at what that is.
Perimenopause is the natural transition phase towards menopause. Your main sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone begin to wane in relationship to each other, before dropping altogether. It can begin as early as your mid 30s and last up to 10 years. Yes 10 years! But don’t worry, you may be one of the lucky ones. Not every woman starts perimenopause so early in life (you may start in your mid to late 40s) and not every woman suffers through the symptoms for a long time (I was very lucky with this). The main thing I’d like to plant in your brain is to be aware of the small or large shifts going on, the changes that weren’t there a few months ago or the ones that are starting to wreak havoc in your life.
You can not bypass perimenopause or take a pill to make it go away, it is a part of your evolution as a woman.
During this time your body and mind readjusts and changes as hormones shift. Physiologically your brain and ovaries are connected, according to Dr. Lisa Mosconi, a neuroscientist and researcher of women’s health, through a system called neuroendocrine. Why is this important? Well, it’s important to note that both organs have receptors that rely on estrogen to help them communicate, so when your estrogen drops so does their conversation. That’s why you might feel forgetful or scattered going into menopause, while experiencing irregular or heavy periods. After a while (up to 10 years) your body will just stop preparing for the potential creation of a baby and all of that amazing energy that was directed at your uterus will then be redirected to maintaining the health of the rest of your body as you age. If you’re interested, check out the talk Dr. Mosconi did on TED about menopause and it’s affect on your brain.
What are some typical perimenopause symptoms?
How do you know if your are in perimenopause?
Perimenopause is marked by changes in your hormone levels and may be diagnosed through blood work, however, it’s not always an accurate picture, just a picture taken in one particular moment. Here’s the tricky part…the results you get from a test you take on one day can be different from another, because your hormones are constantly fluctuating. If you are around your 40s and experiencing a number of the symptoms above chances are you have entered the realm of perimenopause. If you go for lab testing it is often suggested to test on day 19, 20 or 21 of your cycle, so speak to your health care practitioner. If you want to go a more holistic route for treating symptoms related to perimenopause look for an acupuncturist, herbalist or naturopath to work with.
A bit about me and how I can help
I am Cindy and I’m a registered acupuncturist. My job, from a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, is to get your body back to balance. We look at your symptoms in comparison to your constitution, your lifestyle, sleep, digestion and elimination. Acupuncture treats the excess you may be feeling, such as heat, sweating and bloating by moving qi as well as tonifying the underlying deficiency.
TCM recognizes menopause and offers simple protocols to support and nourish the body and bring it back to balance. Our goal is always to treat the chief concern, which is often the uncomfortable symptoms. Treatments may also include simple recommendations to be followed such as focusing on specific foods, working on good lifestyle habits, exercising and practicing mindfulness.
what does your thyroid gland have to do with all of this?
Your thyroid health can be affected at any time of life, to men, women and infants. Those with a family history of a dysfunctional thyroid, like me, are often at risk for developing a thyroid condition as well as those with other medical conditions.When your thyroid is over working it’s called hyperthyroidism. When your thyroid is underperforming (I like to think it’s gone on vacation), it’s called hypothyroidism. This is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough specific hormones to help your body with the following:
As you can see from the symptoms listed above, perimenopause and hypothyroidism share some similarities – tiredness, irregular periods, mood issues, sleep disturbances etc. – so it is important to know which one may be the culprit, if it is only one. There is a chance that both are wonky at the same time; yeah! That means that both your hormones are fluctuating and your thyroid is under or over performing. How do you feel then? Well you probably have more exaggerated, uncomfortable and unwelcome symptoms for maybe a longer time. Do some testing and find out what’s going on so that you can try to do something about it instead of just struggling through it.
How can you test your thyroid function?
It’s easy, your doctor will requisite a blood panel to be performed at a local lab.
However it is REALLY important to ask them to include the testing of your antibodies for Hashimotos Thyroiditis, TSH, free T3/T4, TPO and anti thyroid globulin as well (these are not always included in basic thyroid screening). This will give them (and you) a bigger picture of what is going on with your thyroid gland and help with treatment options moving forward. Stay tuned for my Instagram live chat with Dr. Sheila Dyer, ND about this very thing!
If your thyroid is not functioning properly medication can help and your symptoms will improve. If you test positive for Hashimotos Thyroiditis, this is a bit different, speak to your health care provider, functional medicine doctor or naturopath for ways to help reduce these antibodies. If your thyroid test shows that it is working well, then you and your health care provider can have a conversation about what’s going on with your hormones.
Why did you take the time to read this long article that I took the time to create?
Because knowing is empowering and even though your health isn’t black and white and there isn’t always answers to your questions, at least you can begin somewhere. And doing something to nurture your body and mind is better than doing nothing and thinking “when is this S&@T going to be over?”