At nearly 52 I’m facing the inevitable signs of Perimenopause. A few months back I noticed some drastic changes that I was just slightly less than horrified with. It all began with a scheduled check up with my doctor. My doctor did the usual Q & A on how I was feeling, which to my shock, I blurted out a range of unexplained symptoms I was experiencing. Everything from dry and itchy skin, mood swings (mainly low), low sex drive (probably more like non-existent), soreness and thrush! OMG – what was happening to me! I thought my days of dry and itchy skin were over since recovering from severe candidiasis 4 years ago, but here I was feeling like my body suddenly didn’t belong to me.
After pap smear results revealed candida and a strong recommendation to go on Diflucan, I knew I needed an action plan for some natural remedies to combat these symptoms. Hormonal imbalance can occur anytime during a woman’s life, especially as the perimenopause phase takes place. With the production of both hormones slowing, some women experience relief from previous conditions such as IBS. But there is the downside that as ovulation slows down a ph imbalance is often created in the vaginal tract, causing thrush and possible candida. Candida if left unchecked can quickly spread to other passages in the body and eventually lead to other bacteria problems and or gut related issues. In order to work out where to start I needed to work out which to treat first, the candida or the hormone imbalance.
Perimenopause presents many symptoms and some women can experience all of them while others can experience some or even none.
Here’s a possible symptom list:
Changes in menstrual cycle (closer together or further apart, heavier blood flow, clots, longer periods of bleeding, spotting in between cycles or spotting after sex)
Hot flashes (intense heat anywhere in your body)
Low sex drive
Vaginal dryness or atrophy; discomfort during sex (due to hormone changes)
Fatigue (trouble sleeping, or waking up tired)
Urine leakage and urgency
Thrush or candida symptoms and possible overgrowth
My action plan had to be simple and straightforward to follow otherwise I was going to fail. So I addressed each symptom with a remedy and found that I could treat several symptoms with one remedy.
Our female bodies after a certain age need oils, Our skin needs oils, as well as our internal systems. Fish oil, evening primrose oil, coconut oil, almond oil, vitamin E oil. Some you need to eat, some you need to wear, and some you need to do both.
Evening Primrose Oil – because of it’s high level of GlA (gamma-linolenic acid) and anti-inflammatory properities, EPO is a great treatment for menstrual cramping, breast tenderness and bloating or swelling of the abdomen. Also used to treat itchy skin, skin rashes, eczema and acne. It can be taken orally or used topically in skin lotions or body butters.
Fish Oil – Anti inflammatory, produces EPA and DHA, two fatty acids that are essential to our health but our bodies are unable to make them. Easiest form is to eat at least 2 meals a week with a good fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines or trout. However if you aren’t a fish eater than fish oil capsules or liquid does the trick. Here’s a list of symptoms that fish oil can help with:
- Reducing and reversing inflammation
- Reducing the coagulation of blood platelets (clotting)
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Slowing down artherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Steadying the heart rhythm
- can aid autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disorder.
- can assist with depression and other mental disorders
Almond Oil – A great source of Vitamin E, great for skin, hair and nail treatments. Excellent to use in making body butters or lotions.
Vitamin E Oil – Rich in antioxidants that feeds and protects the skin. Foods rich in Vitamin E are avocadoes, tofu, trout, almonds, olive oil, spinach, sunflower seeds and shellfish. Also is a great preservative so ideal for giving homemade skin creams, butters or lotions a longer shelf life.
There are many other oils that are good for mature bodies such as Rosehip oil, castor oil, Olive oil, Calendula Oil and Camomile Oil. I made a few recipes for coconut body butters using shea and cocoa butters for extra nourishment and comfort.
Oil Pulling – no conclusive studies, absolutely 100% anecdotal, but oil pulling works. Read more about oil pulling in the following articles.
Since coconut oil is the wonder oil that is antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial I know that it’s got to be the answer to kill off any fungus or thrush that may be present. My daily dose of coconut oil had dropped over the last couple of months, mainly because I love butter and butter is good for you (but that’s another post). I wanted to get my daily maintenance dose back up to 3 tablespoons and knew that I wanted to get this in one swoop or meal if possible. So I swapped out the butter in my breakfast cook up and replaced it with almost the 3 tablespoons. Another yummy way of getting that coconut oil intake is using it in homemade chocolate and fudge recipes.
Apple Cider Vinegar – full of good bacteria and probiotics, apple cider vinegar is another miracle food. Taken in warm water in the morning will promote good digestion, aid bad breath and clear up blocked noses or sore throats, as well as give you a dose of healthy bacteria. It’s acidic properties allows it to balance the PH of your body and helps to detoxify the liver. It’s antibacterial and acts as an antibiotic. Take 1 or 2 teaspoons in warmish water 3 times a day before meals and drink through a straw (to protect teeth). It also will help maintain natural weight levels and ease reflux.
Cultured or Fermented Foods – I don’t do cultured veg well during the colder months, but spring is here and it seemed a worthy celebration of spring to culture some veg and boost my healthy gut bacteria. Cultured veg has many benefits which you can read about here or fermented veg here.
Balancing hormones is not always straight forward especially if you still have a regular menstrual cycle. Being peri-menopause has it’s advantages given that the loss of hormones becomes quite apparent therefore making it a little easier to treat. Here’s a quick checklist for gauging if your hormones are out of whack.
Chaste Tree – known as Monks Pepper from the Middle Ages, Chaste Tree has been touted as the female “viagra”. The main benefit of Chaste Tree is the stimulation and regulation of the anterior pituitary functions. Studies have shown that Chaste Tree can normalise the production of Progesterone by binding to dopamine receptors and decreasing the production of prolactin. The decrease in prolactin leads to the increase of progesterone which will then help balance oestrogen levels. Available in tablet form here is a chart with recommended dosages and study results of effectiveness. As Chaste Tree is a natural remedy it will take time for the body to respond. Some respond sooner than others with a time span of anywhere between 3 – 6 months to see some improvement.
In England and increasingly in the United States Chaste Tree Berry is being used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Both PMS and menopause symptoms are commonly caused by estrogen dominance and can benefit from the use of Chaste Tree Berry. (source)
Maca Powder – touted to work wonders on the endocrine system, maca powder has had no conclusive studies. There are many anecdotal suggestions for it’s use including, to balance hormones, to increase sexual function, to relieve PMS, menstrual cramping and menopause symptoms such as anxiety, hot flashes, mood swings and depression. There is also a host of other general health benefits that you can read about here. Maca powder may take some time to work in individuals but most recommend that you start on a small dose and work up to 1 tablespoon as the maximum daily dose. I tried this a few months back, before any of the other symptoms had really surfaced and did notice that my energy levels and general libido had improved slightly but found the taste to be fairly acquired. I’m still looking for the right recipes that make it a bit more palatable.
Exercise – it comes up everywhere for everything, but the reality is that exercise is one of the best remedies for just about everything. Exercise regulates many things in our bodies by releasing hormones which alleviates stress, relaxes muscles, aids brain activity, improves heart function, alters hormone secretion and generally makes you feel good. I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I love it when I keep the habit going and my body loves me for it. I hate it when I get in this funk (usually somewhere through winter) and I can’t be bothered. I abandon self control and exercise discipline in order to preserve what energy I have to get out of bed and face the day. So I stop and 8 weeks later I’m feeling dreadful. I start up again and wonder why I ever stopped. The bottom line is find a habit of exercise that works for you. If you need some help in developing a habit then check out these articles here and here. Whatever you decide on the how, where, when and what of exercise isn’t really the problem – it’s that you follow through with a plan and stick to it.
So that’s my plan – so far I have gauged that:
The oils have benefited me greatly with no more itchy skin and my depression has lost its edge.
The body butters have eased any external itchiness and also worked on the thrush. I added in a few drops of tea tree oil to the affected area.
It’s too early to tell if the Chaste Tree is working but I certainly feel like I have more energy. Exercise has definitely made a difference to my moods.
I’ve upped my dose of ACV from 1 glass to 3 glasses per day 1 teaspoon in a glass of water, a pinch of stevia as I can’t manage the taste of ACV, and drink through a straw (to protect teeth) before meals. If you want to read more about ACV and it’s health benefits see this article from the IQS team.
And that’s it so far – I’m glad I have a plan and will give updates as time progresses.
Are you facing perimenopause or menopause? Do you have any natural remedies that you use? I would love to hear from you, leave a comment or ask a question.