Natural Remedies for Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the period prior to menopause. You may still be having periods, but you are also developing some symptoms common to menopause, such as hot flashes. Perimenopause symptoms and menopause symptoms are often essentially the same. Since perimenopause may continue for a number of years, many women look for ways to manage their symptoms.

A woman in perimenopause may experience hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods, depression, weight gain and mood swings. These symptoms result from fluctuating hormone levels, as estrogen production gradually drops and the ratio of estrogen and progesterone in the system change. Although progesterone levels are not necessarily higher during perimenopause, the increased dominance of progesterone compared to estrogen can cause some similar symptoms to pregnancy, such as drowsiness or changes in libido. During perimenopause, women may also become more susceptible to vaginal or urinary tract infections.

In addition to or instead of prescription medications such as hormone replacement therapy, some women try other remedies for perimenopause. Among these are:

• Natural hormone remedies – dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is produced by your adrenal glands. It is a natural steroid. The research on DHEA is mixed. Some studies show it improves symptoms such as hot flashes and sexual dysfunction, while others show no effect and still others have reported some harmful side effects, especially at higher doses.

• Natural progesterone cream – popularized by a physician named John Lee, natural progesterone is made from a type of wild yam grown in Mexico, or sometimes from soybeans. The fat-soluble cream is applied to the skin to help bolster progesterone levels, which can fluctuate during perimenopause.

• Phytoestrogens – compounds in plants that act in the same way as estrogen. The two main kinds of phytoestrogens are isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones are commonly extracted from soy or clover, while lignans come from flaxseeds. There are some limited studies that show phytoestrogens to be beneficial for perimenopause symptoms such as hot flashes; they may also help protect against osteoporosis, which is more likely to occur after menopause. Use caution with these supplements if you take birth control pills or have a condition affected by hormones, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer or endometriosis.

 • Black cohosh  –  this is an herb that has a long history in folk medicine for women’s health. Although the research on black cohosh is of variable quality, there are some studies that show it helps relieve hot flashes. It is considered to be safe, but should be avoided by women who have a liver disorder of any kind.

• Maca – a plant in the same family as radishes, maca is thought to be an endocrine adaptogen, an effective way to regulate the endocrine system, which is where hormones are produced. Maca is thought to balance the endocrine system and may help some women with symptoms of perimenopause by stimulating the ovaries. Maca may help with depression and is rich in calcium, a mineral that is inadequate in many women’s diets.

• Chaste tree berry – is a small shrub or tree that grows in Central America and some areas of the Mediterranean. It has been used medicinally since the Middle Ages. The research on chaste tree berry, also called Vitex agnus-castus, is mixed. Some studies indicate it is helpful for menopausal symptoms, while others found it no more effective than a placebo. Although side effects are not generally serious, it may cause gastrointestinal upsets, dizziness, headache or itching, and may make acne worse. Some women find it increases menstrual flow. It should not be used by women who have breast, ovarian or uterine cancer, and it may decrease the effectiveness of birth control bills.

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