Friday, March 16, 2012

Perimenopause | Weight Gain and Hot Flashes

Perimenopause, What is going on?

Hot Flashes
This is probably the most talked about and most commonly acknowledged symptom of menopause, and the most unpleasant along with night sweats. Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. It's a rather strange sensation of internal intensifying heat, that randomly peaks and then subsides. The skin may redden, just as if you were blushing. Hot flashes can also cause profuse sweating and may leave you chilled. The exact cause of hot flashes isn't known, but the signs and symptoms point to factors affecting the function of your body's thermostat — the hypothalamus. This area at the base of your brain regulates body temperature and other basic processes. Lowered levels of estrogen confuse the hypothalamus, causing it to inappropriately sense that the body is overheating. This provokes an internal chain of reactions that women experience as hot flashes. The estrogen reduction you experience during menopause may disrupt hypothalamic function, leading to hot flashes.

Weight Gain
This is probably the most loathed perimenopausal symptom. As many women enter perimenopause or approach menopause, they find themselves experiencing unexplained weight gain — especially around the waists and hips — despite their best attempts to diet. Often the methods of weight management that worked for them for years are suddenly ineffective. In fact, weight gain in the abdomen is one of the most common complaints of perimenopausal women.

Estrogen is stored in fat cells, and when you enter menopause, your body responds by holding on to fat cells in an effort to boost the lagging estrogen levels. It then becomes tougher to lose fat and much easier to keep the pounds on. Also as estrogen levels drop, your level of androgens increases in relation to the estrogen. Unopposed by the higher levels of estrogen your body used to have, the androgens produce male characteristics -- in this case, the shift in body fat from your hips, thighs and buttocks to your midsection, resulting in the "apple" shape that is more common in men and in postmenopausal women Low progesterone levels (which in relation to estrogen is popularly called "estrogen dominance") also cause a number of side effects including increased bloating and water retention -- not be actual fat, but can makes you look and feel heavier. It can also cause blood sugar fluctuations -- which can increase your appetite and slow your metabolism.

What to do?
Coping with weight gain,
hot flashes, night sweats and the resulting lack of sleep and is no picnic. Often women are tired.  They get frustrated and are not sure what's going on in their bodies.  "Am I ever going to fit back into my favorite jeans?"  "Will I ever lose this weight?"  "I'm so tired!" "Will I ever get a good night's sleep?"

There’s no need to suffer through these symptoms unnecessarily.  Now, you have a clearer understanding of the physical causes for these changes, you can make informed and empowered choices to support your body with these symptoms and help your ability to function better in life. You can chose to address the situation naturally and nutritionally and get back to feeling like your old self again. Like most health challenges the basics apply here too. Reduced intake or no coffee and alcohol, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise even though your energy and enthusiasm may be low. Also, try to keep to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night and allowing enough time to get a full eight hours of restful and restorative sleep.

There are also highly effective herbal supplements designed specifically for women's health and menopause that you may find will help you through this time.  Many women have resorted to natural remedies for relief.  And, of course, the most well renowned is Black Cohosh, which is great, but it’s not enough on this own.  Perimenopause and menopause is a multi-platform issue requiring a multi-platform solution.  More than one single herb is required to balance all these symptoms. 

In Health,
Naturally Botanicals Team