After having heard the details of PMS (otherwise known as premenstrual syndrome) from hundreds of women over the years, I continue to be surprised about how most regard PMS as their lot in life and don’t seek any help for it. I guess most women believe there’s nothing they can do, and consequently they’re often amazed to learn that an integrated approach can really help. I am of the opinion, shared by many of my colleagues at WholeHealth Chicago, that getting PMS out of your life requires a strongly committed proactive “self-care” stance, something you can easily do without much reliance on your conventional physician. Generally the complexity of PMS–and there are numerous symptoms associated with it–takes a lot more time and attention than the standard 7-minute physician office visit can provide.
As you’re probably aware, menopause is that phase of a woman’s life when her ovaries no longer produce the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Well before then, however, a woman’s hormones begin to fluctuate from month to month, often causing many unpleasant symptoms. This process may take from five to 10 years. This is perimenopause. During this time, even though periods are still occurring, symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and sleep disturbances begin. Yet with periods persisting, most doctors are reluctant to start prescription hormones that would stop these symptoms in days. Furthermore, since her hormonal status fluctuates, she may not need prescription hormones every month. So what’s a person to do?
Strictly speaking, menopause is your final menstrual period, but most doctors agree you need 12 straight months without a period before you can call that last period “final.” Gone along with your periods, however, are your “factory-installed” female hormones. These protect you against a host of conditions–heart disease and osteoporosis most prominently–and lack of them can lead to a variety of symptoms, known collectively by your mothers as “the change.” These may include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, weight changes and poor concentration.