How to handle perimenopause

  • Living
  • Sunday, 01 May 2016

It’s likely not her fault that she’s feeling moody and picking fights. Most probably, hormonal imbalance as she approaches menopause is to blame. Photo: Shutterstock

Philip David, 48, decides to walk away from his wife to cool off. Sharon, 45, has been moody and complaining from the moment she came home and has been picking on petty issues again for no reason.

Nothing he does seems to agree with her.

In fact, nothing anyone in the household does seems to be good enough for Sharon.

Their three teenage children have also learnt to steer clear when their mother is in this mood, adding to the strain in the home.

Cocooned in the bedroom, Sharon breaks down into tears.

She knows it isn’t all Philip’s fault. But she just couldn’t help herself.

In truth, she can’t understand herself lately. She was never this short-tempered.

When Sharon looks in the mirror, she realises that she does not like what she sees – she has put on weight, her skin is dry and looking dull, and she feels absolutely drained of energy.

The hot weather has compounded her aversion to heat, making her feel extremely hot and bothered.

What is happening?

“Women marry believing that men will change, but he doesn’t, whilst men marry thinking that women will not change, but she does,” so the saying goes.

Physiologically speaking, all women WILL change.

Although Sharon does not realise it, women in midlife will go through the greatest degree of change in terms of their body, mind and emotions.

The perimenopausal crisis

Malaysian women have, on average, a life span of 77 years. Midlife in women is then expected around the age of 39 onwards.

Midlife is a scientifically documented phase of life known as perimenopause.

Just as young girls become young women with the start of their periods, perimenopause is the reverse of that process, moving towards a time when her periods will eventually cease.

Perimenopause means the time “around menopause”, and typically affects women aged between 40 and 56 years old.

It is a time when hormonal imbalances are expected, which typically translates to a significant time of emotional, physical and psychological change for the woman.

Although most women have some understanding of menopause, many are in the dark when it comes to midlife changes and what to expect.

As a result, many women go through midlife without prior preparation. Hence, many label it a time of crisis when they come face-to-face with perimenopause.

Hormonal balance is essential to all aspects of a woman’s reproductive life. Hormones regulate menstruation, fertility, menopause and libido.

The main hormones affecting the menstrual cycle and fertility are produced by glands in the brain and by the ovaries.

Perimenopause is a time when hormonal imbalances become most prominent as the woman approaches menopause.

As oestrogen affects more than 400 different functions in the body, it is no surprise that women may start noticing various symptoms – change in menstruation (lighter or heavier flows), body aches and pains, weight gain, skin dryness, vaginal dryness, temperature intolerance (mini hot flushes) and so on.

Here is a snapshot of what could be happening to a woman during midlife.

Weight gain and fat accumulation: In her 20s, a woman’s hormone levels are at its most constant, which is conducive to her fat metabolism. As such, fat burns off almost effortlessly in the body in most cases.

During perimenopause, a characteristic midlife bulge often manifests. This is because fat metabolism slows down dramatically.

While fat will accumulate at areas such as the hips and breasts during the child-bearing years, fat accumulates preferentially in the belly during midlife.

As such, many women do notice themselves putting on weight in the middle, besides experiencing a sagging effect in the bustline.

Overall, body weight increases, while weight maintenance becomes difficult, despite not eating very much.

Skin dryness: Skin dryness and loss of skin firmness features prominently during midlife as the skin becomes thinner and loses the ability to retain moisture.

As the skin on the face and hands dries, this is a reflection of the condition of the skin in the intimate areas too, causing not only painful sex, but also an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

Memory and concentration: Ever been midway through a conversation, but just forgot what you wanted to say? Studies show that women during midlife are 40% more likely to report forgetfulness.

This has been described as feeling mentally foggy or dull.

Unknown to women, oestrogen balance drives memory retention and concentration.

Feeling down: Our emotional health is inextricably linked to our hormones.

Women are more vulnerable to feelings of sadness and depression during times of hormonal change, such as during her teenage years (pre-menstrual syndrome), after having a baby (post-natal) and during midlife (perimenopause).

Besides depression, women during midlife report feeling anxious, moody, angry and easily irritated for no apparent reason.

Psychological stress: Stress worsens hormonal balance, which in turn worsens negative moods.

Many women in midlife become part of the “sandwich generation”, having to look after the children, as well as work, and likely having to take care of elderly parents too.

As women age, the list of stress- producing factors seems to grow, including managing teenagers, facing divorce, step-families, career changes and financial worries.

No wonder she is unhappy.

Alternative natural therapies

Although women cannot stop menopause from happening, they can do much during midlife to influence how they will live their years ahead in wellness.

Phytonutrients (plant nutrients), such as organic genistein soy isoflavones, have been found useful in helping women navigate through times of hormonal imbalances, especially during perimenopause and menopause.

Genistein is a phytoestrogen–antioxidant and metabolic-regulating complex.

One of its main actions as a phytoestrogen is to “mimic” the properties of oestrogen in a safe, selective and gentle manner.

As a natural phytoestrogen complex, genistein works differently from hormone-type drugs and hormone replacement therapy, which adds hormones to the body.

Instead, organic genistein helps regulate erratic hormone levels by filling in the gaps when oestrogen levels are low, whilst it will compete with oestrogen in the body when levels are high.

By doing so, it effectively regulates hormonal ups and downs in the body to bring balance.

Organic genistein’s fat-regulating benefits include reducing fat formation and fat accumulation in the body.

Organic genistein cannot re- place a balanced diet or regular exercise.

However, it can help regulate hormonal imbalances that contribute to weight gain to make weight management efforts more fruitful.

As a phytoestrogen, organic genistein works differently from evening primrose oil (EPO).

Although EPO has long been touted as a hormone-balancing product, EPO possesses anti-inflammatory actions more suited for pre-menstrual syndrome.

Women with weight challenges would also benefit from a non-oily supplement such as organic genistein to prevent the weight gain associated with increased intakes of oils (fat) in the diet.

When deciding on a phytonutrient like genistein, be sure to select one that is derived from 100% organic soy and is non-genetically modified (non-GMO), as close to 80% of soy products in the market today are genetically modified.

Organic genistein is a safe hormone-balancing supplement for women, as it has been shown not to have any adverse effects on breast or uterine tissues.

This article is courtesy of Nuvanta’s Nuvaceuticals division. For further information, call 03-5636 3758 or email The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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How to handle perimenopause


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