Of all the symptoms associated with menopause, these four get the biggest complaints. They are the ones that can disrupt your life and interfere with your routine. They represent the “worst” of menopause, the symptoms that most have women running to their doctors for help.
Hot Flash! Hot Flash!
Perimenopause is the medical term for the years leading up to menopause. During this time, estrogen is beginning its “push and pull,” keeping you slightly off-balance. You can experience more intense PMS-like symptoms. You can start developing fibroids. Menstruation might become heavier. You begin to experience the irritability and moodiness of menopause itself.
Approximately 85 percent of all American menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, those sudden, intense, sweaty flushes that quickly turn into chills. Most hot flashes occur in the middle of the night, causing women to bolt up from a sound sleep. But hot flashes can really happen at any time—in a restaurant, during a meeting, or when you're in the playground with your child.
Although hot flashes eventually pass once the body adjusts to its new estrogen levels, they can be torture. Here are some tips for welcome relief:
- Do what the Japanese do: eat soy products. Tofu, tempah, soy milk—all of these contain the phytoestrogens that create usable estrogen in the body.
- Avoid caffeine. The stimulant does just that—stimulating (or triggering) the body to raise blood pressure, create nervous tension, and add one or two of those hot flashes.
- Try relaxing with deep breathing. As soon as you wake up in the morning, during the afternoon, or in an evening yoga class, taking long, deep breaths and slowly exhaling will help steady your body and its out-of-kilter hormonal structure.
- Fight hot with cold. If you get a hot flash, be practical. Place a cool washcloth on your forehead. Wear loose clothing.
Before You Put the Band-Aid On
Sometimes those “whatchamacallit gadget” catalogues are right on target. One of the novelties you can find in any hardware store, gadget shop, or novelty catalogue is a miniature fan. Small enough to fit in your purse or your desk drawer, this tiny fan whirls to life with two AA batteries. It's the perfect antidote to afternoon hot flashes!
Swing High, Swing Low
Feeling exhilarated and energetic one minute, and then anxious, irritable, and hopeless the next? You've got 'em! They're called sudden mood swings, and they go hand in hand with the hormonal imbalance of menopause. The most important thing to do if you experience the intense highs and lows of mood swings is to recognize them for what they are: a symptom of menopause. There's no cause for panic; they will pass. In the meantime, try any of these suggestions for relief:
- Fit routine exercise into your life. It's good for the heart, the nerves, and the hormones.
- Add calcium and magnesium to your diet. (The calcium calms and the magnesium helps the body absorb the calcium.)
- Listen to relaxation or visualization tapes. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let your mind relax. Relaxation helps you gain back your self-control.