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Article: Navigating the Peri Storm from Chaos to Clarity

Navigating the Peri Storm from Chaos to Clarity

Have you met the dynamic duo of hormones?

Enter estrogen, the fearless leader, dynamic, decisive, and fiery in her pursuits.
Beware when she's thrown off-kilter; her wrath knows no bounds, with stormy moods, slamming doors, and bold rebukes.

Her counterpart, progesterone, is the tranquilizer, the voice of reason whispering: "Let's cool down" amid estrogen's fiery episodes.

The dance between our hormones has always been a delicate balancing act, and whatever harmony there was can be disrupted by the arrival of Perimenopause.

You're probably no stranger to "the four stages of menopause": Pre, Peri, Menopause, and Post.

Pre-menopause signifies our standard reproductive years, menopause is a single day – marked by a year without a menstrual cycle – and post-menopause constitutes our remaining years.

Peri, however, is the giant we battle, the mountain we scale.

Occasionally, we want to scream: "It's all Peri!"

While some women sail through unscathed, the majority confront a tumultuous storm when this hormonal upheaval begins. And it can ambush us a decade (or more) prior to menopause, sometimes as early as 35.

Let's brace for this storm the way we've mastered previous challenges: head-on, armed with knowledge, and oozing an unstoppable spirit.

According to the UK hormone-mapping company Forth, which surveyed more than 4,000 women in 2019, one-third of them under 40, three-quarters of women had Peri symptoms.

The most common culprits? Mood swings and related changes, often predating irregular periods. Additional symptoms include sleep disturbances, digestive issues, dry skin, joint pain, and brain fog.

Contrary to common belief, this isn't purely an estrogen deficiency issue. Groundbreaking researchers like Dr.Jerilynn Prior, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia, and Scientific Director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, have a different take.

Her research highlights the enigma within our fluctuating hormones during Perimenopause. In the early stages, it's progesterone that dips, triggering our initial symptoms.
A small 2021 study in the journal Euroendocrinology involving 121 women underpins progesterone's critical role in our psychosocial resilience. The lower our progesterone drops in Peri, the greater the impact may be on our mental health. New Zealand-based naturopath Lara Briden dubs this "the great progesterone crash of Perimenopause".

Why "crash"? Because progesterone calms our stress response system or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This recalibration of our entire nervous system can leave us vulnerable to a host of mood issues, from depression and anxiety to insomnia, as reinforced by a 2015 review in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

As for estrogen, its levels fluctuate and sometimes even "soar" during Peri, as Dr. Prior suggests.

This unpredictable decline of estrogen, while we still cycle monthly, triggers many early Peri problems. (Think back to our sister scenario)

The uplifting part? As we shift into menopause and eventually post-menopause, our hormones finally settle into lower, steady levels.

And so, the Perimenopausal storm subsides.

What can we do? Embrace the transition, tackling it with the same tenacity that got us through every previous challenge.

Keep learning. Keep moving forward.

Most importantly, maintain our fighting spirit – and cut ourselves some slack.

Because when one sister is off-balance, those hormones can be a formidable force.

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