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Escape From Hormone Horrors — What You Can Do

From PMS to perimenopause and on into menopause, hormonal ups and downs can wreak havoc on a woman's life. Here’s how to escape the horror hormones cause.

Hormone horrors: The perimenopause years continued...

Northrup tells WebMD that, as in your 20s and 30s, your first line of defense should be dietary changes. "If you haven't already cut out salt, sugar, and white flour, do it right now," she says. "And also cut back on caffeine and wine. In some women caffeine and wine can exacerbate perimenopause symptoms."

Northrup also advocates increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in flax seed, walnuts, and eggs) as well as increasing calcium. When it comes to diet, Northrup is a strong believer in the power of a low glycemic eating plan, which shuns simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and pastry in favor of complex carbs like fruits and veggies plus protein and fiber.

"You will see a major change in just one cycle," Northrup says. "In 30 days you will feel better with just these simple dietary changes."

Getting regular exercise will also help, according to Amaru, as will learning to handle stress in a more healthful way. "It's pretty much impossible to cut stress out of a woman's life," says Amaru. "But if you can change the way you handle it - go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, whatever it is that helps you to de-stress - you will see a favorable impact on your perimenopause symptoms."

If you do all those things but are still not finding relief, Goldstein says a low dose birth control pill might be the answer. The Pill works differently than hormone replacement therapy, which adds more hormones on top of the ones that are already fluctuating, sometimes making the imbalance worse. "The Pill," he says, "shuts down your hormone production completely and gives you a small, even, metered dose that is the same day in and day out. That way, he says, "you don't feel the bumps in the road as much."

According to Northrup, some women can also benefit from natural progesterone supplementation, which works to replace the hormone lost when ovulation stops. "For some women," she says, "this can have an amazing calming effect that ameliorates all the major symptoms."

Menopause and beyond - What you can do

Because menopause is defined as 12 months or more without a menstrual cycle, it's easy to assume that once you enter the Big M, hormonal activity - including the ups and downs - is pretty much over. For many women this is the case. But because there is always some level of reproductive hormones left in the body, fluctuations and at least some symptoms can continue for years beyond your last period.

"It's not that unusual to find a woman who has entered menopause and is still fighting the hot flashes and some mood-related problems," says Goldstein. Moreover, while women in perimenopause may find wild fluctuations in their desire for sex, some women in menopause experience a kind of flat lining of desire - at least for a while.

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