Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Embracing Perimenopause

Karyn Calabrese, owner of Karyn's Fresh Corner Cafe in Chicago, Illinois, age 61, raw vegan for 25+ years

On Monday, March 16, I called my mother. I was a stressed-out mess. My period had ended yesterday, but I was still cramping. In fact, the cramps had stopped two days before, and had come back. I was in pain and confused. Four minutes into the call, I started crying. I said, "I'm cramping. I'm tense. I'm in pain. I'm anxious. I have no idea what is going on with me." My mom said, "That sounds just like me when I was thirty-seven." I cried a bit harder. Then she said, "You'll feel better when you're sixty."

WTF??????????? I don't want to wait until I'm sixty!! I want to look like Karyn Calabrese. I want to age gracefully!

I really started crying then. As she talked, her list of perimenopausal symptoms mirrored mine. I knew we had similarities, but I didn't know my mom had given birth to her twin. That would be me.

Age 11:
first period

Age 19:
first gray hairs

Age 30:

first baby
adult onset acne

Age 31:
first hot flashes
night sweats
mood swings
not feeling like myself

Age 32:
second baby

Age 34:
tubal ligation
super heavy periods

Age 36:
irregular periods
cramping after period ends
joint pain
mysterious bruising on thighs

Age 37:
memory loss
dry skin

Age 11:
first period

Age 19:
first baby

very irregular periods
mood swings

Age 29:
second baby
tubal ligation

gray hair
fuzzy thinking
mood swings
bloating mysterious bruising on thighs (which is a circulation problem, btw)

And it gets better. I also learned that my mom is not officially in menopause yet. A woman is in menopause when 12 months have passed since her last period. My mother will be 56 in two weeks. It's only been eight months since her last cycle. Fifty-six?? I was flabbergasted. We had both assumed because our menstrual cycles started when we were eleven that we'd be in menopause around 50-52 years of age. Not so. And then...yes, there is more...she says that we are estrogen-dominant, meaning we have too much of it in our bodies. The usual remedies, such as flaxseed, will not work for us. Great.

[insert curse word]

After our conversation though, my mom found a website that talks about estrogen dominance, what foods and herbs increase the amount of estrogen in the body, and the importance of liver cleansing:

These Minniepauz comics are funny, but I'm not the grandma in the comic. I'm the daughter, holding the baby, and is the one who cannot remember anything. I cannot remember any frickin' thing these days. I go upstairs and can't remember why I went up there. I'm forgetting names. I'm forgetting conversations. I sit down at the computer and can't remember why I'm here. The memory loss is what prompted my admission to myself that I am indeed in perimenopause.

A good list of perimenopause and menopause symptoms are here:
Women to Women.

I struggled with even sharing this publicly. I once saw an episode of The Golden Girls (one of my favorite 80s shows) in which Blanche thought she was pregnant. It turned out she was menopausal. She was scared and ashamed because she was taught menopause was a curse. Women did not discuss "the change." I don't get that.

But even now, I was like, should I tell everyone? Are they going to think I'm crazy or not believe that a woman in her thirties could really be perimenopausal? Or are all the changes women go through scary in and of themselves and therefore hard to deal with? Why? Because it makes us look vulnerable and/or unstable.

I decided to share because I know I'm not the only one going through this. Stress is the number one issue in my life. I've talked about my stressors many times, and they can't be ignored. I've started exercising at the gym, almost everyday.

Next, I had to look at my diet to see where I could improve. I've still been stress eating with rice, cake, and chocolate (the EFT didn't hold). What perimenopause is telling me is that being a raw vegan is the best thing for me, and to take it even more seriously.

Greens, greens, and more greens.

I've focused on gourmet raw food, which is fine. The food has to be interesting or it will get boring. But now I realize that I need healing. If you go to Karyn's website,, she offers a promo DVD for free. On it, she says that she never suffered from any menopausual symptoms. I believe her. Karyn is an Ann Wigmore protege, and had the privilege of studying with Wigmore when she was alive.

Everything always goes back to living foods. I'm on the right track with the wheatgrass, but my diet continues to need an overhaul. Before I do the two-week cleanse, as laid out in the Ann Wigmore Home Study Program and one anyone can do at
The Creative Health Institute, I'm adding more vegetable juices and salads to my diet. I'm in the middle of growing my own wheatgrass (the first batch I made didn't work, at all), and I've ordered soft wheatberries to make Rejuvelac. The process has begun to overhaul my kitchen.

Perimenopause is teaching me is that I have to place my own health first. Every mom puts tons of energy into her family while neglecting herself. That is a universal experience of mothers. But at some point, momma has to care for herself, or she will break down. Then the family suffers because of it. A lot of women do not want to place themselves first because they feel it's selfish. It's not selfish. It's self-care, and it's self-care for the family too. What good is a sick, broken-down mom to her family? None.

I have made a strawberry cheesecake and a "milk" chocolate fudge. Both came out great, and I'll have pictures for my next post. But after that, I'll focus on more green drinks, green foods, sprouting, Rejuvelac, and healing.




menopause_tracker said...

You could look at progesterone. A 2% progresterone facial creme might help. Studies showed it was good for wrinkles and might go some way towards balancing the estrogen.

Althea said...

I will do that as well. My mom said progesterone cream helped her when she was my age. Thanks for leaving your comment! :-)

ChocolateOrchid said...

Have you considered herbs?..You can make your own herbal tea w/ingredients like red raspberry, black cohosh, ginger or donq quai. Or you could try a packaged tea geared towards your symptoms.

Hope this is of some help.

Althea said...

I have considered herbs. According to, the following herbs have estrogenic activities:

Anise, hops, fennel, black cohosh, milk thistle, clover, red clover, Dong Quai, licorice, ginseng, royal jelly, peony, nettle, sage, fenugreek, evening primrose oil, burdock, chamomile, rhubarb

I was taking red clover tea everyday. I've also done dong quai, fenugreek, evening primrose oil, nettle, sage, and black cohosh. Looks like they were adding to my problem.

I was going to do a liver cleanse, and I thought, "you know what? The best I ever felt in my LIFE was when I was juicing and 100% raw." I'm going to focus on the 2 week cleanse as laid out in my home study program and truly focus on my healing.

What I need to do is re-orient my thinking on a lot of levels. I know its not all about the food, but it's a large part.

Jacqueline said...


Google took me to this blog post and I can see why -- I am 36 and I just typed in an almost identical list of symptoms as you list at 36 (except the bruising -- mine is varicose veins). I checked out the and links. Both look great. From the women 2 women site, I also liked these articles...

Phytotherapy and


Thanks! I look forward to keeping up with your blog!

Elaina said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have thought I was alone in the 30 -something and perimenopause department! This hell started last June out of the blue and I have been frantically trying to get a handle on it all. Last month I started the Women to Women program. I will say some of my symptoms have decreased but I can't seem to tolerate the herbal product with it all...I think it is too estrogenic for me at this time. I have also purchased the products from Sensible Health but have not used them yet for the liver cleanse. How do you go Raw? The vegetarian part would not be too difficult for me as I am already mostly meatless. But I can't seem to do the raw thing after many attempts. Any suggestions?

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Patricia said...

Thanks so much for your story and especially for the specific list of raw foods that help.

I'm just off a 10 day juice fast (which my husband and I do annually) and I'm spending some time reacquainting myself with raw food books, and this time I'm looking for it's effect on specific physical issues, peri-menopause being one of them (I too am estrogen dominant) -- your site was very helpful.

2 thoughts - (except I already forgot one... I definitely identified with the memory loss symptom, among others!) -- OK, brain is back and I remember both:

1) Greens -- You may already know this too, but if not: Green smoothies are a GREAT way to get all the greens you are trying to get into your daily diet -- Victoria Boutenko's
"Green for Life" and "Green Smoothie Revolution" are very much worth the read (and recipes). She gives the scientific back up on greens (in easy to "assimilate" language). She is, of course, indebted to Ann Wigmore, as are all raw foodists, but she developed the green smoothies b/c she simply could not adapt to the green juices and soups suggested by Ann, just due to their taste, and this was after being a raw foodist for 6 or 7 years... The fiber, likewise, has its benefits. And you can drink alot more greens that you can possibly eat -- just have to rotate the dark, leafy greens and not keep doing the same one (details in above books). I'm sure Ann Wigmore's recipes are perfect for many, and the wheatgrass is a fast purifier, but the Green Smoothies seem to be the only hope for me on a sustained, mostly raw diet (at least that’s what it seems like to me0.

2) Progesterone
I've also read, over the course of the last year "What your Doctor May Not Tell You about Peri-Menopause", by John R. Lee, Jesse Hanley, and Virginia Hopkins. Very helpful.

If the whole progesterone thing is new to you, here is how I understand it:
> Definitely NATURAL progesterone, NOT synthetic (I assumed this, but it was good to read some details on this).
> In Natural, there is Oral and Cream. Per their book, Cream is much better
> In Creams, make sure that it is Certified -- most, I think, are made from Wild Yam -- but the ingredient needs to be made usable by the body, and that is where the certification comes in -- If only marked Wild Yam, may not be the real deal. The book expounds and gives sources. I think Emerita is a good one.

3) OK, 3 points:
I have read that after a time on the raw diet the cream may not be needed. I am just transitioning from oral to cream, but since I stopped while fasting, I may see how the improved diet, plus herbs, work—there may be no need.

Thanks again!
Patricia (

tubal ligation reversal said...

A great information for me.
Thank you


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