We’ve got mood swings, weight gain, muscle loss, joint pain, insomnia, sexual adjustments (oh my!)…GAA!…it just keeps on comin’, no matter how many times we tell ourselves the worst is almost over.
One of the lesser known side-effects from transitioning to perimenopause, or even menopause, is the itching caused by the ebbing estrogen a women experiences. So much itching. So much scratching.
Why? JUST WHY?
Ever had an itch in the part of your back that you can’t reach? You know, in the small space right next to your spine that even akimbo arms and stretched fingers can’t touch? Yeah, that’s exactly the spot that itches the most on me. Garry has literally found me like a wild bear, rubbing my back up and down a wooden beam in our home, smiling the smile of the satisfied. I’m sure I make happy bear noises too, as I’m scratch-scratch-scratching that itch.
What exactly is happening?
Most commonly, perimenopausal itching is caused by hormone changes, most especially the drop in estrogen.
Estrogen plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. For example, estrogen is responsible for stimulating the production of skin collagen, a fibrous protein that provides strength, resilience, and support to the skin and other tissues.
As estrogen production diminishes around the time of menopause, dry itchy skin becomes a very common symptom. The decline in skin thickness and collagen production appears to be most rapid in the years immediately preceding menopause.
So collagen production is down, skin thickness is declining, and we are having trouble retaining the little bit of moisture we produce, via natural skin oils. All makes sense in the circle of life, but doesn’t make for happy campers, now does it ladies.
What’s a perimenopausal gal to do?
Plenty! See, it’s not all falling-off-a-cliff news! Maybe if I use enough exclamations point, I’ll convince us all!!!!
No? Not buying it? Fine.
Try these tips instead of the sunny exclamation points:
* Increase the amount of water you drink.
Most of us don’t drink enough water, so now would be the perfect time to up your intake. I’m not going to give a daily requirement, just add a glass or two in addition to what you’re drinking now. I think this is one of the best things you can do regardless of your itches. A properly hydrated body is a
peeing healthy body. Hydrate yourself from the inside out. SALUD!
* Eat a well-balanced diet, heavy on clean protein, fruits, veggies and whole grains.
This one is a no brainer, one that we should be doing anyway, but, well, life sometimes offers us fries or cake and we looooove fries and cake. Include omega-3 fatty acids (eggs, nuts, fish) and remember your water. Some folks will do supplements to boost important nutrients, but I’m a big believer in getting what you need from real food. The only supplement I take is Vitamin D and only because my oncologist thought it prudent.
I will add an addendum here and say that I shoot for a 80/20 lifestyle. 80% eating all the healthy thangs I love; 20% eating all the naughty things I love, that may or may not qualify as actual food.
Are tiny white donuts food?!
No-brainer, right? There’s also the advice to cut down on hot showers or baths, but I can’t seem to take that advice, since it’s what I need after a long run. So, instead, I take my hothothot shower or bath, then moisturize before completely toweling off, thereby capturing that moisture. I gotta keep my little pleasures and a hot shower is one of them. But, you’re a big girl, you pick your poison.
This is a simple self-care method to help diminish the itch as you transition from a full-on estrogen producer to a perimenopausal gal. If your itch persists or is accompanied by anything that gives you pause, it can’t hurt to have a doctor look at it to be sure it’s nothing more serious.
Hope this helps to scratch that itch.
* Disclaimer: All information in this series is based on my personal experience and is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.