There’s so much attention (deservedly) on the menopause right now, which is great news for all women needing support. But menopause is still regarded as something that happens in your fifties, and you may not realise that you are actually in the middle of ‘peri-menopause’. So what does peri-menopause feel like, and how do you know when you’re in it?
Read on to find out what you need to know.
What is peri-menopause?
The peri-menopause is regarded as the transition between your reproductive years and post-menopause, which officially happens a year after your final period.
Symptoms can include fatigue, mood swings, irregular or heavy/painful periods, brain fog, poor sleep, weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, depression, anxiety, hair-loss, joint pain, low libido, vaginal dryness…..and the list goes on!
Are you in it?
If you’re over 35 and you have symptoms (and periods), then yes! Many Doctors will tell you you’re too young. Or you may get your FSH or LH levels tested. But all those results will tell you is that the brain is pumping out a constant message for hormones to be produced because you are under-producing.
That’s the nature of peri-menopause – that test is just telling you what you already know! It’s much more useful to get your actual hormones measured.
What are the drivers of peri-menopause?
- Age! After 35 your eggs are starting to run out, and ovulation can be more erratic. This affects the production of oestrogen and progesterone. Both hormones are starting a long slow decline towards final menopause, but on the way they can fluctuate wildly, and this can feel like a mood swing roller coaster!
- Stress– any kind of stress on the body can be a major disruptor to your peri-menopause journey. Cortisol can not only have an impact on your energy, mood, brain function and metabolism, but it can also suppress your thyroid and sex hormones, making your symptoms even worse.
- Thyroid – the impact of stress, a poor diet, gut health or environmental toxins can take a toll on your thyroid hormones and crash your metabolism, leaving you exhausted, sluggish, foggy and achey. And that extra weight isn’t going anywhere soon.
- Diet – your hormones need a whole load of different nutrients from your diet to work properly. If you’re not packing in the protein, healthy fats and tons of veggies, then you’re likely going to be missing a few. And if you’re eating too many carbs or you’re stressed out, then you might be on the blood sugar roller coaster, increasing your insulin and messing with your other hormones.
- Toxins – Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) can mimic or alter hormones, especially oestrogen, and impair mitochondrial function (your energy battery cells).
- Medications– certain medications can disrupt your hormones, including the Birth Control Pill, HRT, steroids and anti depressants
- Liver overload – if the liver is struggling to process and eliminate toxins, alcohol, caffeine or drugs, then hormone metabolism can be affected
- Gut health– if your gut is not working optimally, certain hormones might not be metabolised or converted properly. Inflammation in the gut caused by food sensitivities or underlying infections can also spread to the neighbouring areas and disrupt hormone function.
What you can do
Obviously there are medical options – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medications are often used to treat symptoms.
However, if you don’t want to take HRT, or can’t take it for any reason, or even if you are taking it, implementing the right diet and lifestyle foundations is going to be beneficial not just for your hormones but for your future health.
Here are 7 steps you can take to support yourself to thrive through peri-menopause, whether or not you choose to use HRT.
Balancing blood sugar is a priority as it helps to sustain energy levels, balance moods, improve cognitive function and lose excess weight.
2. Include phytoestrogens
Making sure you have plenty of phytoestrogens in the diet (eg flaxseeds and fermented soy) can help to balance oestrogen levels and reduce incidences of hot flushes and night sweats. Ensuring enough protein, healthy fats and phytonutrients are in the diet to support thyroid and cellular health is very important.
3. Support gut and liver
Cruciferous vegetables help to support your liver detoxification pathways and oestrogen clearance. Hydration helps to keep the bowels moving, while reducing alcohol and caffeine can support the liver and gut. Including probiotic foods (live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha) can help to support the microbiome (your good bugs!) and digestive function.
4. Minimise exposure to EDC’s
Eat organic where possible to avoid pesticide exposure. Swap BPA plastics to glass or stainless steel. Avoid products containing phthalates (eg synthetic fragrance in personal and household products).
Increasing NEAT movement (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) helps to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase metabolism. Avoiding over-exercising is as important to not increase stress on the body.
6. De-stress and sleep
Managing stress through mindfulness or other relaxation techniques can have a huge impact on symptoms. Improving sleep quality through dietary changes, stress management techniques and sleep hygiene routines can be very helpful.
7. Get appropriate tests carried out
Whether through your doctor or privately, tests can be very helpful in identifying the root cause of any imbalance. We look at including thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones, blood sugar, gut health and key nutrients. If you’d like to discuss whether testing would benefit you, do contact us for a free Discovery Call.
About Nicki Williams
The chocolate, coffee and wine loving nutritionist!
Nicki Williams is a qualified Nutritional Therapist, author, speaker and founder of Happy Hormones for Life, helping women to get back to their absolute best – slimmer, energized, more productive and in full control of their hormones!
After failing to find any medical help for her symptoms of exhaustion, weight gain and hormone issues herself in her early 40’s, she discovered that she could turn things around using diet, lifestyle and natural supplements.
She went on to qualify as a nutritional therapist and hormone expert, and now helps women all over the world with her online programmes, workshops and individual and group coaching.
You check out more articles like this in the brand new Happy Hormones magazine.
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