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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

What do I need to know about the perimenopause?

40% of women admit to having no clear idea about the menopause, or the potential impact on our bodies and minds. At any one time, about 13 million women are making the transition through the menopause, so this is a topic that we need to be talking about!

The information given on this page also relates to trans men as they may also experience perimenopause and post-menopausal symptoms.


What are perimenopause and menopause?


The time leading up to the menopause is known as perimenopause and it can be between 5-10 years before our periods stop. Menopause itself is singular point in time, the date twelve months after your last period. The average age for menopause in the UK is 51. Once you’ve passed this, you are classed as post-menopausal. Menopause prior to age 45 is considered ‘early’ and before 40 is considered ‘premature’. If this applies to you, you should seek advice from your G.P.


Why does it happen?


During our fertile years, progesterone and oestrogen are finally balanced. Once we reach the perimenopause, things start to get out of kilter. We no longer ovulate every month, and as a result we produce less progesterone.

This leads to us having oestrogen-dominance (relative to progesterone levels), even though our oestrogen levels are also declining (eventually we produce a much smaller amount of oestrogen from our adrenal glands and fat cells, rather than our ovaries). It is this chaotic hormonal imbalance that leads to an array of perimenopausal symptoms.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can start in perimenopause and continue for several years beyond the menopause. 70% - 80% of women experience menopause-related symptoms. Below are some of the most commonly reported symptoms experienced during this time:

Anxiety and mood swings

Joint and muscle aches

Fatigue

Poor skin, hair and nail health

Insomnia

Lack of libido

Forgetfulness/ brain fog/ 'losing my mind'

Itchy skin

Hormonal spots

Hot flushes and night sweats

Menstrual cycle irregularities

'Flooding'

Vaginal dryness

Urinary tract infections

Breast discomfort

Weight gain

Headaches and migraines

Body says 'NO'

Unsurprisingly, a recent survey of peri- and post-menopausal women found that many simply wanted to feel like themselves again.


How can I manage my symptoms?

Hormone replacement therapy is a medical option that is very useful for some women, but only 10% of women choose or are able to take HRT, so what else can support you if you are one of the 90% not taking HRT? And what can be beneficial alongside HRT to make you feel at your best?

During this time of our lives, we need to look at both our diet and lifestyle as quite simple changes can make a substantial difference to how we experience perimenopause and beyond.

Dietary changes to balance your hormones:

~ Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables – aim to eat at least 2 fruits and 5 vegetables a day. Include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale to support liver detoxification.

o Include hormone-balancing phytoestrogens each day such as tofu, soya milk, miso, flaxseeds and nuts.

o Drink 1.5-2l of fluids a day, mainly water of herbal teas.

o Reduce your caffeine intake.

o Reduce your alcohol intake

o Avoid refined sugars and eat more wholegrains to help balance your blood sugar and keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.


Lifestyle changes:


~ Aim for 7-8 hours sleep each night.

~ Start a mindfulness practice, for example the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme has been scientifically proven to reduce hot flushes and to support stress responses, improving the quality of life during menopause.

~ Weight training and resistance training are both proven to support our bones as we age. Yoga can be helpful as it both uses our own body weight, and is proven to calm the vagus nerve, leading to lower levels of stress.

~ Find a movement activity that you enjoy; walking, swimming, dancing, jogging etc., and find someone to do this with you, to make it more fun and make you accountable to someone other than yourself.

~ Reduce your exposure to toxins in your home and food (see my post on toxic load).

A habit tracker can be a good way of helping you to implement lifestyle changes as you can record how often you do an activity and measure your progress over time.

Want to find out more and take the first step towards making significant, long-lasting changes?


This article has covered the basics of the menopause process and changes than can be supportive. If you would like to know more, download my free eBook 'Perimenopause and menopause- what you should know' and sign up to Be Perfectly Nourished's mailing list for the latest information, including details of workshops and perimenopause support programmes.

For 1:1 support, take a look at the care packages available and book your free discovery call now!




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