I’ve noticed changes in my body (and mind) that have felt different than usual, I’m pretty sure I’ve in the beginning stages of what’s called Perimenopause.
Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, and others are like….what the heck is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause may begin as early as your mid-30s or as late as your mid-50s. Some people are in Perimenopause for only a short time. But for many, it lasts anywhere from four to eight years. The term perimenopause simply describes the time when your cycles are no longer predictable.
When you hit this stage, your ovaries begin to produce less estrogen, the primary female hormone. Your body is starting the preparation to stop releasing eggs entirely. The level of estrogen in your body rises and falls unevenly during Perimenopause. Ultimately, your body is preparing to transition to menopause.
Generally, the first sign of Perimenopause is irregular periods. Most people will go from having a relatively predictable menstrual cycle to unpredictable cycles.
They may lengthen or shorten, and you may even have some in which your ovaries don’t release an egg (skip ovulation). You may also begin to experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood changes and incontinence.
It sounds like a lot of fun hey…..
Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and your perimenopause period is over (no pun intended, haha)
As ovulation becomes more unpredictable, the time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light to heavy, and you may skip some periods.
Hot flashes are common during Perimenopause. The intensity, length and frequency vary. You may experience more difficulty falling asleep or waking up earlier than usual.
Hair thinning is caused by a hormonal imbalance and is specifically linked to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone production.
Mood swings, irritability or increased risk of depression are common during Perimenopause. Women in this stage of life feel more irritable, anxious, and depressed than when they were younger. It’s largely due to the hormone changes, but poor sleep and life stresses – like job demands, changes in health, taking care of children or even parents and so forth can also contribute to worsening your mood.
When estrogen levels diminish, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity and may contribute to painful sex.
Oestrogen is responsible for causing the urethral and vaginal tissues to thin, and pelvic floor muscles can start to relax as women age. Both of these factors can lead to urinary incontinence.
As ovulation becomes irregular, your ability to conceive naturally decreases.
You may begin to lose your desire for sex and feel less aroused.
With declining estrogen levels, you start to lose bone more quickly than you replace it, which could lead to an increase in visceral adiposity and a decrease in bone density, muscle mass and muscle strength. This decline in muscle mass is known as sarcopenia and is more common in postmenopausal women; however, it can begin in Perimenopause.
Menopause can lead to changes in hormones and metabolism, ultimately altering your lipid profile. Because estrogen works on the liver to regulate lipid metabolism and help maintain a healthy lipid profile, it can lead to increases in cholesterol when it begins to decline.
I’m sure you’ve heard it 100 times. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is vital for your health at any time, but as you age, your risk of dehydration increases because your body replenishes fluids at a slower rate. Your sensitivity to thirst may also be lower, so you may need to set yourself a reminder if you have to. By incorporating some electrolytes, you may relieve bloating, hot flashes, and headaches. Aim to drink half your body weight (pounds) in ounces daily.
Fasting looks different for each and every person; it’s not a one size fits all approach. Fasting needs to be incorporated into your lifestyle and stage of life, not your lifestyle and stage of life incorporated into your fasting. Fasting is different for women than men, and if you’re in a particular stage of life, you have to be careful how you approach fasting. It’s important to fast according to your cycle. Finding a fasting protocol that works for you can help balance your hormones, stabilize your blood sugar, increase your mood and energy, optimize your sleep, and increase your libido.
Oxytocin is at the top of the domino effect of hormones. Boosting oxytocin will positively affect the hormones: cortisol, insulin and sex hormones, progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. Just the simple act of touch can boost oxytocin. Giving someone a massage, cuddling, having sex, or simply giving someone a hug.
Your brain requires energy from calories to function well and nutrients to fuel the production of ‘happy’ signallers, such as dopamine and serotonin. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce depressive symptoms for women on their way into menopause, so aim for two servings of oily fish a week.
Protein matters!! If your diet is protein-deficient, you will begin to lose muscle mass, strength and function, which is known as sarcopenia; and will have a smaller capacity to store glucose, making it easier for your body to store carbs and sugar as fat. Protein is essential for energy production, sleep and mood; it’s also great for decreasing cravings, keeping you satiated between meals, reducing snacking, and keeping blood sugar levels steady. It can also help lower cholesterol. In a nutshell, protein ticks many boxes when it comes to most perimenopause symptoms. Aim for 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 1.2-2g if you’re very active.
Many people don’t eat enough fibre. If your diet lacks fresh whole foods, you’re probably not getting adequate fibre. Fibre will provide fuel for your gut bacteria, creating many beneficial chemicals that will help with many perimenopause symptoms. Good sources of fibre include vegetables, especially cruciferous; broccoli, in particular, has a positive impact on estrogen levels, fruit, whole grains, and legumes.
High Interval Intensity Training improves insulin sensitivity and lowers fasting blood sugar levels, which is good for your overall cardiovascular and metabolic health, especially during Perimenopause and beyond when blood sugar can be harder to manage.
Women over 40 begin to lose 1% of their lean muscle mass every year. According to Harvard, this can start even earlier, at around 35. Once you go through menopause, the estrogen loss accelerates, and the decrease in muscle and bone mass is turbo-charged, your metabolism is even lower, the fat ratio increases and if you don’t have muscle strength your balance can go awry. Begin building your strength now, and start slow if you have to. Try to incorporate strength training 2-3 times per week. Don’t be afraid to lift heavy sh*t, it can be a great mood and confidence boost too!
Getting good sleep helps balance all of your major hormones. Melatonin levels decrease (especially at nighttime) with age, particularly during the peri-menopausal period. Establish a consistent bedtime routine, stop eating 3 hours before bed, no caffeine after noon, and limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol too close to bedtime destroys your quality of sleep. It is also helpful to add a magnesium, having adequate magnesium levels helps your body slip gently into a more restorative state.
Slower metabolisms and hormonal changes are common during Perimenopause. The hormonal changes in particular stress the adrenals themselves, and if you over-exercise, you can eventually push the adrenals to a state of exhaustion, leading to adrenal fatigue. At this point, your body will be running on empty. Prioritize recovery and rest days. If you still want to move your body, do something very low-impact, such as go for a nice walk outside, join a recovery or gentle yoga class, or stretch on your own at home.
You can begin to manage the symptoms of Perimenopause on your own using any of the ideas above. Focus on making small sustainable changes rather than trying to do everything all at once. We all have days or weeks where things don’t go as planned, and we get off track, and that’s ok – once you recognize it, make a decision to get yourself back on track. Consistency will always beat perfection.
Remember to be kind to yourself, celebrating your wins and signs of kicking perimenopause’s ass, no matter how small they seem – this will help boost your motivation to keep going.
Above all, listen to your body and always be open to adjusting your routine if you feel as though something is no longer serving you. If I can help you incorporate any of these suggestions above, please reach out about some personalized coaching. I would love to support you through these changes.
If you have severe symptoms that interfere with your daily activities, please see your doctor. There are perimenopause treatments they can prescribe to help ease symptoms.
You should reach out to your doctor right away if you have the following:
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Disclaimer: The content and suggestions made in this blog post represent my opinion only. I am not a Medical Doctor and I do not engage directly or indirectly in diagnosing disease, dispensing medical advice, or prescribing the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness and disease. This information is for educational purposes only. You should always cooperate with the health professional of your choice with a mutual goal of building good health. Do not use or apply any of this information if you are nursing or pregnant. Any application or use of the information or recommendations is at your own risk.