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Perimenopause & Menopause - 10 tips





The Menopause signifies the end of menstruation and reproduction, when the female sex hormones adapt to accommodate this. i.e we no longer need high levels of progesterone to gestate a foetus or high levels of oestrogen to thicken the womb each cycle. The Perimenopause is the period prior to this when hormones may fluctuate as the female reproductive system begins to ‘wind-down’ before settling in the menopause.


Most women become menopausal between the ages of 45 and 54 years. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51, and the perimenopause can last for 6-13 years before that. For many women this is the time that they are at their professional peak so the onset of unwanted symptoms can be even more of a burden as they struggle to manage symptoms alongside a demanding career.


During the perimenopause oestrogen (estradiol) levels are high and fluctuating, whilst progesterone levels start to fade down, which can cause various symptoms. It is the fluctuation of these hormones that is responsible for the majority of perimenopausal symptoms experienced by some women. Through diet and lifestyle changes we can try to mitigate the drastic swinging of hormone levels and aim to support the body through this transitionary phase.


In the west, many view the menopause as an expiry date, a time when women become invalid and less useful due to their inability to reproduce. However, in many societies this period in a person’s life is seen as an initiation into a higher-meaning role within society. In these cultures, menopausal women provide a voice of responsibility - they hold great power. In Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, menopause is characterised as ‘soul development’- the gateway beyond which a new sense of self emerges.


Many experience different symptoms depending on what their hormones are doing, and some experience no symptoms at all. The best way to reduce your symptoms is to prepare the body in advance of the perimenopause to fully support hormones and metabolism. If you are past that time in your life and are already in the perimenopausal stage or are post-menopause, diet and lifestyle can still have a positive influence on your hormones and symptoms.


Some common perimenopausal symptoms:

Irregular periods - Breast tenderness - Fatigue - Weight gain - Aches and painful joints - Frequent headaches - Low libido (sex drive) - Insomnia - Worsening PMS symptoms (throughout the whole month) - Anxiety - Mood swings - Hot flushes - Sweats - Migraines -Vaginal dryness - Dry skin - Low mood - An increase of allergic-like symptoms.


Some common post-menopausal symptoms: Absence of periods, + same as perimenopause.


10 tips to balance hormones during the perimenopausal & menopausal stages


1. Prioritise sleep.

The single most important aspect of metabolic health, sleep repairs the body, balances hunger hormones and reduces cravings, reduces insulin & glucose, reduces stress and regulates hormones. Formulate a bedtime routine that sets you up for a great night's sleep; you could start by reducing screen time for an hour before bed and slowly winding down before hitting the hay.


2. Increase fibre (found in all plant foods).

Really important for improving gut health and thus optimising the detoxification of hormones from the body (through the bowels). Good gut health is also pivotal for reducing inflammation in the body, balancing out the effects of fluctuating oestrogen levels.


3. Include phytoestrogens.

These compounds are found in plant foods, specifically soy, lentils and chickpeas. They work by interacting with oestrogen receptors in the body, helping to reduce the symptoms of high or low Oestrogen. Contrary to misinformation soy does not negatively effect hormone levels and does not cause men to grow juicy breasts!!


4. Include a portion of protein with every meal.

Vital for making hormones & enzymes, energy production, slowing the release of food from the stomach, and keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Try not to focus on animal-sources alone and branch out into some plant-based choices such as beans, peas, lentils & tofu.

Extra tip: Soy beans, tofu/tempeh, lentils & chickpeas each tick off points 2, 3, & 4!


5. Reduce highly processed foods, including sugary & fatty foods & drinks.

These types of foods wreak havoc with blood sugar levels and leave you feeling dissatisfied & hungry, cause weight gain and increase the stress hormone cortisol. They can leave you feeling depleted and low on energy. Some examples are pastries, processed meats, sweets, crisps, fizzy drinks, chocolate etc.


6. Increase cruciferous vegetables to detoxify oestrogen.

Veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts & cabbage help to healthily detoxify oestrogen in the liver. Very useful for symptoms of high oestrogen. Try adding 1 or 2 handfuls per day to soups, stirfrys or roasting trays.


7. Destress & relaxation.

Vital to combat hormone dysregulation. Let your body & mind rest and repair at some point on a daily basis. This could be with breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, reading a non-stimulating book, having a relaxing bath etc. Choose something you enjoy and do it regularly to switch off. Personally I rely heavily on the Calm app where I can easily access tons of breathing exercises, meditations, movements, relaxing soundscapes, and sleep stories; some of which are only 2 minutes long making it easy to fit into my day.


8. Reduce alcohol.

Alcohol causes oxidative stress in the body, damages mitochondria (where energy is made), and changes sex hormone ratios, producing unwanted symptoms. Start by cutting down gradually if you are a big drinker, or switching to an alcohol-free alternative.


9. Stop smoking.

Smoking causes oxidative stress in the body, damages the mitochondria, and causes sex hormones to be imbalanced. Click this link for resources to help stop smoking.


10. Exercise for 30 minutes every day (a brisk walk is fine) & resistance training x2 per week.

Regular exercise positively affects blood sugar levels and the ability of the cells to respond to insulin. Resistance training is great for maintaining good bone strength which becomes more of a concern as oestrogen levels decline post-menopause.


A healthy eating plate for the peri-m & menopause


Aim to structure each meal roughly in these proportions to balance your diet.


60% plant - Veggies, Herbs, Wholegrains, Fruits

25% protein - Beans & pulses, tofu & tempeh, Meat, Fish, Eggs

10% Fats - Oils and butter, Nuts and seeds, Avocados


Water - 2L ish per day, more if exercising.

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine - zero if possible :)

 

Try out some of these tips above and let me know how you get on in the comments section below. For a more tailored insight into your personal health and underlying drivers, book in to see me in my Lymington clinic or online.


Good luck! Annie x

 

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