How To Survive and Thrive Through Perimenopause
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.
Sure, we’ve all heard of menopause, but how familiar are you with perimenopause? It’s time we talk about perimenopause.
The transition, or lead-up to menopause, is known as perimenopause. And for most women, perimenopause begins several years before menopause and is characterized by a dip in oestrogen, the hormone made by the ovaries. As oestrogen levels rise and fall, you'll probably start to notice some menopause-like symptoms.
One of the first signs of perimenopause is experiencing changes in your periods, but there are other signs to look out for. Many women report experiencing hot flashes, mood changes, difficulty sleeping, and vaginal dryness as they transition into menopause.
It’s also quite common and completely normal for women to gain weight as they progress through perimenopause. Experts believe that lower oestrogen levels may influence weight gain, but other factors can also be at play.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
When you enter perimenopause, your levels of reproductive hormones, namely oestrogen and progesterone, will start to fluctuate and eventually dip. And it’s this hormonal shift that can trigger changes in your body.
You may begin to notice changes in your mid-to-late 40s, but it can start earlier or even later. Some of the ways your body may change during perimenopause include:
- Changes to your menstrual cycle. As hormonal changes become more erratic and ovulation becomes increasingly unpredictable, your menstrual cycle can become irregular. Periods may become lighter, heavier, spaced further apart, or have an irregular pattern every month or a couple of months.
- Temperature changes. As a result of fluctuating hormones, you may suddenly feel either hot or cold sensations across your body. Hot flashes are one of the most well-known changes of perimenopause and can range from mild symptoms to feeling uncomfortably hot.
- Vaginal dryness. As oestrogen levels begin to decrease, the lining of the vagina can become thinner, drier, and less flexible. This can lead to painful intercourse and ongoing pelvic pain, among other symptoms. But the good news is that vaginal dryness can be easily addressed with vaginal lubricants or prescription medications.
- Increased irritability and mood swings. Hormonal fluctuations, in addition to other symptoms of perimenopause, can lead to irritability and low mood. Increased body fat. The hormonal changes that come with perimenopause may affect the way we store fat. Many women find that they gain weight as they progress through perimenopause, particularly around the stomach.
- Insulin resistance. Low oestrogen levels can go on to trigger insulin resistance. This means that your body can no longer clear sugar from the blood as efficiently, and excess blood sugar goes on to be stored as fat.
- Inadequate sleep. It is common for perimenopausal women to experience sleeping problems. A lack of sleep can increase your cortisol levels (a stress hormone), which can also contribute to weight gain.
How long does Perimenopause last?
Perimenopausal symptoms can last for months or years and can fluctuate with time. The average length of perimenopause is around four years. And once you’ve gone without 12 consecutive months without a period, you have officially made it to menopause.
How can nutrition help to manage the symptoms of Perimenopause?
As you can probably tell, perimenopause can present a whole range of symptoms, some of which can be managed through our diet and lifestyle choices. When it comes to perimenopause, tweaking your diet is probably one of the easiest changes you can make to help manage those uncomfortable symptoms. That’s because our hormones need a steady stream of nutrients for them to work optimally, and without the right nutrients, symptoms can progressively worsen and throw your body off balance.
Which nutrients should I be getting during Perimenopause?
Following a balanced diet rich in whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lentils, nuts, seeds, and legumes which provide high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fibre is especially important to help reduce the increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. I would recommend paying particular attention to the following nutrients:
The lack of oestrogen production has a direct effect on the production of new bone cells and results in an increased loss of calcium from our bones. Because of this, the bone density falls which makes them generally weaker and susceptible to fracture or developing osteoporosis. That’s why it’s essential to stay on top of your calcium intake through perimenopause and beyond to help protect your bones from osteoporosis.
Another nutrient that’s essential for bone health is vitamin D. Supplementing with this vitamin is especially important during menopause because it helps to regulate the movement of calcium in and out of our bones thereby helping our bones to absorb calcium effectively. Considering the fact that women lose up to 20% of their bone density after menopause, getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is really important!
Because omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, they play a protective role in cardiovascular and joint health. They also help manufacture hormones (this is especially important as oestrogen levels decline) and help fill you up so you’re not left feeling hungry between meals.
High strength easy to take soft gels!
"Easy to swallow softgels, no flavour and good value for money! High strength and best ones I have found on the market, has 1.5 months in there and certified in the UK!" - Rebbecca
This essential mineral plays a vital role in promoting energy, sleep, and hormone balance, as well as supporting a healthy balanced stress response. Magnesium also supports both heart and bone health and has been shown to help with menopausal insomnia, headaches and mood swings.