Peri menopause: What’s going on?
Peri menopause is considered the period of time before menopause starts, prior to the cessation of periods for 12 consecutive months (menopause). For some women, peri menopause can come on gradually and mostly go unnoticed, whilst for others this may be quite a challenging time.
The average length of time for peri menopause is approximately 4 years however, this can range between 6 months and 10 years, with the average woman reaching menopause at 51 years old.
Many of the women I see in clinic are in their mid 30’s and 40’s, often presenting with increased anxiety, sleep problems, increased PMS symptoms such as moodiness, anger, irritability and often have feelings of depression. Many are also experiencing flushing and or night sweats or just feeling flat and tired with little to no sex-drive.
Many put this down to a busy lifestyle which makes sense when we think of all the demands we have on ourselves these days such as kids, work, school activities, bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, running the household, the list goes on…. However, the real reason may be due to fluctuating hormones.
The most common peri menopausal symptoms include:
Menstrual changes such as irregular periods, they may also become heavier or lighter at times.
Hot flushes and night sweats: caused by hormonal changes mostly affecting the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature
Insomnia and changes in sleep quality, it may be more difficult to get to sleep and sleep may become lighter, or disrupted by night sweats.
Mood swings: increased feelings of anxiety, anger, depression and irritability. An increased reaction to stress is also common and is worsened by poor sleep and sub-optimal diet.
Weight gain: as metabolism slows down and muscle and bone mass gradually decrease, excess weight gain is more common, especially in the abdominal area.
Reduced sex drive: as estrogen declines, there is less blood flow to the sex organs along with atrophy of reproductive organs.
Vaginal dryness may also occur and this may also make women more susceptible to urinary tract infections.
Other symptoms may include: thinning hair, dry skin, increased itchiness, changes in breast tissue, headaches along with poor concentration & memory.
Whilst not all women will experience peri menopausal symptoms and decreased quality of life, many women do suffer. There are several factors such as genetics, personal health history, quality of your diet, exercise and stress levels, which all may have an influence on hormonal symptoms.
The good news!
There’s a lot you can do to help make this transition easier and ease some of those pesky symptoms. Here are some of my top tips:
A nourishing, unprocessed, whole-food diet is key for boosting your intake of essential nutrients, helping your body adjust to changing hormones. it is also vital for managing weight, energy levels and supporting mental health.
Foods most helpful for hormone balancing are: foods high in fibre such as organic fruits and vegetables. Foods high in essential fatty acids such as avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and oily fish. Clean and lean protein such as wild caught fish, organic grass-fed meats and foods that supply phytoestrogens including flax and fermented soy.
Keeping up a regular exercise routine with a variety of cardio and strength training at least 3 or more times per week can help maintain healthy body composition, support bone density and muscle mass, reduce depression and anxiety and improve sleep.
Sleep is without a doubt one of the most important factors affecting our health and one of the most overlooked. Sleep is essential for growth and repair, cellular detoxification and regulation of hormones, neurotransmitters and cortisol, thus our ability to deal with stress depends on our sleep quality. We also need a good nights’ sleep to replenish the immune system and re-fuel our energy stores.
Reduced sleep quality is associated with increased anxiety, poor memory, and a higher cardiovascular health risk.
We often use herbal tonics, nutrients to support neurotransmitter production and talk a lot about ‘sleep hygiene’ or healthy habits for supporting a healthy sleep routine.
4-Supplements and Herbal Treatments
We use a range of different herbal and nutritional supplements in clinic to help modulate the symptoms of peri menopause such as insomnia, flushing and fatigue, these include adaptogenic herbs such as Withania, Gynostemma and Ginseng and hormone balancing herbs such as Vitex, Black cohosh, Rhodiola and Red clover along with mood and sleep supporting herbs such as St Johns Wort, Passionflower and Zizyphus. Nutritional supplements may include B vitamins, Fish oil and Magnesium to name a few.
During peri menopause, sleep, anxiety, depression and fatigue are often elevated. It is imperative to find ways to reduce and manage stress as best we can.
Natural stress-relievers such as spending time in nature, walking, swimming, meditation, spending time with friends, joining social groups, reading and inspirational book, finding a new hobby or volunteering can all be fulfilling and stress-lowering.
Now is the time to prioritise ‘me time’ and learn to say no to things to avoid over-commitment, fatigue & burn out.
In clinic we take the time to go over your personal health history to assess where you are and determine the best strategies to support your health goals. This may include dietary and lifestyle advice, further testing if required along with evidence based nutritional and herbal treatments.
It’s never too early or too late to look after yourself. If you need support we are here to help.
Yours in health,
Naturopath and Nutritionist
This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.