Hot flushes, poor sleep, night sweats, weight gain, depression and anxiety – any of those resonate? Just some of the ‘joys’ of the menopause and perimenopause – there are plenty more.
It can be one of the trickiest times for women to get their head around. One minute you’re 30, full of energy, enjoying work, family life and a packed social diary. And then all of a sudden you start to notice odd symptoms here and there. You’re always tired - some days you’re literally dragging yourself through the day, you’ve lost your get up and go for no reason, you can no longer ignore the fact that your clothes feel increasingly snug, you walk into a room and instantly forget what you went there for and you can’t seem to shift that foggy feeling in your brain.
But surely you haven’t hit the menopause yet? You’re too young…
More than likely it’s the perimenopause
This is the time before menopause, when a woman’s hormones begin to change. It usually begins in your 40s and lasts anywhere from a few months to up to 10 years. The average is around 4 years though for some it can even start in their 30s. Often the most obvious signs are that your periods go a little haywire! Menopause starts when you haven’t had a single period for at least a year.
What's going on with my hormones?
During perimenopause, levels of one of the main female sex hormones, oestrogen, rise and fall erratically, before gradually declining as you approach menopause. At the same time, levels of progesterone are at an all-time low, creating an imbalance in hormones. Your periods may be longer and heavier and with worse PMS than ever before, or you may even skip some periods – before they come back with a vengeance.
As levels of these two hormones decline, your adrenal glands take over their production to try and maintain hormonal balance. These glands also produce, and will prioritise, the stress hormone cortisol. If you’re constantly stressed (and chances are you will be, with all this going on), your adrenals may struggle to produce adequate levels of oestrogen. This can contribute to that weight gain around your tummy as these fat cells can also produce a form of oestrogen.
And then of course there are the symptoms we mentioned earlier – the night sweats, hot flushes, sleep problems, mood swings, as well as joint pain, UTIs like cystitis and vaginal dryness. You may struggle to lose those extra few pounds, no matter what you do, and you may notice a few digestive problems.
Should I see my GP?
There’s no need to go to your doctor to get an official diagnosis – although it’s definitely worth getting checked out if your symptoms are unmanageable or if you notice any of the below, as they may indicate other problems and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Fibroids are something very common at this time.
- spotting between your periods
- blood clots during your period
- bleeding after sex
- periods that are much longer or much shorter than normal
If you are really struggling with your energy levels, it’s also worth getting your thyroid checked, as perimenopausal and menopausal women are at greater risk of thyroid dysfunction. Added to this, hypothyroidism and menopause have many overlapping symptoms, and having both conditions may increase the risk and severity of these symptoms. The ovaries, uterus, adrenal glands and the brain require adequate thyroid hormones to function. Studies show that treating thyroid disorders can help manage menopause symptoms.
Can changing what I eat help?
Every woman’s experience is unique. Yes, there is a lot of information out there on ‘Dr Google’ and elsewhere that can help with specific symptoms. But the key to a healthy peri/menopause is to look at the body as a whole – rather than tackle one symptom at a time.
As a Registered Nutritional Therapist, that is how I work with my clients. I work with busy, frazzled women who are experiencing exactly these symptoms. After a detailed consultation, which includes an in-depth health and lifestyle assessment, I provide a tailored nutrition and lifestyle plan and support them with on-going coaching to help build new healthy habits.
If you’d like to find out more about how I can help then book a FREE health and energy call here.
The best thing you can do to get started straight away is focus on eating to balance your blood sugar levels:-
- Eat three meals a day at regular intervals and don’t skip meals
- Include a palm-sized portion of protein at each meal
- Include healthy fats, like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds
- Eat a minimum of five portions (three heaped tablespoons) of non-starchy vegetables per day - ideal options are anything that grows above ground. Include with every meal. There is no upper limit on how many vegetables you can eat!
- Include flaxseeds, organic soy foods like tempeh and miso, chickpeas, lentils, oats - these contain phytoestrogens which mimic your body's own oestrogen
- Eat two portions of low glycaemic fruit per day, with meals - berries of any kind, apples, pears, plums, tangerines, peaches and nectarines. Bananas may be handy to keep in your handbag but they are high in sugar so best avoided
- Keep snacks to a minimum – your meals should keep you satisfied. However, should you really feel hungry or if you are working out, you can have one snack per day – oatcakes or veg sticks with cream cheese, hummus, cottage cheese, a small pot of natural yoghurt with berries, a handful of nuts and/or seeds, slices of apple with unsweetened nut butter
- Avoid refined carbs, alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods as these can worsen some symptoms
Get enough sleep
Getting around 8 hours of good quality sleep per night will help reduce stress levels and help you manage your symptoms. If this is a struggle for you then review your sleep hygiene:
- Minimise screen time in the evening and avoid altogether at least an hour before bed
- Try having an Epsom salt bath before bed
- Ensure your bedroom is in complete darkness and is not too warm. Ideally remove or cover digital displays, or wear an eye mask.
There is a lot for you to think about and I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. Start by choosing to work on ONE thing only this week. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Make a habit of getting an early night, winding down with a book and a bath and enjoying the benefit of good sleep. Or focus on increasing your veg intake by one portion a day. Or reduce your caffeine intake by one cup a day.
Which will you choose? Check out this free ebook below for more info.