Are you struggling with heavy periods, irregular periods, night sweats, hot flashes, low libido, insomnia, anxiety, depression, or mood swings? Are you in your mid to late 30s or 40s? If so, it could be perimenopause.
Perimenopause is a period of transition from the menstrual years to menopause, which is reached after a full year without a menstrual period. Perimenopause can occur up to 12 years prior to menopause, meaning it could potentially begin in a woman’s mid-thirties.
During perimenopause, hormone levels fluctuate as the woman transitions out of cycling. The hormonal fluctuations can be split into two phases: early perimenopause and late perimenopause. During early perimenopause, estrogen is typically higher and progesterone is lower than it has been. This is due to less consistent ovulatory cycles.(1) During the later years of perimenopause, as ovulation becomes even less frequent, hormones start to look more similar to menopause, in which both estrogen, progesterone as well as testosterone decrease.
Ideally, perimenopause is a gradual process with minimal adverse symptoms. However, due to our current lifestyles, hormone imbalance is far more prevalent and many women will face unpleasant symptoms during this time. Examples include hot flashes, low libido, heavy periods, irregular periods, insomnia, anxiety, depression, mood swings, breast pain, weight gain, night sweats, heart palpitations, brain fog, painful joints, less resilience to stress etc.(2)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I would recommend working with a health care practitioner to balance your hormones to enjoy a smoother transition. There are many great, evidence based, herbs and nutrients that are effective as well as dietary and lifestyle adjustments that can be made. I always recommend working with a qualified and knowledgeable practitioner when it comes to incorporating herbs and supplements to ensure you are using the safest and most effective ones for your unique situation. But there are many dietary and lifestyle practices that you can begin today to help manage perimenopause.
Here are 3 ways to reduce symptoms associated with perimenopause:
- Reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are a group of chemical compounds and toxins that have been found to affect hormones. Examples include BPA, phthalates, lead, arsenic, etc.(3) While it is impossible to completely avoid these toxins, here are some things you can do to minimize your exposure: avoid storing food or heating it up in plastic, avoid canned food unless it is from BPA-free cans, read the labels of your personal care products to ensure you understand what the ingredients are, and drink filtered water whenever possible. A great resource to look up the safety of your personal care and home cleaning products is the Environmental Working Group.
- Take care of your adrenal glands by creating a nourishing stress relieving practice. As women transition to menopause, they stop ovulating and their adrenal glands take over the production of sex hormones.(4) It is important that the adrenal glands are in good health, meaning that communication signals are firing appropriately. We are all exposed to stress from a physical, mental, emotional and environmental perspective, some would argue now more than ever. What is important is recognizing what we have control over, and incorporating practices into our routine that help to manage how we respond to the stressors in our lives. I suggest committing to a 10-20 minute daily self-care practice that feels good to you. Examples include taking a walk in nature, soaking in an Epsom salt bath in the evening, meditating or just taking a break with a cup of tea and doing some deep breathing. Check out this blog post that I wrote for other ways to manage stress.
- Stabilize blood sugar by eating a well-balanced diet. Eating a diet high in refined sugar and processed food raises blood glucose and insulin, and can result in inflammation and weight gain. It is especially important to manage blood sugar during periods of hormonal transition, as estrogen has been found to influence insulin sensitivity, and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has been reported to increase in postmenopausal women.(5) Eating good sources of protein, healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds as well as plenty of vegetables and fiber in your meals can help with this.
1. Prior JC, Hitchcock CL. The endocrinology of perimenopause: need for a paradigm shift. Front Biosci Sch Ed. 2011 Jan 1;3:474–86.
2. Santoro N. Perimenopause: From Research to Practice. J Womens Health 2002. 2016 Apr;25(4):332–9.
3. Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors [Internet]. EWG. [cited 2019 May 15]. Available from: https://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors
4. Lasley BL, Crawford S, McConnell DS. Adrenal Androgens and the Menopausal Transition. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011 Sep;38(3):467–75.
5. Caliceti C, Rizzo P, Cicero AFG. Potential Benefits of Berberine in the Management of Perimenopausal Syndrome. Oxid Med Cell Longev [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2019 May 15];2015. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4346702/