Updated: Sep 24, 2021
The perimenopause can be one of the trickiest times for women to get their head
around. One minute you’re busy having a family and all that goes with it and all of a
sudden, the years sneak up on you and you don’t quiet feel like the woman you once
were! You may notice your energy levels have dropped and some days you’re
literally dragging yourself through the day, you’ve lost your get up and go for no
reason, you can’t seem to shift that foggy feeling in your brain and the scales is
moving in the wrong direction even though your diet hasn’t changed! Welcome to
the menopause, well technically the term ‘menopause’ is inaccurate because it
represents the end of symptoms, whereas the stage that most women struggle
through is called peri-menopause, which can last anything from two to ten years
until the last period.
The average age of menopause is 51. You officially reach menopause when you have
had no periods for 12 consecutive months.
Women typically start to experience perimenopause in their 40s and for some the
only sign is that your periods start to become more irregular, this is due to the fact
that in the perimenopause, Progesterone levels fall rapidly as you stop ovulating as
regularly. the levels of one of the main female sex hormones, oestrogen, rises and
falls unevenly and it’s falling at a slower rate than progesterone, meaning you can
end up being oestrogen dominant, that’s a ratio of too much oestrogen to
progesterone. This is usually what’s behind many of the typical symptoms
experienced during the transition to menopause. The stress hormone cortisol can
also increase making sleep more difficult and leading to weight gain.
The thyroid comes under increased pressure, and low levels of thyroid hormones can
bring mood changes, weight increases, constipation and a sluggish feeling.
Your hormones work together synergistically. When one or more is out of kilter,
there can be an effect on the others, too.
The length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light
to really heavy and with worse PMS than ever before, and you may even skip some
periods only for them to return out of the blue with a vengeance.
You might also experience some of the symptoms traditionally associated with the
menopause, like night sweats, hot flushes, sleep problems, mood swings, more UTIs
like cystitis and vaginal dryness, poor memory, brain fog, cravings, bloating, loss of
sex drive and irritability. Around this time, you might begin to notice your waistline is
expanding and you just can’t seem to shift that “fat around the middle”. Once
women hit their 40s, they typically gain an average of 1lb a year so you could easily
be a stone heavier by the time you reach 54.
Remember going through the peri-menopause is not an illness, it is the most natural
thing in the world, although if your experiencing it right now you might be thinking
this is anything but natural!! but you do have some control over managing
symptoms. It’s all about making some changes to your diet, stepping up your self
care and taking action to reduce stress, and moving gently.
It really is important to start taking a closer look at your diet as Unfortunately when
we reach this part of our life we just can’t get away with eating the way we did when
we were younger, as The drop in oestrogen levels that occurs during menopause has
a side effect of redistributing body fat and excess pounds start to settle around the
waist. On top of that, the change that happens in relation to oestrogen and
progesterone at this stage of life is also likely to make your body less sensitive to
insulin, the fat storage hormone. This is produced in response to you eating
carbohydrates. When the body’s cells are less sensitive to insulin, more insulin is
needed to do the same job, and more insulin produced means more fat stored.
This is where a low carbohydrate is very beneficial, focusing on low GL
carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, moderate protein and healthy fats coming from
oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.
You may benefit from adding phytoestrogens to your diet. Phytoestrogens are plant-
based chemicals (the good kind), which are structurally similar to oestrogen and
exert a weak oestrogenic effect. They include soy beans, lentils, beans, chickpeas,
tofu, barley, rye, oats, alfalfa, apples, pears, carrots, fennel, onion, garlic, sunflower
seeds, flaxseeds, liquorice root.
Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones and it can lead to weight gain and leave
you feeling fatigued. Even though it is the imbalance of hormones that are behind
most of your symptoms, the effects of stress can be just as debilitating.
Most hormones are made from the same basic ingredients. When it’s under stress,
the body prioritises those jobs that are useful for sustaining life, which means that
when you are stressed, your body will make stress hormones ahead of anything else.
So all those raw materials that might have gone to make oestrogen now won’t.
therefore managing your stress is essential to managing your peri-menopausal
As the weight creeps on, it’s very common for women to start getting into the types
of exercise that are very punishing on the body, like running and high intensity
What do I mean by punishing?
These very intense forms of exercise stress the body and, if your body is already
stressed, it’s just too much. Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and other dance-based classes are
a good alternative as is a good power walk.
Resistance training (weights) is also good to help with the loss of muscle. Strength
training also helps maintain balance, and avoid injury—important for protecting your
skeleton both now and when you’re older.
Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise, especially if you have any
underlying health conditions, you consider yourself to be unfit or very overweight.
Menopause supplements can provide natural support for those who may be
experiencing some of the symptoms related to the menopause. It’s important to
note that not all supplements will suit everyone and may not be safe for someone
with an underlying health condition or those taking medication, therefore it is
advisable to only take a supplement protocol recommended to you by a