Everyone prepares you for the half-a-lifetime commitment that is your menstrual cycle. Just before we hit puberty, we’re given the talk –– for most of us it involves explaining the female anatomy and why things happen. And then we get hands-on experience with things like mood swings and cramps to name a few. What nobody prepares us for is peri-menopause!
The transition stage before menopause is known as peri-menopause. Think of peri-menopause as the notice period your menstrual cycle gives you just before it decides to commence its duties. It’s like hitting puberty once again, but this time you experience it a lot later in your life. It’s another phase of hormonal imbalances that brings its own set of changes, especially in your cycle…but, first let’s break down the basics for you.
Down With The Hormones
A little biology lesson coming up for you –– during a regular menstrual cycle, your ovaries release oestrogen. This hormone is what builds your uterus lining (y’know the main culprit behind shark week). During ovulation if the egg is fertilised, conception occurs. If not, the hormone known is progesterone is put to work. This hormone is responsible for shedding your uterus lining.
So what changes? During peri-menopause the production of eggs aka ovuluation kind of slows down. This means that oestrogen holds the fort for a little longer than usual, resulting in a thick uterus lining that sheds like crazy. This often means heavier flow, painful cramps, and a more intense period. During this time, your body also tends to produce less progesterone. Fun fact, this hormone is important when regulating your mood (more progesterone, happier you). So a decline in progesterone means more mood swings, irregular sleep, and an overall dip in the way you feel.
These hormonal changes don’t just affect your period and your mood, they also have an impact on your skin. Your skin’s collagen levels drop as you age, however, it dips even more when oestrogen does. Lack of collagen production means drier skin that is prone to the signs of ageing. Hormonal changes also impact your skin’s oil levels, which means hello acne!
SYMPTOMS ONE MAY EXPERIENCE DURING PERI-MENOPAUSE:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Acne breakouts
- Weight gain
- Low sex drive
- Low fertility
Going With The Shift
Just like puberty, perimenopause is also a rollercoaster ride. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a smooth and steady one. The transition requires a whole lot of tweaks in your regular lifestyle, through which you can gain control of these different shifts in your body.
- Exercise 🏃
One of the symptoms of perimenopause includes sudden weight gain. There are several factors that play a role in this including the fluctuation of hormones. During perimenopause, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and exercising helps prevent it from fluctuating drastically. This not only promotes better health, but also reduces the risk of other menopausal conditions like heart disease. In short, maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms.
- Diet 🍉
It always comes down to your diet! During peri-menopause a lot of women tend to develop an insulin resistance. Lack of insulin results in tiredness, fatigue, insomnia, and even those pesky hot flashes. During this period it’s important to watch your sugar consumption –– make sure you are consuming enough to keep those levels balanced, but not too much that it proves to be harmful to your system. Make sure you consume a lot of fruits and vegetables –– the nutrients present help reduce and prevent some of the symptoms. A diet rich in fruits and veggies also helps with weight maintenance. Limit caffeine, processed foods, and alcohol, as well as spicy foods, especially at night. Consuming them can trigger hot flashes and mood swings –– two very common symptoms of peri-menopause.
It’s important to include foods rich in phytoestrogens – these are natural compounds found in plants which provide similar results to the oestrogen in your body. This in turn helps balance out those hormones. You can also include soy, tofu, beans, sesame seeds, or flaxseeds in your diet. Studies have also shown that consumption of protein regularly helps prevent the loss of muscle. It helps you maintain a healthy weight too!
Herbs that help alleviate symptoms of peri-menopause:
- Shatavari - A phytoestrogen that aids in reducing hot flashes and helps maintain bone density for those experiencing peri-menopause. It is also excellent for balancing out any hormonal imbalances, while acting as a natural oestrogen regulator –– this reduces those heavy flows and boosts energy levels too.
- Alfalfa - The high antioxidant and nutrient rich Alfalfa present in the mix boosts the immune system and nervous system, and promotes healthy bones too. Women experiencing menopause are at risk for developing osteoporosis, and therefore Alfalfa decreases the chances of that happening.
- Nettle - Nettle is an amazing anti-inflammatory, and aids in relieving pain associated with peri-menopause.
Just like puberty, menopause is also inevitable! While you cannot run away from the symptoms, it is important to take note of how your body is changing during that time and to tweak your diet and lifestyle to help alleviate those symptoms and make the transition a little more bearable for you.For peri-menopause, menopause and menstrual cycle irregularities like PCOS, check out What Women Want.