The perimenopause can begin years before the menopause, yet it is rarely discussed or diagnosed. It’s a time of transition when the ovaries produce less oestrogen, and it can be difficult to treat. A holistic approach through diet, exercise and supplements can help. The University of Exeter found that six out of ten women reported an improvement in their perimenopausal symptoms when they did yoga or used herbal remedies. Here are some natural approaches to help you.
The precursor to the Menopause
The perimenopause is the period that occurs before menopause and can last from between two to ten years. While the menopause is a definitive change, the perimenopause is the onset of change. It tends to begin when a woman is in her early or mid-forties, but there is no set age. Research shows that as many as a third of women start perimenopause as young as 35. Your hormone levels will fluctuate, and when these hormones, including progesterone and oestrogen, are out of balance, symptoms can occur.
Are you Perimenopausal?
Some women may fly through the perimenopause and hardly notice it. For others, there may be subtle changes occurring that may be difficult to articulate. The symptoms can include weight gain (especially around the middle), hot flushes, anxiety, irregular periods, brain fog and forgetfulness, difficulty sleeping and night sweats.
Diet plays a very important part of how perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can be managed naturally. Your diet should be high in fibre, low in saturated fat and should include oestrogen-rich food, such as chickpeas, lentils and flaxseed. Ideally each meal should include lean protein (nuts, lentils, eggs, meat) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables). Whole grains will keep your hormones and blood sugars balanced.
Phytoestrogens are important as they can modulate oestrogen levels, by increasing or reducing levels as necessary. They can help perimenopause symptoms, and they contain plant compounds to act as a form of oestrogen. Foods that are effective sources of phytoestrogens include legumes, whole grains, flaxseeds and soybeans.
Lose the sugar
It’s important to keep your blood levels balanced, and sugar can upset the balance. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid anything that causes your blood sugar to go off balance, such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar. It’s not necessary to stop eating fruit but aim for fruit with a low glycemic load, such as berries, apples and pears. Alcohol and spicy foods can also increase hot flushes, but some research suggests soy products can reduce hot flushes.
Exercise can help
Exercise can help both mentally and physically during the perimenopause. It’s also important because, with falling hormone levels, there is an increased risk of osteoporosis and strength building exercise can help bones. Exercise can also increase libido levels and ease anxiety or depression.
Types of exercise
Ideally, you should build up to thirty minutes a day, five times a week and include regular strength training (squats, dumbbell lifts) and short, high-intensity HIIT workouts with recovery periods. Also, incorporate moderate exercises such as walking or yoga. Long periods of high-intensity workouts can play havoc with the nervous system and hormones and can increase cortisol, which can lead to stubborn belly fat.
Yoga to fight symptoms
There are many aspects of yoga that can help to manage perimenopause symptoms naturally. Standing forward bends with your head resting on blankets or a bolster can help to reduce tension and irritability and can soothe your mind. Other yoga poses can help too. A downward-facing dog can improve mental alertness by sending blood to the brain and backbends open the chest and stimulate the adrenals. Yoga is also effective as it can be practised anywhere and provides an opportunity for escapism and relaxation.
Herbs and Supplements
There are other natural ways to manage your perimenopause symptoms such as acupuncture, massage, herbs and supplements. Sage is recommended to reduce hot flushes, Ginkgo may help your memory, and Valerian promotes calmness and sleep. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for helping with low mood and depression, and magnesium may help to balance hormones. Research multivitamins and find one that includes magnesium, calcium and vitamin D3. There are also various hormone regulating supplements and phytoestrogenic herbal supplements to help you manage symptoms.
Whether you are experiencing the menopause or believe you may be entering the perimenopause, there are ways you can manage the symptoms naturally. Diet plays a very important part in rectifying the symptoms, and simple changes to your diet can help. It’s important to reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine and sugar and include protein with every meal. Experiment with new recipes, incorporate exercise into your routine and enjoy the changes you feel.
Sarah Haselwood is a Freelance Writer who focuses on creating original, engaging and accurate content. She has experience in blog and article writing, copywriting and ghostwriting for a variety of businesses and individuals globally. She values attention to detail, deadlines and building relationships with all her clients. Sarah has a passion for writing about women in the workplace, parenting and women’s mental and physical health concerning pregnancy and birth.