Welcome to a journey of transformation, where remarkable women gracefully weather the storm of perimenopause and menopause and emerge as empowered and radiant individuals. This life stage can be daunting and, at times, bewildering, but its also a chapter of immense growth, self-discovery, and renewal.
In this blog, we'll demystify the profound changes that perimenopause and menopause bring, and as we explore this shared journey, I aim to arm you with knowledge, advice, and support to not just survive but thrive during this remarkable phase of life.
So, let's embark on this expedition of self-awareness, embracing the wisdom and vitality that awaits you beyond the horizon of perimenopause and menopause...
Perimenopause... In very simple terms, perimenopause is a transition phase of chaotic hormone fluctuations. Initially low progesterone with a temporary rise in oestrogen, eventually resulting in low oestrogen and low progesterone leading to fluctuations in heavy periods, gradual lengthening of cycle, reduce bleed time and a whole host of symptoms! And we mustn't forget to mention the drop in testosterone! Yes, women have testosterone too, but not to the same extent as men. There is also changes to insulin metabolism, hence the central weight gain that women can suddenly find themselves with after no change to their eating and lifestyle habits. Perimenopause can start 7-10 years before the onset of menopause, usually affecting women in their early 40's. Women often don’t realise their symptoms are relating to perimenopause. Can I test? You could request a hormone panel from your GP to check if you're in perimenopause (some GP's do and others don't), but its not completely reliable as hormones fluctuate on a daily basis. If you are experiencing any of the typical symptoms then that is usually the best indicator that you are in this transition phase.
Menopause... Is marked retrospectively as 12 months completely free of any period and is usually around the age of 50-52 years. Menopause marks the end of the reproductive phase and the end of the worry of any unplanned pregnancy.
Why we need oestrogen...
helps keep mucous membranes strong;
nose, mouth, throat, ears, genitals, lungs, stomach, intestine, bladder, uterus etc
helps keep collagen strong in skin, ligaments, tendons and joints
stops osteoclasts from breaking down bone
supports brain chemistry:
reduces sensitivity to pain
motivation for exercise
relaxes ligaments to keep us flexible
helps to keep inflammation down;
reduces flares in autoimmune arthritis
high inflammation has the potential to drive bone loss
Why we need progesterone...
reduces heaving bleeding
calms the brain
helps to build bones
increases resilience to stress
Why we need testosterone...
helps build muscle
needed for libido
The Many Symptoms of Perimenopause & Menopause...
We are at the mercy of our hormones!
Due to the overall drop in hormone levels and the role of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone had in the body when they were in plentiful supply, the list of symptoms we can experience can be overwhelming. You may be lucky enough to experience just a few, or unlucky enough to suffer from most of these, although this is not an exhaustive list!
Did you know?
Being stressed exasperates your symptoms:
Your adrenal glands take over the production of oestrogen when the ovaries have run out, but they can't match the same production level though.
Being in a stressed state means that the body has no choice but to prioritise cortisol to be able to flee from the perceived danger.
This in turn means that your menopausal symptoms are worse as the oestrogen levels have dropped even further.
High cortisol also creates a high insulin picture, promoting central weight gain.
Make sure you allow some 'Me Time' to help bring stress levels down.
How can you improve your symptoms? Menopause can be a challenging journey, and it's often made tougher when underlying factors come into play. How can you make this transition smoother and feel your best? Liver Love: Your liver plays a crucial role in managing menopausal symptoms. It needs to clear excess estrogen and other circulating toxins. Incorporate sulforaphane-rich veggies to help it detoxify efficiently. Gut Wisdom: Absorption of nutrients is key for overall well-being. Avoid processed foods and prioritise a rainbow of whole foods to nurture your gut microbiome. Thyroid TLC: A healthy thyroid is essential for avoiding feeling the cold, dry skin, thinning hair and central weight gain. Incorporate whole foods rich in iodine, zinc, copper, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E into your diet regularly. Replace refined carbohydrates with complex versions and reduce your sweet treats to avoid insulin surges creating central fat storage. Adrenal Harmony: Stress can intensify menopausal symptoms; brain fog, hot flushes, poor memory etc. Stress is likely to magnify every symptom, so try to make time for self-care activities that bring you joy. Whether it's a walk in nature, grounding, mindful breathing, or sharing time with loved ones and friends finding moments of tranquility can make a world of difference. Menopause Mediating: Increase antioxidants and fibre with fruits and vegetables. Include a phytoestrogen food source daily: organic soy, organic tempeh, flaxseeds, sage, red clover. Swap refined carbohydrates for complex carbs to help manage insulin levels. Choose more plant than animal proteins to reduce inflammation. Choose calcium and magnesium rich foods for bone health. Eat fermented foods regularly: kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut etc. to promote gut health. Drink at least 1.5 litres water daily to keep the excess oestrogen and circulating toxins flushed out. Consume Omega-3 rich foods: oily fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts etc. for brain and heart health. Natural Supplements: The market is saturated with supplement formulations specific to menopause and other natural single remedies. There are so many variations, however not every supplement will work for you and this is where a Nutritional Therapist comes into their own. We address the symptoms which are specific to you, and tailor a nutrition and supplement plan unique to your requirements, avoiding expensive mistakes by following the latest celebrity trend whilst taking into account any interactions with medications already prescribed by your GP.
Menopause Agitating: Obesity, smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, caffeine and stress. Processed foods and ready-made meals promote inflammation in the body exasperating symptoms further.
In Summary Oestrogen beautifies us, meaning it makes us look our best for a potential mate… thickening our hair, smooth, plump skin, extra fat on our childbearing hips, flexible joints, reducing inflammation, gives us motivation, strong bones and provides lubrication of mucous membranes. No wonder women can suddenly start to feel older and feel like we don’t fit our bodies anymore when we go into menopause and oestrogen drops off a cliff! For many women, it’s a time for confusion as our bodies change without our consent and our usual tactics for health and wellness no longer seem to work for us.
True, not every women experiences every symptom and some can appear to sail through with little impact. Some need to resort to HRT, and that's ok, but it isn't always the answer to everything. HRT is considered essential if you have had a medically induced or very early menopause, but whether you are taking HRT or not, addressing underlying nutrition and lifestyle factors are fundamental to easing your menopause journey.
Menopause seems to throw a curveball at a time in life when we are spinning many plates and sometimes it’s simply too much to deal with. Understanding what is changing in your body can help you to recognise that your are not losing your marbles, it’s a period of adjustment of what your body is capable of and rethinking how you can be supporting yourself with nutrition and lifestyle practices that nurture you. I've been there and emerged out the other side in one piece. Reach out if you need support in finding yourself again in menopause...