Everyone’s heard of the menopause: the time when a women’s periods stop and the next phase of her life begins. However perimenopause – the years leading up to menopause – still goes very much under the radar. One survey showed that 9 out of 10 women were unaware that symptoms they were experiencing were due to natural hormonal fluctuations in the transition stage to menopause. It’s time we started talking about perimenopause more openly.
What is perimenopause?
Literally meaning ‘around’ or ‘near’ menopause, perimenopause can last anything from two to twelve years before cessation of periods at menopause. This means that women in their late-thirties to early-fifties are most likely in perimenopause, possibly without even realising it. Despite periods still being regular, it is a time when levels of female hormones start to change – a fall in progesterone is combined with initially high oestrogen levels that then also fall towards menopause. It is this change in hormone levels that can cause some of the symptoms experienced by many women. These include:
- heavy periods
- poor sleep
- night sweats
- painful breasts
- headaches or migraines
- brain fog
- low libido
Fortunately, many of these symptoms are temporary and will gradually disappear with the onset of menopause. However living with them for a decade or more can be a cause of stress, for both the women experiencing them and their loved ones. The good news? There are ways to support perimenopause and minimise symptoms.
What are the best ways to naturally support health during perimenopause?
There are three key areas to consider when thinking about perimenopause: managing stress, lowering inflammation and improving gut health. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Stress during perimenopause can be a vicious circle. Chronic, long-term stress can exacerbate symptoms, while anxiety (and associated stress) is a symptom of perimenopause that can increase general levels in the body. Addressing all stress is a really important focus. Ways to do this can include:
- seeing friends regularly for support and laughter
- getting outside each day – gardening, going for a walk, sitting in the garden
- taking gentle exercise daily
- journaling – putting thoughts down on paper at the start and end of each day
- taking time to relax every day
- meditation / yoga / mindfulness
- practising breathing techniques
- reducing alcohol consumption
Inflammation within the body can be caused by a number of different reasons. It may be due to an ongoing illness; eating a typically Western diet; drinking alcohol regularly; poor sleep; smoking; age and/or carrying excess weight. Clearly some of these are more easily managed than others, but a good place to start would be:
- reducing alcohol consumption
- quitting smoking
- aiming for 8 hours’ sleep per night (perimenopause permitting!)
- eating a brightly-coloured, fibre-rich Mediterranean diet
- limiting sugar intake
Improving gut health
Good gut health is key to many symptoms in perimenopause. The effect of the microbiome on the gut-brain axis can impact anxiety and depression, while poor elimination (constipation) may exacerbate heavy periods and painful breasts. This is due to excess oestrogen remaining in the body longer than desired, and possibly being reabsorbed into circulation, leading to even higher levels. In addition, 70% of our immune system is thought to reside in our gut, which is linked to levels of inflammation throughout the body.
Ways to support gut health, and therefore perimenopause, include:
- eating a variety of plant foods each day – fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and whole grains
- minimising processed foods and takeaways
- reducing alcohol, sugar and caffeine
- identifying and reducing any food sensitivities or intolerances
- drinking adequate water throughout the day
- introducing fermented foods to the diet
- taking a good quality probiotic
You may want to consult a nutritional therapist or naturopath if your gut health needs further support.
The good news is that symptoms of perimenopause will pass. By supporting these areas of health, it may be possible to minimise the unwanted effects of hormonal changes, and enjoy perimenopause feeling well and full of energy.
Find out more
Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107