What is perimenopause and what can you do about it?

Perimenopause simply means ‘around the menopause’ and signifies the body’s transition towards menopause. Perimenopause officially ends 12 months after the last period and menopause begins.

Many women are taken by surprise by this stage in life, expecting to go straight to menopause as traditionally it’s a subject not much talked about.

But that's beginning to change and women are asking questions and finding answers to common situations like:

Is it me or is it hot in here? And, Why can’t I remember what I came in here for? Or, What do you mean I‘m being grumpy?

As the end of the reproductive years nears, the ovaries begin to make less oestrogen and the hormone balance changes. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years, but this can range from months to years.

Similarly, the age women enter perimenopause varies significantly, usually in their 40’s but sometimes in the 20’s or 50’s.

Symptoms and the severity of them vary as well but during this natural transition in a woman's lifetime most will find themselves saying one of the above statements or experiencing at least some of the following.

Signs of perimenopause

  • Hot flushes
  • Heavy periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Weight gain
  • Lower libido
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Brain Fog.

Doesn’t sound great, does it? But the good thing is there are things we can do to reduce the symptoms. Some people choose to take HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) which of course has its place but there are also natural solutions to be considered.

Diet and perimenopause

Declining oestrogen levels reduce your metabolism which can cause weight gain. These changes may also affect your cholesterol levels and how your body digests carbs.

Daily green smoothies and fresh berries will help strengthen the body through a concentrated vitamin, mineral, amino acid and enzyme boost. Vegetables such as kale and wheatgrass, fruits such as bananas and pomegranate, and eggs, fish and shellfish contain plenty of the seven vital B vitamins needed.

The perimenopause and menopause make our bodies less effective in absorbing them so we need to compensate by making sure our diet is providing enough.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, fibre and antioxidants. A study of 17,000 menopausal women showed that those eating more vegetables, fruit, fibre and soy experienced a 19% reduction in hot flushes compared to the control group. 

Phytoestrogen foods are great for improving low oestrogen symptoms such as night sweats. They naturally increase oestrogen levels and help some of the symptoms of menopause.

Great additions to your diet would include vegetables especially broccoli, carrots and garlic, as well as legumes, fruit and grains.

Exercise for perimenopause

Improving your general wellbeing is essential during perimenopause. It’s great for promoting mental health and can help us to feel strong and confident. Weight-bearing exercise is essential as the risk of osteoporosis rises as oestrogen levels diminish and we also need to increase metabolisms and lubricate joints and muscles.

There's no reason perimenopause needs to make us less fit, it may just mean we need to work a little harder. And let's not forget any exercise we do will help with weight management, which is always a good thing.

Sleep routine for perimenopause

It stands to reason that if you're sleep deprived you won’t be firing on all cylinders and may become irritable and anxious. Lack of sleep is one of the most common complaints of perimenopause and can be helped with some natural measures.

  • Ensure you wear cool comfortable clothing.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule.
  • Ensure where you sleep is calm and dark.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Try meditation or other relaxation techniques.
  • Find a natural sleep aid that helps you - lavender oil has been used for centuries, for example.
  • Turn off all devices and avoid using them an hour before bed.

Stay hydrated

It’s really easy to think we're hungry when we're really just thirsty. It's easy to not consume enough liquids so aim for at least 1.5 - 2 litres of water per day. This is particularly important during perimenopause. 

Night sweats and hot flushes can dehydrate us and lack of water can contribute to joint swelling, brain fog, mood swings, cramps and headaches.

Simply by adding more water to your diet you can help alleviate some of the symptoms of perimenopause, so why not give it a try?

Don’t be shy

Traditionally women suffered in silence, thinking they were going crazy or becoming ill. By talking about experiences and symptoms it can help- the old adage a problem shared is a problem solved is very true.

Reassurance from friends and family can help reduce stress, improve mood and often provide unexpected solutions.

Ensuring we continue the conversation is the way forward and to help everyone to have a healthy, happy perimenopause.

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