How Perimenopause Affects Your Hormones and Learn How to Thrive
Mood swings, weight gain, irregular periods, hot flushes, sleep disturbances no sex drive, forgetfulness, feeling unmotivated and like anything you do requires buckets of effort and energy that you just don’t have anymore.
This can’t be the menopause, aren’t you too young for that? Actually, it’s probably not and, instead, it sounds like you may be in perimenopause.
Perimenopause is a natural phase that typically starts in a woman’s late 30s or early 40s and lasts until menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. It brings about an onset of hormonal fluctuations that can lead to various physical and emotional shifts. Understanding these transformations is key to not only surviving but thriving during this significant life stage.
So, what are these huge hormonal shifts taking place and creating havoc in your body?
The Oestrogen Roller Coaster
Most often, and particularly at the beginning of perimenopause, rather than being on a slow, gradual decline, oestrogen behaves like it’s on a roller coaster ride; fluctuating to high levels, only to crash down again. This can manifest as irregular menstrual cycles, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
In fact, the average oestrogen levels in perimenopausal women are higher than in younger women. This is because your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) hormone is stimulating the ovaries to make more and more oestradiol (a form of oestrogen). Plus, if you already have any form of inflammation in the body, this may upset the normal detoxifying process and cause your body to reaccumulate more and more oestrogen.
Conversely, progesterone levels tend to decrease during perimenopause. Progesterone promotes the neurotransmitter GABA which has a calming effect on the brain. As you start to skip ovulation during perimenopause, progesterone starts to fall which can trigger symptoms of anxiety, low mood, insomnia and even memory loss and brain fog.
Oestrogen Gradually Decreases
When the body is experiencing a slow, gradual decline of oestrogen (most likely occurring nearer to actual menopause), your period becomes lighter and more spaced out as the cycles are reduced.
Additionally, low estrogen levels may bring vaginal dryness, loss of bladder tone, increased urinary tract infections (UTIs), breast shrinkage, hot flushes and night sweats. The infamous flushes can vary in length between 30 seconds and 30 minutes.
Unstable blood sugar can also trigger hot flushes due to the surge in adrenaline it causes. This is why is it so important to make sure you have healthy levels of insulin (a hormone that helps your body use glucose for energy). Eating well throughout the day is crucial as if your blood sugar levels are erratic it can cause further inflammation and this will only add to your hormonal imbalances.
Adrenals and Thyroid
The adrenal glands play a crucial role in responding to stress, producing hormones like cortisol. During perimenopause they are often overlooked but play a significant role.
During the perimenopause – when our ovaries are no longer producing progesterone and oestrogen – our adrenal glands are working extra hard as we prepare to go into the menopause. At this time, our adrenal glands take over the responsibility to supply you with the progesterone and oestrogen you desperately require to keep hormonal balance.
Moreover, if your adrenals do not supply adequate oestrogen, your body is much more likely to gain weight around the middle as fat cells can form to produce a form of oestrogen. It is, therefore, vital that you support these glands by reducing your stress levels, reducing inflammation and supplying your body with ample nutrients.
Perimenopause can coincide with thyroid imbalances. The thyroid gland, vital for regulating metabolism, may experience shifts in hormone production. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight changes, and mood disturbances. Understanding the potential interplay between thyroid function and perimenopause is essential for comprehensive well-being.
How to Thrive in Perimenopause
As a woman, you can’t avoid perimenopause but there are things within your control that can help to keep your hormones balanced, alleviate symptoms and reduce the impact on your day-to-day life and long-term health.
Nourish your Body
Prioritizing nutrition becomes paramount during perimenopause. Incorporating nutrient-dense foods supports hormonal balance and overall well-being.
What you eat during this stage of life really matters!
Foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as flax seeds and soy, offer natural hormonal support. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) to support oestrogen detoxification, quality protein, healthy fats, wholegrains and lots of colourful veggies to balance blood sugar levels and support your brain.
Self-care is non-negotiable at this time! How well you manage your stress can determine how good or bad your symptoms are. Try to get in some ‘me time’ every day! Whether it’s reading, getting outside for a walk, meditation or taking some deep breaths, plan it in your diary.
Prioritizing sleep is paramount, especially during perimenopause. Quality rest supports hormonal balance, mood stability, and cognitive function. Aim for a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Ensure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to rest. Focus on sleep hygiene. This is the time to stop treating sleep like a luxury!
Engaging in regular, well-rounded exercise is crucial during perimenopause. It helps alleviate mood swings, promotes better sleep, and supports overall vitality. Incorporate a mix of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises into your routine. Listen to your body and choose activities you enjoy.
From skincare and makeup to cleaning products to scented candles and air fresheners. Many of the products we use in our homes contain chemicals that can disrupt our hormones. As you use up these products, replace them with more natural brands.
Get a full picture of how your key hormones are behaving as well as your gut health (an unhappy gut can have a big impact on your hormones and brain health). This can help you get to the root cause, find hidden underlying imbalances and get results much quicker. I offer DUTCH testing if you would like to know more check out my Well Balanced Woman page, I would love to help you out.
For some women, HRT can be a game changer. HRT is a natural and safe option that may help alleviate symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances by replenishing declining hormone levels.
Perimenopause is a transformative phase marked by significant hormonal shifts. Understanding the intricacies of oestrogen, progesterone, adrenals, and thyroid, and their interplay empowers you to navigate this journey with grace and resilience. By adopting a proactive approach to physical, emotional, and hormonal well-being, you can not only survive but truly thrive during perimenopause. Embracing this natural transition with knowledge and self-care sets the foundation for a vibrant and fulfilling life beyond this transformative phase.
If you suspect your symptoms may be linked to your hormones or you’d like more information on the tests I offer, book a free Nourishing call or check our my Well Balanced Woman page for more info on DUTCH testing.