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If you’re like me and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, you may be thinking “I’m WAY too young to have to start thinking about perimenopause or menopause.” I’d like to clear one thing up: an aging body, perimenopause, and menopause are NOT curse words. Sure, perimenopause symptoms may not be fun, but I will die on the hill that aging can be a beautiful and manageable thing. There’s SO much we can do to prepare our bodies and minds for it and instead of this feeling like a full-time job, I am providing you with some actionable tips that you can easily implement into your routine.

But first, what are some perimenopause symptoms and are you really too young for them? You can actually hit perimenopause during the 30-50 years old range, but the average age for perimenopause is around 45. Perimenopause isn’t a one-time event, so you won’t just wake up one day and know you’re in perimenopause. It’s the transitional period leading up to menopause when your body goes through hormonal changes, which translates into physical and psychological changes for you. Your leading hormone ladies, estrogen and progesterone, fluctuate and generally decrease during this time. The fluctuation of hormones  can lead to low progesterone, high estrogen, your gut slowing down, and cause insulin resistance as well. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  1. Irregular menstrual cycles – These can become shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter – so straightfoward, right? 🙂
  2. Sleep disturbances – Insomnia or frequent wake-ups during the night can become more common.
  3. Hot flashes and night sweats – Though there’s nothing physically dangerous about these, they can be extremely disruptive and uncomfortable.
  4. Moodswings – Similar to PMS, your fluctuating hormones can lead to anxiety, irritability, and even depression.
  5. Decreased libido – You have your hormones possibly taking a nose dive to thank for this.
  6. Cravings – Low progesterone and high estrogen can lead you to crave all-the-salty-things as well as dark chocolate (magnesium, anyone?).
  7. Fatigue – This is a tricky one because if you’re out there doing all-the-things, how do you know your fatigue is hormone related? I think a general sense of tiredness *could* be attributed to perimenopause.
  8. Joint & muscle pain – Another tricky one, especially if you work out a lot, but as estrogen levels drop, it may be more difficult to build muscle, which can lead to an increase in muscle and joint pain.
  9. Skin & hair changes – Thinning hair, dry skin, and hair loss are all common.
  10. Memory issues – If you’re familiar with post-partum brain fog (“mommy brain”), memory problems due to perimenopause feel very similar to this.

Sounds like a good time, right? Fear not, as I’ve got some tips for you on how to combat these symptoms:

Blood sugar balance

You already know that more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is key, but the real reason why you’ll want to stay away from foods such as those containing refined sugars and grains is to stabilize your blood sugar. As you lose estrogen, you become more insulin resistant, which means your body is pumping out more insulin. This triggers fat storage, causes your blood sugar to fluctuate and can leave you fatigued and hungry all the time. Blood sugar balance doesn’t mean that you’re just eating protein and fats only, you definitely need carbohydrates, but you’ll want to focus on the low glycemic and complex ones: quinoa, oats, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, berries, apples, pears, beets, turnips (as opposed to breads, pastas, pastries – anything processed and refined). Protein remains queen for blood sugar balance (and building lean muscle mass, which we’ll get to in a second) and I recommend at least 20 to 30 grams at each meal, with 10 to 15 grams of protein for snacks. Here’s a handy chart that shows what this looks like in terms of real food. I also break down the differences between plant protein vs animal protein here.  Increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake can also be tremendously useful since this helps with inflammation and your body actually needs these fatty acids to produce hormones. Omega-6s are the fats which cause inflammation (most commonly used in restaurants) and are abundant in vegetable oils, canola, grapeseed, corn, cottonseed, and peanut oil, as we all as margarine and commercially raised (non-organic and corn-fed) meats, poultry, and eggs. Low omega-3 and high omega-6 levels are associated with insulin resistance, which takes us right back to the beginning!

Building + maintaining lean muscle mass

As your body goes through the hormone decline, it will become more difficult for you to maintain / build muscle mass. You actually lose muscle mass at a rate of about 3% to 8% every decade after you hit the age of 30*. On top of this, your body also uses protein less effectively as you go through menopause, so as mentioned, protein intake and ensuring you get quality protein in is absolutely key. The speed and strength of muscle contractions also diminish as we age. You can still build muscle and no, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym to do this. Some form of resistance training on a weekly basis (at least 3x per week for at least 20 minutes) is absolutely essential as you age. I like to use running and biking for cardiovascular and lung strength and strength training to prevent muscle loss, bone loss, weakness, and hormone imbalances. Don’t have access to a gym or expensive gym equipment? Body weight exercises can go a long way here and remember that a walk or jog outside is completely free! The benefits of exercise go well beyond the physical and body composition changes you’ll see and are amazing for boosting your mood as well (remember how those declining hormones can mess with your mood?) and help with relieving perimenopause symptoms.

Adequate sleep

Good hormone health is directly tied to your sleep quality. When you’re in your your menstrual and ovulatory phases and your hormones are “low”, your melatonin levels are high, which helps to lower your core body temperature in the evening hours. This makes it easier for you to fall and stay asleep. When you get into your “high” hormone phase, aka that dreaded luteal phase, progesterone inhibits melatonin, which causes a higher core body temperature – read: more disrupted sleep. If you’re not familiar with your menstrual cycle phases, take a look at this chart. Late-night eating and alcohol are two of the most disruptive things you can do to disturb your natural circadian rhythm. Even a modest amount of alcohol before bedtime can reduce melatonin production by almost 20%.  A few of my favorite ways to combat this are by indulging in my sleepy girl mocktail, calming my body down with some lemon balm, hibiscus, or Valerian root tea, and having a proper winddown routine before getting into bed (I discuss this in detail with my clients). You already know that you need between 7-9 hours of sleep, but this becomes even more important as we age. Mind-body practices can also help with getting you to sleep better. Glo, Peloton yoga and meditation, and Down Dog yoga all have some excellent exercises to help you wind down with meditation, stretches, or evening yoga. These can help tremendously with stress management, mood swings, and anxiety as well.

Hydration

Bloating and headaches (and even hunger!) are often a factor of not hydrating properly and enough. We often confuse thirst hunger for a craving. My rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. A great way to start your day is drink at least 20 oz of water with lemon to help flush out toxins. Front loading your day this way ensures that you’re setting yourself up for success and don’t start the day off dehydrated. The quality of your water matters as well for hormone health. Bottled water has recently been found to contain excessive microplastics, so you’ll want to stay clear of bottled water as much as possible. For optimal hormone health, you’ll want to filter our any chemicals as they contribute to the toxic burden that your liver has to deal with. A reverse osmosis system is ideal, but can be expensive. Over time, however, the cost of bottled water adds up as well (and that doesn’t even include the cost of the environmental impact of plastic bottles). AquaTru is a trusted company to get carbon filters or an entire RO system from.

Acupuncture

Some of my clients have seen amazing results with acupuncture for combatting hot flashes, nighttime sweats, sleep disturbances, and perimenopause symptoms in general. Definitely worth a try, but also in conjunction with working on all of the above, as acupuncture in isolation won’t be able to fix all your symptoms if you’re not nailing blood sugar balance, maintaining muscle mass, sleep, and hydration.

Supplements

Common supplements that can help with perimenopause symptoms include vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. I love a good supplement to give me that extra edge, but I can’t emphasize enough that a nutrient dense diet (with fiber, fat, and protein at every meal), low in refined sugars, and high in healthy fats and colorful fruits and vegetables is the biggest mover and shaker when it comes to hormone balance. There simply isn’t a supplement that will magically help balance hormones by itself. With that being said, I often go through a few supplements with my clients to find the ones that work best with their diet and lifestyle. Herbal supplements I love for hormone balance include maca, black cohosh, red clover, rooibos, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, hibiscus, and valerian root. As always, check with your holistic health expert and your medical doctor to determine if there any drug interactions or adverse effects you need to consider.

What questions do you have about perimenopause symptoms? Be sure to leave a comment below!

 

*Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6202460/

** Source: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/plastic-particles-bottled-water

 

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