FEWE CREW: Peri-Menopause: What you need to know with Nicki Williams
15th October 2021
What you need to know about the peri-menopause.
There can be a lot of confusion around the terms peri-menopause and menopause. What’s the difference?
Peri-menopause is the transition between your fertile reproductive years and the menopause which is classed as 1 year after your final period (average age 52).
It can start in your mid 30’s as your egg reserve starts to decline and your oestrogen and progesterone start to fluctuate and decline. But you may not notice symptoms until well into your 40’s.
Symptoms can include fatigue, mood swings, irregular or heavy/painful periods, brain fog, poor sleep, weight gain, hot flushes/night sweats, depression, anxiety, hair loss, joint pain, low libido, vaginal dryness…..and the list goes on!
It’s really important to remember that it’s not just oestrogen and progesterone that can affect how you go through the peri-menopause. We have over 100 hormones responsible for making our bodies work properly, and together they affect how we look, feel, think and behave.
What are the main drivers of peri-menopause?
- Age - After 35 your eggs are starting to run out, and ovulation can be more erratic. This affects the production of oestrogen and progesterone. Both hormones are starting a long slow decline towards final menopause, but on the way they can fluctuate wildly, and this can feel like a mood swing roller coaster!
- Stress – any kind of stress on the body can be a major disruptor to your peri-menopause journey. Cortisol (your stress hormone) can not only have an impact on your energy, mood, brain function and metabolism, but it can also suppress your thyroid and sex hormones, making your symptoms even worse.
- Thyroid – the impact of stress, a poor diet, gut health or environmental toxins can take a toll on your thyroid hormones and crash your metabolism, leaving you exhausted, sluggish, foggy and achey. And that extra weight isn't going anywhere soon.
- Diet – your hormones need a whole load of different nutrients from your diet to work properly. If you're not packing in the protein, healthy fats and tons of veggies, then you're likely going to be missing a few. And if you're eating too many carbs or you're stressed out, then you might be on the blood sugar roller coaster, increasing your insulin and messing with your other hormones.
- Toxins – Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) can mimic or alter hormones, especially oestrogen, and impair mitochondrial function (your energy battery cells).
- Medications – certain medications can disrupt your hormones, including the Birth Control Pill, HRT, steroids and antidepressants
- Liver overload – if the liver is struggling to process and eliminate toxins, alcohol, caffeine or drugs, then hormone metabolism can be affected
- Gut health – if your gut is not working optimally, certain hormones might not be metabolised or converted properly. Inflammation in the gut caused by food sensitivities or underlying infections can also spread to the neighbouring areas and disrupt hormone function.
What can you do?
Obviously there are medical options – HRT or other medications are often used to treat symptoms. However, If you don’t want to take HRT, or can’t take it for any reason, or even if you are taking it, implementing the right diet and lifestyle foundation is going to be beneficial not just for your hormones but for your future health.
- Diet – balancing blood sugar is a priority as it helps to sustain energy levels, balance moods, improve cognitive function and lose excess weight.
- Including phytoestrogens in the diet (eg flax seeds and soy) can help to balance oestrogen levels and reduce incidences of hot flushes and night sweats. Ensuring enough protein, healthy fats and phytonutrients are in the diet to support thyroid and cellular health is very important.
- Support gut and liver– cruciferous vegetables help to support your liver detoxification pathways and oestrogen clearance. Hydration helps to keep the bowels moving, while reducing alcohol and caffeine can support the liver and gut. Including probiotic foods (live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha) can help to support the microbiome (your good bugs!) and digestive function.
- Minimise exposure to EDC’s – eat organic where possible to avoid pesticide exposure. Swap BPA plastics to glass or stainless steel. Avoid products containing phthalates (eg synthetic fragrance in personal and household products).
- Activity – increasing NEAT movement (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) helps to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase metabolism. Avoiding over-exercising is as important to not increase stress on the body.
- 6. De-stress and sleep – managing stress through mindfulness or other relaxation techniques can have a huge impact on symptoms. Improving sleep quality through dietary changes, stress management techniques and sleep hygiene routines can be very helpful.
- Get appropriate tests carried out – whether through your doctor or privately, tests can be very helpful in identifying the root cause of any imbalance. We look at including thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones, blood sugar, gut health and key nutrients.