• Innovative Wellness Inc.

Staying Balanced During Perimenopause: Five Steps for Success




Ladies, perimenopause is no joke!

Have you ever been sitting in a conversation with your girlfriends, and then one of them states that they haven’t been sleeping well, or suddenly one morning they woke up just not themselves or suddenly sex hurts?

The conversation starts a little reserved, quiet, with pauses and then… it happens. We are not alone, we have all been experiencing “the change” but without words, support and awareness that yes, menopause is a normal process, but the symptom may be challenging and impacting our quality of life.

Did you know that estrogen has about 400 jobs in your body? I’m sure together we can name every single job and more!

Here’s what Innovative Wellness sexual health nurse practitioner Rachael had to say:


“I call peri-menopause the “grey-zone” because it can be the most challenging time in a woman’s life. It can be silent, but all of sudden symptoms creep in like not sleeping well, foggy head, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, or weight gain. We often do not put it together that it is our hormones suddenly starting to change.


I like to explain and start from the minute we are born through our 40’s, our hormones are rising, peaking, and synergistically working together. It’s not just estrogen that’s doing all the work, progesterone and testosterone, and cortisol are also in the game. When estrogen slowly starts to decline, all the other hormones start to “scatter as well”, causing you to start feeling symptomatic.”


The scientific explanation of perimenopause sounds so simple: a gradual slowing down of reproductive hormones until menopause. The reality, however, is that for many women the arrival of menopause isn’t a smooth, gliding descent but more of a turbulent landing complete with bumps, twists, and what can feel like the constant threat of a complete crash. That feeling is compounded by the timing, since perimenopause symptoms often begin at a particularly stressful time of life with mounting work and family demands. Add in the physical and emotional effects of hormonal fluctuations, and the entire process can easily start to feel like a cruel joke.

Thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way.


If you’re frustrated by symptoms like mood swings, weight gain, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, not sleeping well at night, and anxiety, start by taking a deep breath. The first step to thriving, not just surviving perimenopause, is to acknowledge that it is a natural process. Don’t beat yourself up. Now is the time to give your body – and your mind – some love.



How to Recognize Perimenopause


It is interesting to note that some studies show our attitudes towards menopause (and aging in general) can impact how we experience perimenopause symptoms.

Know What to Expect

Knowing what to expect and what triggers perimenopause is important. Sometimes, women are baffled by the changes and blame themselves, telling themselves that they’re not working out hard enough or not coping well with stress. That’s why a good understanding of the changes you’re undergoing is important. “I often have women coming into my office and telling me that they felt guilty to schedule an appointment and talk about this… SELF CARE IS NOT SELFISH IT’S A QUALITY OF LIFE”!

This Phase Can Last Years

Perimenopause symptoms typically begin in the late 30’s and continue for a number of years until full menopause is reached, which is defined as having gone a full year without a menstrual period, marking the cessation of the release of eggs. Over this period, the ovaries’ hormonal production slows down in fits and starts, leading to fluctuating levels of estrogen, which creates shifting imbalances in the delicate seesaw of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Earlier in life, estrogen levels are much more predictable with the menstrual cycle.

Signs You May Be in Perimenopause

Symptoms can be subtle at first and easily mistaken for something else. They may increase gradually or you may find they come and go along with your fluctuating hormones, they can include:

  • Changes in menstruation, which could include changes in timing (both more frequent or less frequent) and periods that are suddenly much heavier

  • Unexplained weight gain, particularly around the midsection

  • Depression - “I feel like something left the building”

  • Brain fog

  • Hot flashes

  • Tender breasts

  • Anxiety and panic attacks

  • Restless legs

  • Achy joints

  • Insomnia and difficulty staying asleep

  • Irritability

  • Changes in libido

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Urinary symptoms

  • Urinary tract infections or yeast infections

  • Acne (as if wrinkles weren’t enough to worry about)

  • Gassy and Bloated

  • Gut changes

6 Ways to Find Balance During Perimenopause

The good news is that several lifestyle changes can help maintain hormonal balance and make it easier to cope with the changes that do occur.


The first step is scheduling a consult to have your hormones checked - we can help! We can identify where the gaps are to help re-balance and help you feel better!


“I want to hear your story, develop a personalize a plan, and walk this journey with you!”

In the meantime, below are a few tips that can help you change and optimize lifestyle management:


1 - Aim for a Good Night's Sleep

Ironically, getting restful sleep can become more challenging just when we need it most, and a majority of perimenopausal women report sleep difficulties. Waking up frequently is the most common complaint, often due to hot flashes. As always, a holistic approach helps, as a hormone-supporting diet can help regulate hot flashes.


How You Can Strengthen Your Bedtime Routine

In addition, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene:

  • Avoid using electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.

  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, and vigorous exercise in the evening.

  • Build a predictable wind-down routine into your evenings.

  • Keep your bedroom temperature on the cooler side for better sleep.

  • Avoid synthetic materials in bedding and sleepwear in favor of natural fabrics like cotton or linen.

  • Have sex, it releases endorphins and helps you relax


Since melatonin production slows with age, melatonin supplements may be necessary. Magnesium is also an important component as well. Try our Ultimate Night and Ultimate Melatonin to optimize your sleep health.

2 - Address Your Stress

The stress hormone cortisol rises with age, which is partly to blame for the increase in belly fat many women experience during perimenopause. Taking proactive steps to reduce stress will help get a handle on cortisol levels.

Find Out What Works Best for You

Adequate sleep helps to lower cortisol, as does gentle, mindful activity such as yoga or tai chi. In fact, studies have found that mindful activities can reduce hot flashes, which will favorably impact sleep, which in turn helps to reduce belly fat – it’s all connected!

Click here to read our recent blog about Mental Fitness.

3 - Get Moving

Regular exercise helps with stress, reduces body fat, and improves your overall quality of life. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that what worked in your 20s and 30s may not be as effective at this stage of life.


Consider Reducing the Intensity

Somewhat ironically, overly intense exercise can overtax your body and result in an increase in cortisol. Remember those stress tips above? That’s why it’s important to find a form of exercise that works for you. Don’t feel pressure to do high-intensity workouts if your body responds better to lower-intensity programs like Pilates or walking. Because everybody is different, it may take a bit of trial and error to find what works for you. The best exercise is always the one that you will stick to, and the one that gives you joy instead of adding to your stress levels - even dancing while you are cooking is considered movement!

4 - Eat a Hormone-Supportive Diet

The concept of being gentle with your body during perimenopause extends to your diet. At this stage in life, you should focus on foods that support hormonal balance and provide nourishment. The three pillars of a healthy perimenopause diet are:


Protein

You start to lose muscle with age, so it’s important to counteract that adequate protein to retain muscle mass. Choose lean proteins, including some plant-based sources like chickpeas and lentils.


Fiber

A slowed metabolism may also slow down digestion. This may lead to constipation and foods hanging around longer causing fermentation = gas and bloating. Fibre helps food move smoothly through the bowels and also helps us feel fuller for longer, limiting cravings. Fiber can be found in loads of foods from flaxseed, chia seed, beans and legumes to spinach, broccoli, apples and pears.

Fat

Healthy fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, can help reduce hot flashes and may boost mood, according to some studies. Good sources of Omega-3 include salmon, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.

5 - Manage your Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels

High blood sugar can exacerbate hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms. This can be a bit of a vicious cycle, since changing hormonal levels can actually raise the production of the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar. It’s crucial to limit consumption of processed carbohydrates and sweet drinks during perimenopause, as insulin resistance becomes more commonplace. Fiber and protein can help preserve insulin sensitivity, so instead of a quick hit of something sweet for a snack, look for more satiating foods like nuts or whole grains.


TIP:

Eating a piece of chocolate is never a bad thing. It’s how you eat the chocolate, so you don’t eat the entire bag or box. Put the piece of chocolate in your mouth, taste it, and let it melt on your tongue… it activates all your senses and satisfies your craving.

A lot is happening during perimenopause for many women – career, family, decisions about the future - but taking some time to focus on your own health will help you feel empowered with the changes in your body.

If you are looking for extra support or experiencing hormonal issues and would like to dive deeper into what's going on and the best natural course of action give me a call. As integrative practitioner I can help guide you in this transition in a healthy and holistic way.

Call today to schedule your consult: 925-954-8209

Sources


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Nancy Fugate Woods, PhD, RN, FAAN, Ellen Sullivan Mitchell, PhD, and Kathleen Smith-DiJulio, PhD, RN. Cortisol Levels during the Menopausal Transition and Early Postmenopause: Observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. Menopause 2009 Jul–Aug; 16(4): 708–718. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318198d6b2


The North American Menopause Society. The role of calcium in peri-and postmenopausal women: consensus opinion of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. Summer 2001;8(2):84-95. doi: 10.1097/00042192-200103000-00003.

Diana Carter, MBBS. DEPRESSION AND EMOTIONAL ASPECTS OF THE MENOPAUSE - BCMJ, vol. 43 , No. 8 , October 2001 , Pages 463-466.


Marlene P. Freeman, MD,1 Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD,2 Michael Silver, MS et al

Marlene P. Freeman, MD,1 Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD,2 Michael Silver, MS et al. Omega-3 fatty acids for major depressive disorder associated with the menopausal transition: a preliminary open trial. Menopause. 2011 Mar; 18(3): 279–284. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181f2ea2e


Rebecca C Thurston 1, Samar R El Khoudary et al. Vasomotor symptoms and insulin resistance in the study of women's health across the nation. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;97(10):3487-94. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-1410. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

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