One of the most commonly frustrated types of women we see in our clinic are those who are approaching menopause. This period of time is called perimenopause. It’s a tricky time for women, with a lot of change occurring in your body without you actually changing anything. You’re eating well, exercising, getting eight hours of sleep, but the weight just jumps on without your permission. Unfair, I know. So why does this happen?
During perimenopause, oestrogen can go from high to low in a matter of a few days. This is a main cause of mood swings, weight gain, sleep problems and heavy periods.
The natural shift in hormones slows your metabolism, which progressively decreases each year, meaning that when you reach menopause, it’s common to see weight gain around the abdomen that becomes harder to lose due to the decline in your metabolism.
The shift of oestrogen changes the way our body responds to insulin. If your body doesn’t have the right relationship with insulin, you’ll gain weight from eating the same foods you consumed in your 30’s. The change in oestrogen also heightens food cravings, meaning you’ll want more sugar and carbs.
Eventually, hormones like progesterone and oestrogen start to fall away, but can leave other hormones like testosterone to remain and sometimes even increase. It’s the testosterone that drives insulin resistance which is why you’ll find it much harder to get results.
As the ovaries begin to wind up shop but you’re still having a cycle, you may not necessarily be ovulating. When you aren’t ovulating, you can’t make progesterone and as a result become more prone to PMS, heavy periods and mood swings (sound familiar?).
The adrenal glands play a key role in regulating stress hormones and during menopause are now charged with the role of making the sex hormones. This means the busier and more stressed you are, the more likely you’ll suffer a painful perimenopause.
Thyroid hormones play a huge role in regulating metabolism and perimenopause is a common time for the thyroid to change too, which can often be the reason why you're packing on the pounds
How to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause
- Prioritise Sleep – 8 hours minimum will do wonders for your whole body.
- Exercise, but be kind to your body. The Vitamin D and beneficial blue light from exercising outdoors will be useful for regulating symptoms. Over exercising or not allowing for adequate rest creates another stress on the body.
- Reduce alcohol and other inflammatory foods like sugar, junk food and processed foods. Stick to wholefoods, vegetables, fruits and salads.
- Increase protein. Your protein requirements actually increase as the hormones decrease due to a lack of growth stimulus.
You can see why, with all that going on in your body, how perimenopause can wreak havoc in your day to day life, but there are things you can do to make the process a little less disruptive. Whilst it’s tempting to just add more hormones in, it’s better to allow your body to get accustomed to less hormones, that way when menopause finally comes, it’s much less problematic. No matter if you’re starting perimenopause or have already farewelled your last period, it’s never too late to get back on track. Speak to an integrated practitioner for more information on how they can help.