A woman’s body is a beautiful and powerful thing, but it can also be uncomfortable and frustrating when that body begins to change. No matter how much we may wish to avoid it, we ThyroSisters will inevitably shift into perimenopause and then into menopause. There’s no point in fighting these natural changes and it isn’t helpful to ignore them either. Instead, it’s time to accept and even embrace perimenopause. After all, perimenopause might just be the perfect motivator to inspire you to adopt healthy lifestyle habits that will help you thrive for the rest of your life.
Wait… What’s Perimenopause Again?
Everyone’s heard of menopause and the slate of symptoms it brings, including weight gain, night sweats, and hair in all the wrong places, just to name a few. However, what many women (and most men, let’s be honest) don’t realize is that these symptoms are actually much more likely to happen during perimenopause. Perimenopause is the phase in a woman’s life when she begins to transition into menopause. Perimenopause will usually begin when a biological woman is in her mid-forties. This stage can continue for several years as the body transitions into full menopause, which is defined as going a full year without having a period. Oftentimes, the symptoms of perimenopause creep up gradually and become more noticeable (and more unpleasant) over time as your body slows its production of estrogen. When your estrogen begins to fluctuate, it can create imbalances throughout many systems in the body. Understandably, this causes a range of symptoms, including:
- Unpredictable periods, including missed periods and extra heavy periods
- Weight gain, especially in the midsection
- Hot flashes
- Increases in anxiety
- Panic attacks
- A drop in libido
- Brain fog
- Vaginal dryness
Doesn’t sound great, right? But there’s no point in taking on a victimized mindset. The most empowering way to face perimenopause is to accept that this is a natural process and part of what it means to be a biological woman. Instead of trying to simply survive perimenopause, we must endeavor to thrive during all the stages of our lives, even this one! Fortunately, you can ease the symptoms of perimenopause in a holistic and natural way by making healthy choices in your life. This is what you need to do to prepare your body for perimenopause during this stage of life.
1. Get Some Sleep!
I know, I know. Trying to get a good night’s sleep while going through perimenopause is like asking you to run through the rain without getting wet. Perimenopause seems designed to steal sleep from us, whether it’s with racing, anxious thoughts, restless legs, night sweats, or an all-of-the-above combo. However, sleep is more important than ever during perimenopause. Sleep allows your body and mind to recover from the day. Greater levels of sleep can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, clear away some of that brain fog, and give you the energy you need to make healthy choices during the day. So, how can you get some valuable shuteye when your body is doing what it can to keep you awake? Some tried and true methods include:
- Put down the electronics at least an hour before bed
- Avoid caffeine and hearty meals in the evening
- Try going to bed at the same time each night even when you don’t feel tired
- Keep your bedroom cool at night with an open window or fan
- Ask your functional health practitioner whether a melatonin supplement might help
2. Keep It Relaxed
Chronic stress is a huge contributor to illness and a negative mindset. However, it just isn’t easy to avoid many forms of stress. Still, now is a great time to look at your life and see if you can eliminate or at least better manage the big stressors in your life. If you need a reason to fight stress beyond the obvious improvement in your quality of life, keep in mind that stress raises cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, in turn, may be the reason you’re seeing more belly fat in the mirror. How can you conquer your stress? Here are some options:
- Limit interactions with negative people in your life as much as you can
- Take time to focus on your mental and physical health
- Try popular stress-busting methods like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga
- Surround yourself with supportive, loving people
- Turn off the news
Yep, you knew this one was coming, didn’t you? I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again. If ever there was a magic bullet that could improve your physical health, your emotional health, and your appearance, it’s exercise. In fact, adding regular exercise to your routine can help you sleep better and ease your stress. (Funny how it seems like good habits complement and strengthen each other.) Here are some of my favorite ways to exercise:
- Walk or jog down a beautiful path or a pretty neighborhood
- Take a yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi class (at home, at a gym, or at a studio)
- Try a boot camp with a friend
- Ride your bike outside or take a cycling class
- Try any new type of fitness class at your local gym or studio. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable and make new fitness friends.
(Check out more exercises for aging gracefully.)
4. Eat a Diet to Soothe Your Hormones
The foods you eat can play a huge role in how your body responds to perimenopause. While certain types of foods are known to spike your blood sugar and trigger loads of inflammation, other foods can help your body stay in balance. Focus on adding plenty of the following to your diet: Protein Lean proteins and plant-based proteins will help you hold onto your muscle mass, which ebbs with age. Strong muscles will help you stay mobile and healthy well past perimenopause. Plant-based proteins, like lentils and chickpeas, are some of my favorite ingredients to turn into healthy, delicious, and satisfying meals. Fiber A slowing metabolism could lead to slower digestion and constipation. It may be unpleasant to think about, but we’ve got to be honest and loving with our bodies. The more time food spends hanging around in our digestive tract, the more likely we are to feel bloated and gassy. Fiber can help food move through your digestive system. Fiber also makes you feel fuller, which can help to tackle belly fat. I add fiber to my diet by adding flaxseed and chia seeds to snacks, like salads and smoothies. I also love adding dark greens, like spinach or broccoli to my meals. Fat Don’t be afraid of healthy fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids. The right kinds of fats may be able to reduce hot flashes and boost your mood. Hemp seeds, olive oil, and salmon are all excellent and yummy sources of Omega-3 fats.
5. Keep Your Insulin and Blood Sugar in Check
The best way to make your perimenopause experience as miserable as possible is to ignore your blood sugar. That means eating processed foods and gulping down sugary drinks. Instead, if you want to keep your perimenopause symptoms as gentle as possible, cut out processed carbs and sugary drinks from your diet. This will keep your insulin levels steady and your blood sugar low. When I’m tempted to buy a candy bar out of the snack machine, I grab a handful of nuts or chow down on a healthy salad instead. Bringing healthy snacks to work or out with you can help you avoid mindless and unhealthy eating.
Looking for More Help with Perimenopause?
These five tips are only the start of a holistic perimenopause treatment plan. A functional health practitioner can give you more personalized advice on making changes to your diet and lifestyle as well as recommend supplements and vitamins to address your specific symptoms. Most importantly, a holistic health guide can help you get tested to make sure other conditions, like autoimmunity, aren’t making your perimenopause symptoms worse. Think that you might want to work with a functional health practitioner? Schedule a Clarity Call with me. I can’t wait to learn your story and to help you thrive (instead of just survive) during your perimenopause journey.