What is perimenopause? According to Webster’s dictionary perimenopause is defined as: “the period around the onset of menopause that is often marked by various physical signs (such as hot flashes and menstrual irregularity)”. Mayo Clinic states, “Perimenopause means “around menopause” and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. Perimenopause is also called the menopausal transition.” In reality perimenopause is the transitional time that can begin anywhere from 2- 10 years before menopause actually happens. It generally lasts 3-4 years, but can be as short as a few months or up to 8- 10 years. It usually starts for women in their 40’s, but can also start in their 30’s. Estrogen production in the ovaries starts to decline, leading to other hormonal shifts that affect the whole body and your body can suddenly show different symptoms. Some of these symptoms are not usually fun or enjoyable, but there is also a way to thrive depending on how you approach this time and how you support your body. It can also be a time where you step into your power and be authentically you. Perimenopause ends when a woman reaches menopause. This happens when the ovaries have stopped producing estrogen or it is so low that you no longer ovulate or have periods. Menopause is officially diagnosed after you have stopped having periods for 12 months.
What happens to your body during perimenopause?
During perimenopause there is a decline in the production of estrogen in your ovaries. If your body is not making enough estrogen you can stop ovulating which means there is also a decrease in the hormone progesterone. (No or low estrogen = No ovulation = No progesterone.) Estrogen levels not only start to decline, but they can also fluctuate throughout your cycle which can cause various symptoms. Some symptoms of the slow decline or fluctuations in estrogen are: irregular periods, heavier or light periods, night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, anxiety, a worsening of PMS, a decrease in libido, insomnia, mood swings, and much more.
What can you do?
There are many ways you can help support your body and mind through this transformational time. You can support your hormones through a diet rich in protein, fat, and fiber. Eating a whole foods diet, seed cycling or just eating more seeds, avoiding processed foods and sugar supports your body at any time in life, but especially now. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol helps too. Making sure your gut health is good is very helpful. Finding ways to manage stress whether it’s meditation, deep breathing, yoga, going for walks, really whatever works for you and is healthy. It is imperative to manage stress in a holistic way. Stress can really play into anxiety which can happen from all the fluctuations in your hormones, hello mood swings. Exercise helps, as well as getting enough sleep. I can not stress enough the importance of getting enough sleep! Working with a professional to assess any nutrient deficiencies, gut issues or general hormonal imbalances and getting a personalized protocol that includes diet, therapeutic foods, lifestyle, and supplements recommendations can be really helpful.