For most women, just like death and taxes, menopause is an unfortunate given. Due to the change in hormones, the transition into menopause can come with lots of unwelcome effects, like hot flushes, sleeping problems and an increase in anxiousness and irritability. These are just some of the many symptoms associated with hormone imbalance that around 80% of women at this time will face.
What’s confusing for many women is that they are experiencing symptoms during their 40’s, and while they are still having their monthly periods. So they don’t associate it with the menopause.
Because of the stress your body is put under, it experiences the well-known negative side effects like weight gain and hot flashes. While many tests may not give you much of a clue, a more effective way to tell if you’re actually experiencing peri-menopause is to get your hormones properly measured.
At the time of birth most females have between 3-5 million eggs and these slowly deplete as her life goes on. Once the levels of eggs left in a women’s body get low, perimenopause begins to kick in.
So, it makes sense that, one of the main factors that determines the onset of perimenopause is age. Hormone decline and fluctuations can start from the age of 35, with final menopause happening on average in your early 50’s. Other causes which can bring on early menopause and perimenopause are stress, thyroid problems, medication , genetics, premature ovarian failure, cancer treatment and an unhealthy diet.
So, although the unwanted effects of menopause are anticipated, it doesn’t mean that they’re welcomed! Thankfully, there’s a few things that you can do to lessen the toll the transition in hormones takes on your body. Here, nutritionist Nicki Williams talks us through some methods that can be beneficial for both our hormones and our health.
FOCUS ON DIET
“Balancing blood sugar is a priority as it helps to sustain energy levels, balance moods, improve cognitive function and lose excess weight,” advises the nutritionist. She stresses the importance of including phytoestrogens – things like flax seeds and fermented soy – in your diet to help 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 include produce like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Nicki recommends consuming these to help with hormone levels because they help to support your liver detoxification pathways and oestrogen clearance.
She also recommends a few small diet changes, “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.”
ENGAGE IN ACTIVITY
Making sure that you engage in light daily exercise is helpful for your overall health, as well as the side effects menopause, however it’s important to be mindful not to push yourself too hard. “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,” says Nicki.
GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
A common side effect of menopause and perimenopause if troubles with sleeping, so it’s important that you give your body enough time to rest. “Improving sleep quality through dietary changes, stress management techniques and sleep hygiene routines can be very helpful,” advises Nicki.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re experiencing menopause or perimenopause and are concerned, it can be very useful to get tested. Routine testing can be a bit hit and miss but it’s worth asking for a full hormone check. If not, consider getting them done privately, if that’s an option.
“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.”, agrees Nicki.