What is happening at perimenopause?

This happens in your 30’s and 40’s and it can be smooth but mostly it is disruptive.  It’s a tricky time as many women have been pregnant, breastfed, been pregnant again, breastfed maybe more times pregnant, as wonderful as this is it’s depleting.  Then they are juggling young kids, managing a household, trying to maintain relationships and connectedness, trying to stay involved in their chosen career, exercising, creating nutritious meals for the family, it’s exhausting and then our hormones start declining!!   And you don’t have to have had kids or a family to be feeling the effects of the hormonal chaos in peri-menopause.

Longer periods, shorter periods, heavier periods, moody, irritable, tired, insomnia, apathy, hot flushes, weight gain are all characteristics of perimenopause, not always and not all of them but mostly this is what women can experience.

Highlighting progesterone: Perimenopause is the transition between the reproductive years to menopause.  You’re not making as many follicles on your ovaries which means your hormones decline.  Progesterone declines most rapidly because perimenopausal women ovulate inconsistently and we need to ovulate to make good amounts of progesterone.  No ovulation, no progesterone. Progesterone counterbalances estrogen.

This is where women complain of symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, moodiness and anxiety because progesterone is a calming, soothing hormone and impacts the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA in the brain.  This is where bioidentical progesterone could be really helpful.

As our ovaries wain in perimenopause it’s left up to the adrenal glands to take up the slack which only produce a tiny amount of progesterone.  So if we are now reliant on our adrenal glands to make these important hormones, not for fertility but for other protective health measures we want to make sure they are in good shape.

Remember if our adrenals have been busy making stress hormones such as cortisol in the past or currently than this will impact the amount of other hormones it can make.  This is where I see very symptomatic women.

How to glide through this transition smoothly?

  • Supporting the adrenals is really important before and throughout this stage.
  • Self care such as time out for yourself, whatever that looks like for you, do things you enjoy.
  • Breathe work to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) DAILY
  • Sleep hygiene to enhance your sleep quality – I have a whole blog on this and it’s a module in all of my programs because it’s so important
  • Blood sugar regulation through nutrition with good fats, protein and fibre, fibre, fibre. If you can’t go for less than 3 hrs without having food and not crashing you have some metabolic dysfunction.
  • Minimize or avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar
  • Supportive supplements such as adaptogenic (adrenal support) herbs, magnesium and B vitamins. Plus progesterone boosting nutrients and herbs that your qualified practitioner can help you with depending on your clinical picture
  • Exercise – Weights and strength training is the best exercise you can do at this stage to promote androgens which also decline (more on this in another blog)
  • Bioidentical progesterone – see your doctor about this for advice but don’t be scared of it, it can really help.

Next blog the focus is on estrogen and peri-menopause…

Mel Aytan
Functional Nutritionist
Bach.App.Sci (Human Movement), Adv.Dip Nutritional Medicine, Adv Dip Sec.Edu, Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN)

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