How to ease the symptoms of
perimenopause with nutrition
If you are a woman over 40 and you find yourself having brain fog, anxieties, feeling depressed, irregular periods, hot flashes or night sweats, you might be entering a perimenopausal phase. This phase differs in length and severity for different women, and it might take another 10-15 years before menopause – when menstrual periods stop permanently, and you are no longer able to bear children.
There are many ways to ease the peri-menopausal symptoms, but it is important to understand the changes in hormonal balance. The main sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and a small amount of testosterone) begin to lose their power as we age, and this affects other hormones in the body. Unfortunately, hormones such as insulin and cortisol are being overlooked or ignored by health professionals, which sadly can lead to more serious health issues, such as diabetes, obesity or oestrogen related cancers.
Hormones are chemicals that regulate the body’s temperature, energy, mental clarity, weight, immunity, metabolism. Hormones are connected through the bloodstream and they communicate with one another. Therefore, it is essential to take care of the whole network of hormones as one hormone being out of balance causes all of them out of balance. The number one hormone disruptor or hormone regulator is insulin.
Insulin – produced in the pancreas – helps to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and turns it into energy (hence reducing blood sugar levels). Eating too many ‘white’ carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, biscuits and other sugary foods and drinks) causes the pancreas to work extra hard to produce more insulin. During perimenopause there is a drop in all sex hormones; however, progesterone drops more rapidly than oestrogen causing oestrogen dominance. This also causes the pancreas to produce more insulin and we end up having too much insulin circulating in the bloodstream. Excess Insulin in the bloodstream makes us crave more sugar.
Tip: Swap ‘white’ carbohydrates (white potatoes, pasta, bread, cakes) for ‘green’ carbohydrates: vegetables (leafy green, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, wheat free pasta) and fruit. Eat meals containing fat, fibre and protein to regulate blood sugar level.
Cortisol – the stress hormone or ‘fight or flight’. Many women find themselves feeling depressed, anxious and fatigued during perimenopause. Often, they will be prescribed antidepressants by their doctor. However, it is worth checking whether you are truly depressed, or your raised cortisol is caused by a hormonal imbalance. A simple cortisol saliva test should be considered. Daily life stressors such as parenting teenagers, looking after elderly parents or work stresses all contribute to cortisol being elevated, and as cortisol is produced in the adrenals, when you are under constant stress, you might experience adrenal fatigue.
Tip: Research shows that daily meditation, talking to friends or a 20-minute walk can help reduce overproduction of cortisol and help adrenals to ‘rest and restore’.
Oestrogen and progesterone – both hormones drop during perimenopause but progesterone drops faster leaving a lot of oestrogen circulating in the body. This excess of oestrogen causes weight gain especially around the abdominal area, headaches, tearfulness, joint pains and other symptoms.
Tip: Reducing caffeine intake or swapping it with green tea such as Matcha can ease the symptoms as well as lowering the formation of cancer-causing compounds. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate (min. 80% cocoa) a few times a week helps reduce stress, supresses appetite and has a positive effect on hormones as it is full of antioxidants.
Hormones and Nutrition
More detailed presentation about
what causes hormonal imbalance
Hormones and Nutrition