What is Perimenopause and how do I prepare for it?

So apparently there’s a prequel to the end game that is the Menopause. And no, it mustn’t be mistaken for a Nando’s spice. Welcome ladies to, The Perimenopause. Now I’ve know for a long time that I’m not in Kansas anymore. Things are changing. Subtle things like I can’t eat an entire pack of Haribo like I used to unless I complete a half marathon to work the calories off (disclaimer here, I’ve never actually done a half marathon nor do I ever want to but it sounded apt and dramatic).

As I learn more about what’s to come, I realise the perimenopause is a transition phase and I want to use this time wisely to prepare my body for the next chapter. I’ll switch up those Haribo for Medjool dates licked with peanut butter and sprinkled with flax seeds right? I definitely need advice so I asked Francesca Liparoti, Registered Nutritional Therapist, to provide some insight into what the perimenopause is and some advice on how to prepare.

‘The first step to feeling great in your 40s is to understand what’s actually happening with your body so let’s take a closer look at what’s actually happening with your hormones during perimenopause.

Coming soon to a body like yours

For most women perimenopause starts in their late 30s where they may start to notice a change in their menstrual cycles and periods and perhaps new PMS symptoms and shifts particularly around sleep and mood. Then, as you progress into your 40s the shifts and changes can start to become more pronounced with the biggies being sleep and mood issues and hot flashes. Migraines and headaches are also more common now along with brain fog, and a lot less energy than you had in your 20s!

Perimenopause is a phase of hormonal changes that occurs in the 2 to 12 years before menopause. So, for some women this means they enter into perimenopause around age 38 (and even 35 for some women), but for most women it starts some time in their 40s and it’s definitely begun once they reach their mid-late 40s.

In a nutshell, it’s a time when your hormones are starting to change, as the communication between your brain and ovaries starts to change as your body starts its journey towards menopause. Oestrogen goes on a crazy roller coaster ride while progesterone gradually starts to decline. Some hormone experts call it the second puberty (!!) because oestrogen was erratic when your menstrual cycle first began, then it settled down during your 20s and 30s, and in perimenopause it becomes erratic again.

Happy Hormones

A happy hormonal picture for prevention or good management of the symptoms mentioned here is oestrogen that gently ebbs and flows throughout the month as per the natural menstrual cycle rhythm, ovulation occurring each month and subsequent progesterone production over the following couple of weeks (as a result of having ovulated). However, the hormonal picture during perimenopause is oestrogen rising to almost 3 times higher than ever before at some points in the month then crashing down to a really low level, like a rollercoaster ride, occurring month after month for the duration of perimenopause, while progesterone gradually starts to decline.

Symptoms of the high oestrogen points in this new oestrogen rollercoaster include breast pain, heavy periods, water retention (‘puffiness’), changes in mood and irritability whilst symptoms of DROPPING oestrogen include depression, weight gain (particularly around the middle), migraines, hot flashes, and night sweats.

During perimenopause cycles can still be regular and you are still fertile – although not as fertile as you were in your 20s and 30s – but your menstrual cycle is starting to change. For example, your cycles might be getting longer or shorter, longer or shorter periods, heavier or painful periods, spotting between periods and more and more non-ovulatory cycles.

The Importance of Progesterone

Why does progesterone production decline in perimenopause and what’s the significance of that?

This is due to you having more and more non-ovulatory cycles (cycles where you don’t ovulate), in perimenopause, which basically means you don’t ovulate some or many months. Ovulation was hard to achieve in your regular cycling years and becomes even harder in your 40s. You see, ovulation isn’t only important for fertility, it’s an essential part of a healthy menstrual cycle and hormone balance because it’s the ONLY way you make a good amount of progesterone each month and prevent a hormone imbalance where oestrogen is taking over the show.

Here are some of the wonderful things progesterone does which can help to explain in part why perimenopause brings the symptoms it brings:

  • It’s your anti-anxiety, anti-irritability and calming hormone and it’s vital for your overall sense of wellbeing and good sleep and it increases your capacity to deal with stress.
  • It shelters you from the effects of oestrogen’s ‘yang’ effects such as heavy or painful periods, painful periods and breast pain.
  • It’s a natural diuretic so it prevents water-retention and ‘puffiness’ around the body.
  • It boosts your metabolism & lean muscle mass, which are key for keeping your body fat in check and it supports a healthy thyroid.

The good news is that perimenopause symptoms are temporary and they respond really well to some simple diet and lifestyle interventions.

Rebalance and Thrive

One of the biggest blockers to ovulation is STRESS! So, you CAN support your body to have more ovulatory cycles during perimenopause by incorporating some simple stress management practices into your days and weeks, prioritising self-care, prioritising sleep and cultivating more joy and play!

Nourish your body & hormones now more than ever.

Perimenopause is NOT the time to restrict calories or follow any other restrictive diets. Now it’s more important than ever to support your body by ensuring it’s well-nourished each day with enough calories (energy), optimal amounts of quality protein, fibre & nutrient dense carbohydrates, plenty of different types of good fats especially omega 3 (in the form of DHA & EPA), as well as the smaller but all-important nutrients including but not limited to B12, B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, choline, vitamin A (as retinol), vitamin E and iron.’

Francesca’s Rebalance + Thrive programme starts on Monday 27th September. You can join here.

What have you been doing to prepare for the Menopause? Have you started to have symptoms yet? Talk to us and tell us all about it by commenting below or following us on Instagram here.

Tried and Tested: The summer edit + a massive giveaway!

Welcome to our new regular feature at 40 Now What where we hunt down and share with you some of the awesome things that have landed in our inboxes lately! In the name of you – our lovely readers – we have been busy chugging, chowing, nurturing and guinea-pigging ourselves to the max. Read on to find out what has made the cut in our recommendations to you in our summer edition of Tried and Tested. PLUS there is the chance to win over £1000 in prizes in our bumper giveaway where you can win a massive selection of the items featured in this edition.

So without further ado, come a little closer and let us tell you about this month’s shining stars because this month we have been….

Eating/drinking

Melitta epour

To say we are obsessed with Melitta’s new epour filter coffee machine is an understatement. With this sexy-looking machine on your countertop, great-tasting pour-over filter coffee has never been easier. The beauty is in the brewing process, which you will watch with an ohhhh and an ahhhhh thanks to its open filter allowing you to experience the brewing process at a touch of a button with all your senses. Extra brownie points for the pre-brew function which gives the coffee time for ideal blooming, so its full-bodied aroma can fully develop. Mmmmmmm…..coffee! The Melitta®epour® is available in two colour versions: Matt Back & GoldAND Matt Black & Chrome via melitta.co.uk RRP: £199.00

Wheyhey sugar free ice cream

This summer, we have been living our best life by devouring outrageously yummy and guilt-free tubs of Wheyhey sugar free ice cream. Packed with protein and naturally sugar free, made with the best bit of milk, from grass fed cows is a one way ticket to allowing yourself to live outrageously well without skipping on that well earned ice cream at 80 calories per 100ml serving. Because after all, life is better with ice cream! Wheyhey ice cream is available to buy in M&S, Spar and directly via Wheyhey.com across the UK starting at an RRP of £4.50.

Dietly snack boxes

Let’s face it – we all love to snack but when snacking options can start to become so blah can’t they leading to the road of all temptation. That’s why this summer we’ve been loving the snack boxes from Dietly. Choose from either Vegan or Keto boxes and be introduced to a whole world of healthy and yes – yummy! – snacking options you never knew existed be soon be so grateful to have in your life. From freeze dried fruits, to scrummy protein balls, popped cheese bites and nutritionally balanced energy bars Dietly has got you covered. Subscribe to Dietly’s monthly snack boxes for £40 a month at diet.ly.

SO PERF, Prebiotic + Probiotic Bars and Juice

We are big on gut health at 40 Now What which is why we have been chowing down on delicious superfood cold-pressed prebiotic and probiotic bars and juices from SO PERF designed to support the gut, immune system and microbiome health. Perfect for those who want to improve their gut health and reap the associated benefits but not predisposed to chowing down buckets of kimchi at every meal, the range from SO PERF is packed with superfoods, antioxidants, nutrients, fibre, protein and omega 3. Made with high quality fruits, nuts, seeds pre and probiotics which have been hand-picked to support your gut, immune system, microbiome health, brain function and energy which are both nutritious + delicious! Try a sample pack of their bars for £15.80 and juices for £17.25.

Berczy Hard Seltzers – 100% natural, low calorie low abv drinks

We know we should all be drinking more water right? So let’s make it more bearable with this fizz-tacular range of Berczy alcoholic sparking water. Still counts huh? Perfect for those dusk picnics with your tribe. With real fruit flavours of Passionfruit & Turmeric, Lemon & Lime and Peach & Raspberry. Always remember to drink responsibly. Try their taster pack for £14.95 at berczydrinks.com.

Doughlicious – gluten free ready-to-bake cookie dough

Guilt-free snacking at its best. It truly was ‘love at first bite.’ Every flavour is 100% gluten free. There are dairy-free, organic and vegan flavours too. The smell of freshly baked cookies will fill your home. You can choose to have a crispy or gooey cookie. Our favourite was the Double Chocolate Chip. What will yours be? Order now . Boxes from £3.99 at doughlicious.co.uk.

Happi Free From – Oat Milk Chocolate Bars

Having cut back on dairy to help combat eczema, you can only imagine our sheer joy at discovering these bars and we were not disappointed. Bliss is sharing a family-size choc bar with a loved one right? We can honestly agree there was no compromise on taste and we savoured every morsel. What are you waiting for? At £7 for 4 x 40g bars, check them out at happifreefrom.com.

Great British Porridge Co Instant & 100% natural

We’ve been instant porridge fans for a long time. You can add water or milk and create the perfect consistency for you and your whole family without the faff. High in fibre, no added sugar, dairy-free, gluten-free. It’s perfect hot or cold. The classic chocolate has become a breakfast staple in our house! See the range here thegreatbritishporridgeco.co.uk. Single bags start from £3.99.

The Protein Ball Co – 100% natural, bite-size protein balls 

These tiny balls of joy have got us yelling for more at 40NW HQ. High protein, gluten-free, no palm oil, no added sugar and packed with vitamins, these bad boys will get you through that afternoon slump. So many awesome combinations to choose from. We love the Peanut Butter ones soooooo much. You can pick a bag up from £1.99 direct from theproteinballco.com.

Looking after our bodies & minds

tried and tested

Dr. Vegan Supplements

If there are two things that have taken a pummeling during the pandemic, it has to be our energy levels and eyes. Sitting staring at a screen for all hours of the day and battling pandemic fatigue do not good bedfellows make. Thankfully Dr. Vegan’s Uber Energy Complete B-Complex and Screen Eyes Vision Health have been kicking us back into check on both fronts. Think naturally sourced supplements that are more absorbable, more affordable, made in the UK and not just for vegans! The perfect way to better yourself and the planet in one fell swoop. Shop the range from £6.49 at drvegan.com.

Raw Beauty Lab vegan collegen

Taking a collagen supplement when you hit 40 is a non-negotiable in our book. Why? In our forties, collagen has already been reduced signficantly and it is this that leads to wrinkles and sagging. But what if you aren’t keen on the plethora of bovine-based collagen supplements on the market because quite frankly, they can taste foul! Cue Raw Beauty Lab’s Vegan collagen which is made from skin boosting botanicals and harnesses the power of plants to protect and support beauty and wellness, with a delicious natural berry flavour which is hugely refreshing for a collagen supplement. Without a collagen after taste in site, we are converts! Available at Raw Beauty Lab at £34.95 for a month’s supply.

REDjuvenate red light therapy

If you have been battling fatigue, insomnia, pain or an injury recently then let us introduce you to the wonder that is Red Light Therapy. Harnesses the healing power of red and near infrared light, through photobiomodulation (PBM) and proven benefits for aforementioned applications, a 15 minute session at REDjuvenate Medical gave us the best night’s sleep ever (a major win for us insomniacs!) and boundless energy which felt like turning back the clock by twenty years. So how does it work? RLT targets mitochondria which are responsible for the energy generating spark plugs found in every cell. Many chronic illnesses are associated with some element of mitochondrial dysfunction, therefore, RLT is a targeted and effective treatment for many conditions. One session costs £85 (and is worth its weight in gold!). For more information on RLT and to book see redjuvenatemedical.com.

Efamol® Efalex Brain Formula Liquid

We all know the best way to get the nutrients we need is by eating a balanced and healthy diet, but if you are struggling to make sure you eat the recommended amount of oily fish, it may be worth considering taking a supplement. At a very reasonable RRP £9.99 for 150ml it’s available from efamol.com, Amazon, Boots the Chemists, health food stores and independent pharmacies. Always remember that food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle.

Wassen Magnesium-OK supplements

Wassen Magnesium-OK is a one-a-day nutritional supplement especially for women to help support general health and vitality throughout the monthly cycle and beyond. It contains a balanced combination of six important minerals including Magnesium which contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and normal psychological function, plus chromium which helps keep blood glucose levels normal. Magnesium OK also contains eight vitamins including Vitamin B6, which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity. Wassen Magnesium-OK (£11.99) is available to buy from wassen.com, Amazon, Boots the Chemists, health food stores and independent pharmacies. Food supplements should not replace a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Adbra Happiness Jars

With so many of us spending more time at our screens than ever before, sometimes we need a little prompt to encourage us to step away from the daily craziness of life and be in the moment. The latest addition to our desk comes in the from of an Adbra Mindfulness Jar. Think 30 micro mindfulness challenges to inspire and relax you and help you be more at peace if only for a moment. We absolutely love dipping into our jar when we’ve hit a wall during our working day and need to hit the reset button. The jars are also available in motivation, sustainability, friendship, self-kindness themes and more. Available at adbra.co.uk for £12.50.

The Positive Day Planner

Did you know it takes 21 days to form a new habit? We have been working on our positivity muscle at 40 Now What with the help of The Positive Day Planner. The Positive Day Planner is a 21-day gratitude practicing, affirmation affirming and self-commitment measuring mind dumping essential- that allows you to create your own happiness one day at a time. It’s the perfect tool for reflecting on the good things in your life, holding yourself accountable and feeling more positive about life – no matter what curveballs it may be throwing at you. The Positive Day Planner is available in 5 different styles at £10 each from thepositivedayplanner.com.

Dragonfly and Canamis CBD oils

If you’ve previously wanted to reap the numerous health benefits of CBD oils (anxiety, pain and insomnia relief but to name a few) but have been put off by the taste in on past attempts then you will love the CBD oils from both Dragonfly and Canamis. Think flavours in peppermint, anise, orange and cinnamon which really take the otherwise usual ashray taste away that can often be offputting for people. Needless to say, we are converts! Dragonfly CBD oil is available in a range of strengths available at Boots, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and online at dragonflycbd.com from £19.95. Canamis CBD oil comes in a whole range of favours with prices from £26. You can buy direct from their website canamis.com

Royce Lingerie

You know what we have really started hating over the last year? Underwired bras! So when we discovered Royce Lingerie – purveyors of beautiful wire-free bras, we could have cried with joy. Think incredible support and comfort rolled into one, we are absolutely in love with their super sexy Zahra matching set. The rounded cups are non-padded with a removable panel at the centre front offering the option of more or less coverage and the cups are lined with cotton making them super soft. The Zahra bra is £38 at royce-lingerie.co.uk.

Beautifying with

tried and tested

Eye Amour – Bella Vida Santa Barbara

Be gone eye wrinkles and fine lines! The latest addition to our beauty routine comes Stateside in the form of Bella Vida’s Eye Amour Serum. Creamy, rich and unscented – making it also perfect for those with sensitive skin – its lush blend of organic evening primrose, soothing organic aloe, vitamin E and rich organic oils do a stella job of deeply hydrating, soothing, repair ingand renewing cells of your fragile under-eye skin while you sleep. Eye Amour is $59.99 at bellavidasb.com.

Footner Exfoliating Socks

Feeling repulsed by the dry skin accumulating on your feet? So were we, until we discovered Footner Exfoliating Socks. Good god, the amount of dry skin that comes off your skin when using these babies is nothing short of INSANE. An intensive foot mask that peels away hard and dry skin in one 60-minute application then banishes all dead skin within  7-10 days. Super easy to use with no cutting, scrubbing or pain and not a foot file in sight, our feet still feel like a baby’s bottom 4 weeks on and counting. This is the future of feet people! Footner Exfoliating Socks are available to buy at Superdrug, Boots and Amazon for £9.99.

Face Yoga

Yes you read that right – face yoga! Did you know that just a few simple face yoga exercises each day can help to combat wrinkles, sagginess and puffiness we all battle against in our 40s. Whether you pick a few facial exercises to do in the shower daily or decide to have a massive self care session and dedicated face yoga sesh, you need a copy of Danielle Collins’ Face Yoga: Firming Facial Exercises & Inspiring Tips to Glow, Inside and Out which is packed with exactly that. If you’ve never tried face yoga before then okay…you may be silly….but let’s talk again in ten years time when you will be looking younger and more radiant than everyone else and therefore definitely not silly in the slightest! Danielle Collins’ Face Yoga is available from Amazon for £9.79.

***GIVEAWAY***

Would you like to get your hands on a bounty of items featured above. We love to share, so that’s why we’ve put together a massive giveaway to win a whopping £1000 worth of prizes! Would you like to win 10 sessions of REDjuvenate light therapy, a vegan and keto Dietly box, the whole range of SO PERF Prebiotic + Probiotic Bars and Juices, a selection of Berczy low calorie, low abv seltzers, a box of Doughlicious cookies, some Happi Free From – Oat Milk Chocolate Bars, a selection of Great British Porridge Co Instants, a range of no added sugar bite-size protein balls from The Protein Ball Co, a ADBRA Happiness Jar, a Royce lingerie matching bra and knicker Zahra set, a Positive Day Planner, a stash of Dr Vegan Screen Eyes and Uber Energy, two month’s supply of Raw Beauty Lab vegan collegen, some Canamis Peppermint CBD oil, Efamol Efalex Brain Formula, a year’s supply of Wassen Magnesium-OK supplements, some Footner Exfoliating socks plus some Eye Amour eye serum and a copy of Danielle Collins’ Face Yoga?

PHEW! That is indeed a MASSIVE giveaway! and you can enter it over on our Instagram as soon as it launches.

Follow us on Instagram now to be the first to find out and enter.

Trying to be fit and healthy?

Yeah… me too and it’s hard and it’s boring and I’m often so overwhelmed with information I don’t always know which way to turn.

But in my 40s, I know that if I nail it now, the ride thorough the next decade will be smoother and I know I will reap the benefits physically, mentally and hormonally so I’m trying to be fit and healthy. 

Know your BMI

The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.

According to the NHS, an ideal BMI for most adults is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.

I’m 5’6 and I currently weight 9 stone and 10 pounds. This puts my BMI at 21.8, right bang smack in the healthy weight range. Hurrah I hear you cry. But actually I feel bloated, uncomfortable and I have zero motivation to exercise. At this rate I will NEVER lose those extra 5lbs I’ve been trying to lose for 10 years. Aren’t we all? 

I’m very much an all or nothing kinda gal. This is useful when it comes to trying to be fit and healthy because when I go for it, I go hard and I get results fast. But then there’s always a road block. The latest was my covid jab. It floored me for a couple of days and I got out of the routine of exercising. For 2 weeks I just couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. Accompany that with a few birthdays and over indulging and here I am. Again. Feeling really crap, spotty, bloated and dehydrated. Time to get sorted. Again. 

I love the cake

I LOVE food and I never really stop thinking about it. Often I think about what I’m going to eat while I’m eating and I’m constantly looking at food porn. You’ll often find me flicking through and drooling over the BBC Food magazine. When I’m good I’m really really good. But when I’m bad, I’m a naughty little piggy. The hardest time of the day for me is around 4pm. I may have made incredibly healthy choices up until this point then it all goes to shit. I turn into the demon snack searcher. We can’t have junk food in the house because I can’t be trusted with it. I’ve been know to snaffle cooks chocolate drops from the bottom of the baking box in a desperate to get a hit of the choc.

Setting boundaries 

I have an addictive personality. It’s interesting when it comes to food because if there’s something I like, I become quite compulsive about it. This type of behaviour might go on for a few months until I move on to the next ‘thing.’ Because of this, years ago I set myself some very important boundaries. I will only eat 1 of something in 1 day. Sounds bonkers huh? It probably is but it works for me because I love crisps and if I didn’t have healthy boundaries, I would consume at least 3 packets a day. If I have a bar of chocolate, I’ll only have 1. See where I’m going with this? It works really well for me. How do you manage your diet when you’re trying to be fit and healthy? 

Benefits of exercise to keep fit and healthy

So this week I’m back to it. Exercising has huge mental health benefits for me. After a run or a skipping session, I can literally feel the endorphins pumping through my body and it makes me feel happier, motivated and alive. I run 3k. 3 times a week. I’m aware that my knees are JUST starting to feel the strain so I’m keeping my runs shorter and concentrating on running the route faster. It’s so important to find an exercise you enjoy because if you want to feel healthier and happier, there is no easy quick fix. I build exercise into my daily routine. I run as soon as I’m awake at 6.30am then it’s out of the way for the day and it gives me that extra spring in my step. I’ll add other various cardio and strength exercises throughout the week but get bored easily so I’m always mixing it up.

In my 40s, I want to spend some time exploring foods that will support my transition into the next stage. (I can’t even bear to say it the M word) 

Trigger foods

We all know that sugary foods are bad for us but they taste SO good and only last night I was polishing off half a tub of Ben and Jerrys. Sugar is a real trigger for me so I’m mindful of it. When I do have something really sugary, I really really enjoy it then drink a shit load of water in a lame attempt to apologise to my body.

Over the years I’ve tried many lotions and potions to help with various skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis. 2 years ago I experimented by cutting out milk. I’d love to say dairy but I cannot give up cheese yet. A life without cheese is no life for me right now. So I switched to oat milk and while I couldn’t really tell the difference while I was on it…I went back to dairy milk after 3 months and I felt it straight away. My sinuses were instantly blocked, I felt clogged and my skin broke out. So I have oat milk and it’s lovely. I know I’m on the right path. But I will take it slow. In the daytime I only drink water. I try to drink enough so that my wee is clear but it feels like a consorted effort. It’s worth it though. When I drink enough water, I generally feel so much better.

What’s the deal with inflammation?

Inflammation can cause so many problems so I wanted to look at a food plan that included lots of food that targeted inflammation. Turns out, it’s super important. 

Karen Preece Smith, DipION, mBANT, CNHC, IFM  is a Registered Nutritional Therapist from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and www.alturum.co.uk. She states: ‘In general, inflammatory foods can be used to protect the body against free radical damage, As free radicals and endotoxins (environmental toxins) may accumulate with age, it is especially important for women (and men) over the age of 40 years to include anti-inflammatory foods in their diet. These foods include, but are not limited to; turmeric, blueberries, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli. These natural foods all contain flavonoids and polyphenols which have been researched for their anti-inflammatory properties.’

In an attempt to feel better, I had dark rye crackers with mashed avocado, tinned sardines and a handful of cherry tomatoes. 

I asked Karen if my lunch today was a good choice. She said, ‘This lunch has a great balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and phytonutrients in the vegetables.’ She said she would add a drink of Green tea or a turmeric latte with oat/ coconut milk and a dessert of blueberries in kefir. 

Well that sounds rather bloody lovely so perhaps this getting old and eating healthy malarky isn’t going to be so bad after all? 

Are you trying to be fit and healthy in your 40s?