Staying strong and fit in your 40s and beyond

As we move into our forties there is a lot to celebrate! We have seen quite a bit of life, and as a result, we are wiser, more centred, and are ready to conquer the next half of our lifetime. But in the midst of all of this empowerment, our bodies are changing. As our hormones start to fluctuate we can experience disrupted sleep, night sweats, bloating, fatigue, and recurring muscle aches and injuries. Often we feel that despite our exercise and eating patterns not changing, our shapes are, particularly around our middle and this can be disheartening when you are trying to stay strong and fit in your 40s.

What is happening and how can you stay strong and fit in your 40s and beyond?

Your regular menstrual cycle starts to change in your forties where our hormones are in a state of flux, with oestrogen becoming dominant. We start to have more anovulatory cycles, meaning that as an egg isn’t being released, there isn’t the stimulus to produce progesterone, so causing a hormonal discrepancy. This is where we start to feel those confusing changes in our bodies, and the closer we get to the actual cessation of our periods, the worse these become.

How does this affect our training and body composition?

Oestrogen often promotes inflammation. This leads to an increase in total body inflammation, and a poor ability to adapt and respond, with a predisposition to things like iron deficiency, sore joints, puffiness, picking up respiratory tract infections and so on.  We also have a decreased sensitivity to insulin, and how they moderate blood sugar control. This is what can cause that storage of belly fat.

What can we do?

We should approach this as the new, positive chapter in our lives that it is. Women do have the capacity to continue to be strong, powerful and fit in your 40s and beyond. However, if inactive, around 3% of lean muscle mass can decrease each decade from the age of 30. 

But the good news is, it is never too late to start, we just need to look at ways to train and maintain that neuromuscular stimulation and muscle integrity. Here are some key considerations we need to take into account when planning our training so you can stay strong and fit in your 40s:

Lift heavy

We really need to build in some quality resistance training, low-rep heavy weights. Not only does this help with neuromuscular action, it also increases the stress on the bone and helps with bone turnover, increasing or preserving bone density. Here we are looking at exercises like squats and deadlifts, to a maximum of 5 or 6 reps.  Safety is a key factor here of course and you should work with a professional when you are learning to do this to ensure you are lifting correctly.

fit in your 40s

High intensity interval training 

One of the best ways to stimulate muscle production, these short, sharp interval workouts prompt your body to build lean muscle and shrink visceral fat more effectively than a slow burn endurance workout. It also helps your body to process insulin efficiently, making you less prone to insulin resistance, or becoming overweight. These intervals can be built into most types of exercise, from running to cycling, rowing etc and work with very short (20 to 90 seconds maximum) of high intensity exercise, followed by longer recoveries. The good news is that if these are done correctly, the total workout shouldn’t last more than about 30 minutes.

Plyometrics 

These exercises include exercises like jumping, hopping or bounding, or otherwise giving your bones and muscles the extra stimulus that comes when you push off against gravity and land back down. The key here is the multi-directional aspect rather than running, with exercises such as jumping jacks, side hops, skipping and so on which improve muscular strength, bone health, body composition, posture and physical performance.

fit in your 40s

Do less volume and more intensity 

This is the area where a lot of people struggle. The tendency at this time is to push harder and longer to get rid of this newly acquired body fat, but ultimately that backfires, putting you into a state of low-energy, high stress cortisol cycling. Encouragingly, women have that inherent ability to go long because of the sex differences within the muscle enzyme activity, as well as the body being predisposed to endurance. So if you want to keep in those long, social workouts, make them just that, keeping in your lower heart rate zones where you can still hold a conversation.

In summary

All of these specific interventions work to not only to decrease visceral abdominal fat, increase our insulin sensitivity, increase our lean-mass development and the way our muscles fire, they also build stability around the joints. When we do this, we increase the ability of the muscles around the joint to withstand heavy weight and withstand the pressures of lifting and moving through resistance, not only with exercise, but everyday life.

fit in your 40s

Working with a coach

If you are keen to work towards a goal of staying strong and fit in your 40s, or simply be the best version of yourself in your forties and beyond, then it is worth considering working with a coach. Denise Yeats works in a very holistic way, advising on diet and nutrition in tandem with exercise, and constantly listening to her clients and the way they are adapting not only physically, but also mentally to the training she is setting them. 

Denise Yeats is a triathlete and IRONMAN Certified Coach with a passion for personal development of women in the perimenopausal and menopausal stages of their lives. Find out more at www.deniseyeats.co.uk.

Feeling perimenopausal? Here’s how to decode your perimenopausal mindset

Remember when we thought we would have it all nailed in our forties? Remember when we walked into the kitchen and actually remembered what we walked into the kitchen for; and didn’t have to walk out and back in again seventy billion times to remember that all we wanted was just a cup of coffee? Feeling perimenopausal and wondering what has become of your life?

The advent of peri-menopause seems to come at the hardest time of our lives – often as we’re navigating children getting older but somehow needing us more. It’s a time when some of us are thinking of running our own business and then BANG here comes the brain fog, the anxiety, the overwhelm and all of the rage.

So what can we do about it?

Well we can try and rock in a corner, but then someone will probably ask us what’s for tea and whether we can give them a lift to their mates round the corner…

So we have no choice but to crack on and just push forward, even if we’re feeling perimenopausal, right?

You have a choice

Well we do have a choice if we’re feeling perimenopausal. We have a choice to make every day and it comes down to mindset (and in my case a sh!t load of HRT).

Navigating the murky world of feeling perimenopausal, and everything it entails, can become a daily battle and our best asset to learning to swim in the channel is to train our brains, take back control and work really blinking hard to master our mindset.

The key to mastering your mindset when you’re feeling perimenopausal, to rewiring the main frame, is practice and commitment. That’s the key. If we simply think about it, there’s no benefit. We have to act on it. We have to take action. And there is only one person that can do it. It’s the same person who takes all the laundry up the stairs rather than simply stretching across it… That’s right, it’s you. It’s me. It’s the mental mum rocking in the corner still wishing the bloody fairy would turn up with her magic wand and just do something for her.

Our mindset is the key to the door. It is the magic wand (in the absence of a housekeeper, cook and chauffeur). If we can manage and master our mindset then we take back control, and we can stem (some) of the overwhelm, fear and rage that is often part of  the Peri-Menopause Party happening in our head.

Step one

The first step is simply self-awareness. How often do you get up in the morning and check in with how you’re feeling, what your mood is and how you’re going to approach the day? How often do you give yourself that crucial five minutes in the morning that can then impact your mood for the rest of the day?

As you’re waking up and slurping on that vat-load of coffee each morning, ask yourself how you are feeling; and then here’s the magic, ask yourself how that is going to impact your day and what your triggers are going to be.

So if you’re feeling perimenopausal and knackered, and you acknowledge that you’re more tired than anyone who grew up watching Nightmare on Elm Street, you can understand that you are potentially going to be triggered, and therefore should pause and step away before you totally blow a gasket. (Although I’m not sure Mother Theresa would remain calm during a morning routine school run with a teenager.)

feeling perimenopausal

Step two

There’s power in choosing your mood, and not letting it choose you when you’re feeling perimenopausal. In the Manchester Mindset I don’t advocate all of the positive affirmation and some high fiving of the mirror to get the day started. I advocate a much more realistic approach. Understand how you are feeling, understand how you are going to react given your mood and pop in a moment to pause.

The power of the pause is the best thing we can gift ourselves (well other than a week on a beach in Thailand with Tom Hardy). By stopping, by pausing and by giving ourselves a chance to process, we stand a better chance of managing our mood and our reactions and triggers.

Our brains have something called the default mode network – it’s where all of our experiences are processed, and it only comes into play when we are in active rest.

Science is very clear on the amount of rest we need: it’s 42 per cent. That’s the percentage of time your body and brain need you to spend resting. And that is about 10 hours out of every 24. Yep – none of that ‘I only need four hours’ sleep malarkey’.

Ladies, we need to be in a state of rest for 10 hours out of 24 so that we can function and fly. It’s simple; if you consistently don’t take the 42 per cent, the 42 per cent will take you. It will sneak up on you, it will hunt you down and it will pull you under – so give yourself some time back to pause, to process, to rest.

Step three


Third, and finally, there is power in a good routine and a plan. There is freedom in routine and rituals, particularly when you’re feeling perimenopausal.

Find yourself a routine in the morning and stick to it – no I don’t mean get up at 5am for a HIIT workout. I mean get yourself a cup of coffee in peace before the shouting begins. A big benefit of a routine is that it signals to the brain that it’s an automatic response, which means the brain then has increased mental resources for other tasks. Eliminating the need to constantly make decisions about a particular set of activities reduces “cognitive load”. 

Creating predictability reduces stress, which in turn can give your brain more energy to concentrate on other tasks. 

In a nutshell, once you decide to do something, it frees up your brain power and you get more sh!t done. Find your routine and you will give yourself some headspace – which is what we all crave during these bonkers years.

Feeling perimenopausal

So here’s your checklist to navigate the perimenopause:

  • Check in with yourself,
  • Check in with your triggers
  • Gift yourself the power of the pause
  • Rest, find a routine and repeat
  • Drink the coffee

Oh – and have a bloody good shout and a swear when you need to. Because let’s face it, we’re perfectly imperfect.

Sarah Knight, founder of Mind The Gap Academy, for consideration for any profiling slots and any features surrounding motherhood and mindset. Sarah is full of practical tips about how to rewire the brain, establish new habits and shift mindset, as well as juggle the menopause, being a mum and running a business. 

With over 20 years experience in business, Sarah specialises in providing tailored training and coaching programmes to individuals and organisations through her academy, Mind the Gap, to help them mind the gap between running a business, managing a business and staying sane!

Sarah Knight is founder of Mind The Gap Academy. She specialising in providing tailored training and coaching programmes to individuals and organisations through her academy, Mind the Gap, to help them mind rewire the brain, establish new habits and shift mindset. You can follow Sarah at www.instagram.com/mindthegap.academy and learn more about Sarah’s latest online courses by heading to www.mindthegap.academy.

Beautiful lady photo created by 8photo, Flat lay photo created by freepik, week photo created by rawpixel.com

5 ways to manage the menopause without HRT

The well-documented Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) shortage has given many women reason to worry as this essential treatment helps to alleviate menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, low mood, anxiety and insomnia.

Whether you’re struggling with the perimenopause or menopause, we’re sharing five important ways to cope courtesy of Vitaminology – a health tech company reinventing how consumers discover and shop for vitamins helping them discover and compare the best supplements for them.

5 ways to cope and manage menopause without HRT

Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle coupled with nutritional supplements or botanical therapies offer natural, yet effective strategies to help manage symptoms for many peri-menopausal or menopausal women. 

Eat a whole foods, balanced diet

… to help balance hormones. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars, processed foods and saturated fats. Opt for a wide variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, good quality lean protein and healthy fats. Remember that spicy foods as well as alcohol and caffeine are triggers for hot flushes and night sweats. Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week (think SMASH – salmon, mackerel, anchovies and herring and sardines) will also help to support hormone balance.

Exercising regularly

…has so many benefits including our ability to cope with the menopause. It supports a healthy weight, cardiovascular function, improved sleep and the ability to cope with stress. Regular exercise doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym (although weight-bearing exercise is known to be extremely beneficial for bone growth and repair, reducing the risk of osteoporosis) so find something that fits into your lifestyle such as a yoga class or a long walk every day.

menopause without HRT

Keep stress at bay

…and promote calm using self-help techniques such as deep breathing, gentle exercise (ie, walking, Pilates, Yoga, Tai chi), meditation or journaling. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture may also be beneficial when coping with the menopause. A calmer mind will help to achieve a calmer body.

Sleep well

When we sleep our body uses this time to rejuvenate, so good quality sleep is vital when battling menopause symptoms. Try good sleep hygiene techniques such as switching off devices an hour before bedtime, reading or listening to music before going to sleep, taking a hot Epsom salt bath (contains magnesium to help relax the muscles and mind) to help get a good night’s rest. It is super beneficial to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and sleep for 7-8 hours.

Consider supplementation

Sometimes in life, we need a little extra help – and this is no different when it comes to our health and wellbeing. There are number food supplements that can help with the perimenopause and menopause including multivitamins specifically formulated. In addition to these, a Vitamin B Complex will help to support energy, mood and brain function or try Vitamin E to relieve hot flushes and vaginal dryness.

Summary

Whether you are considering HRT or trying to find a suitable alternative, always discuss first with your GP who can advise you of the benefits and risks in your individual case. Consult with a registered Nutritional Therapist who can support you through the menopause with advice on diet, lifestyle and supplementation.

Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle.

References:

  • Cagnacci A, Venier M. The Controversial History of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(9):602. Published 2019 Sep 18. doi:10.3390/medicina55090602
  • Chen MN, Lin CC, Liu CF. Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Climacteric. 2015;18(2):260-269. doi:10.3109/13697137.2014.966241
  • Dunneram Y, Greenwood DC, Cade JE. Diet, menopause and the risk of ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019;78(3):438-448. doi:10.1017/S0029665118002884
  • Gava G, Orsili I, Alvisi S, Mancini I, Seracchioli R, Meriggiola MC. Cognition, Mood and Sleep in Menopausal Transition: The Role of Menopause Hormone Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(10):668. Published 2019 Oct 1. doi:10.3390/medicina55100668
  • Hill DA, Crider M, Hill SR. Hormone Therapy and Other Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2016;94(11):884-889.
  • Johnson A, Roberts L, Elkins G. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X19829380. doi:10.1177/2515690X19829380
  • Joseph E. Pizzorno, Michael T. Murray, Herb Joiner-Bey, 53 – Menopause, Editor(s): Joseph E. Pizzorno, Michael T. Murray, Herb Joiner-Bey, The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine (Third Edition), Churchill Livingstone, 2016, Pages 624-647,ISBN 9780702055140.
  • Ko SH, Kim HS. Menopause-Associated Lipid Metabolic Disorders and Foods Beneficial for Postmenopausal Women. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):202. Published 2020 Jan 13. doi:10.3390/nu12010202
  • Larmo PS, Yang B, Hyssälä J, Kallio HP, Erkkola R. Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Maturitas. 2014;79(3):316-321. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.07.010
  • Lobo RA, Pickar JH, Stevenson JC, Mack WJ, Hodis HN. Back to the future: Hormone replacement therapy as part of a prevention strategy for women at the onset of menopause. Atherosclerosis. 2016;254:282-290. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.10.005
  • Rizzoli R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Dawson-Hughes B, Weaver C. Nutrition and bone health in women after the menopause. Womens Health (Lond). 2014;10(6):599-608. doi:10.2217/whe.14.40

photos by wayhomestudio, valeria_aksakova, wirestock

Hormones in your 40s: Here’s what you need to know

Hormones – something most of us pretty much take for granted until they start to wreck havoc in our lives. Truth is, my struggle with hormones began much earlier than most when I had to have my thryoid removed due to precancerous cells in my thirties, and then again after the birth of my daughter. Having been on the receiving side of plenty of grief with my hormones, I am hugely respectful of them, and know just how important it is to understand them if we want to feel okay within ourselves. But what about hormones in your 40s? Well, that is a whole other chapter, right my friends?

During my thirties when I felt so bad I felt that I was actually going mad, it was The Marion Gluck Clinic that came to the resuce. They righted the wrong that nobody else seemed to be able to understand, and for that I am every thankful. That’s why this World Menopause Day, I really wanted to work together with them – as a world-leader specialising in hormone balancing therapy using bioidentical hormones – to produce this quick guide to hormones in your 40s.

It is both a privilege and honour that we have Dr Marion Gluck – Hormone and Women’s Health Specialist and Founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic – herself to share her incredible knowledge on the subject of hormones in your 40s.

Can you explain what exactly happens to women’s hormones their 40s?

From around the age of 40 ovaries will slowly lose their function and the effects of hormonal change starts to become evident as the body makes the natural transition to menopause. This phase is called the perimenopause, and the reproductive hormones, most significantly estrogen and progesterone, start to decrease.

When women are perimenopausal it is likely they will notice symptoms but will still have their period.  During this time, hormones will start to fluctuate on a big scale. There could be some months when ovulation occurs and then there could be some when it doesn’t. It’s a time of extremes and as a result, can cause dramatic mood swings and extreme symptoms. It can be a very difficult time for women because they often don’t understand what’s going on and just don’t feel themselves.

The ‘normal’ age for perimenopause varies. Most will become aware of the transition when they reach their mid to late forties, but some women can begin to experience symptoms of perimenopause as early as the age of 35. Often the timing of this phase is similar to the time when a woman’s mother went through the same transition. That being said, the length of time and severity of menopause-related symptoms for any individual woman cannot be predicted, and every menopause is unique. Genetic and environmental factors are an important factor in determining when a woman may enter the menopause.

Hormones in your 40s

What sort of knock-on effects do these changes have in relation to our bodies and minds?

Although some women will sail through perimenopause, many will experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Those who experience severe symptoms often find it impacts on quality of life. Signs of perimenopause are many and varied. Symptoms can include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual
  • Low libido
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • PMS
  • Fatigue
  • Hot flushes
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Anger and irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Memory loss
  • Night sweats
  • Dysfunctional uterine bleeding
  • Anaemia
  • Bloating
  • Fluid retention
  • Breast tenderness
  • Aches and painful joints
  • Frequent headaches
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Dry skin

Can you share some insider tips on how to manage

a) Sleep problems

A good night’s sleep is the best treat your body can ask for, especially when perimenopausal or menopausal. Good sleep helps to balance blood sugar, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, increases energy and concentration, and reduces anxiety. There are several factors that can affect sleep such as stress, hormonal changes, diet, and inflammation to name a few. For better sleep try the following:

– Regular moderate exercise is an excellent way to support good sleep. 

– Try limiting your alcohol intake, particularly in the evenings. Too much alcohol can have a detrimental effect on sleep quality as it reduces REM sleep (the restorative part of the sleep cycle) and can interrupt the circadian rhythm, a study has shown.

– Avoid foods containing a substance called tyramine, particularly in the evening, as this causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Foods with high content of tyramine include aged cheeses, red wine, some beers, cured meats, and smoked fish.

– If you are experiencing or have experienced prolonged periods of stress in the past, it may be recommended to get your daily cortisol pattern checked (a qualified medical professional or naturopath can help you with that). A disrupted cortisol pattern can affect your energy levels as well as sleep. If this is the case, a class of herbs known as adaptogens can be of great help.

– Getting your daily boost of sunshine is the way forward to better sleep. This is because we need sunlight to keep our circadian rhythm going, which tells our bodies when it is time to sleep and to be awake. Sunlight also plays a role in Vitamin D production, which is essential for so many aspects of our health.

Hormones in your 40s

b) Spots

The skin contains estrogen receptors, as well as receptors for progesterone and testosterone. Therefore, deficiencies of these three hormones contribute to skin aging, in both men and women and results in the skin becomes more prone to sun damage, pimples and rashes, and can be easily irritated.

Acne, which is usually a curse of adolescence (teenage acne) can also occur for the first time later in life (adult onset acne). All acne is hormone related but when we talk about ‘hormonal acne’ we typically refer to adult female acne.

Hormonal acne tends to affect more the lower part of the face and adult female acne can present with cyclical outbreaks and is usually more resistant to the standard treatments. Adult female acne can be caused by different hormonal imbalances such as raised male androgens or an imbalance

When experiencing female acne it is recommended that the woman complete hormone profiling to help determine which hormones require rebalancing. A bespoke treatment plan can then be actioned to target their needs. Prescription hormone face creams can also be used to improve female acne. Unlike commercially available skincare products, prescription creams are formulated to cater to the individual, addressing specific concerns.

c) Brain drain/Lethargy

Many women describe experiencing ‘brain fog’ during perimenopause and menopause and think that symptoms such as forgetfulness and increased anxiety are signs of them getting old or ‘going mad’. However, many of these symptoms can be attributed to the hormonal changes that take place during menopause.

Research has shown that certain lifestyle modifications can have a positive impact on cognitive function during menopause.  A recent study found that cognitive training, for example, doing puzzles or learning a new skill, improved people’s memory. Practising mindfulness and doing exercises, such as yoga and Tai Chi have also proved to be effective for improving cognitive function, partly through their stress-reducing qualities.

A balanced diet, low in sugar, caffeine and alcohol, is also recommended. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet, full of ‘good fats’ and fresh produce, is particularly beneficial for cognitive function.

Sleep is also vital as it removes toxins from the brain and quality, deep sleep enables memory consolidation and information processing from the day. Limiting screen time at night is essential as the blue light emitted from devices causes decreased levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Hormones in your 40s

What other options are out there for balancing hormones in your 40s?

If you’d rather not take hormone replacement therapy, then there are some natural alternatives you can try. One suggestion is Agnus Castus which is said to break down excessive hormones and rebalance them. The other widely known remedy is Evening Primrose oil which many people swear helps relieve menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms.

What are some signs you should not ignore when it comes to hormonal imbalance?

An optimal balance of hormones is vital to overall wellbeing including brain function, cardiovascular health, bones, vaginal and urethral health. We use bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), an alternative to HRT, to replenish these hormones to your optimal levels in order to maintain health, energy, mood and brain function. Any symptoms that affect quality of life, or brain or body function, should be checked by a professional.

When should women seek professional help?

As women move through each phase of perimenopause and menopause, hormone levels can fluctuate significantly causing hormonal imbalance. These vital hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone remain important for bones, vaginal and urethral health, skin, brain function and cardiovascular health. It is therefore important to effectively balance and replenish these hormones in order to maintain health, energy, mood and brain function.

Menopause may be something all women go through, but that doesn’t mean there is a ‘one size fits all’ treatment path. Every woman is unique, and their symptoms will be unique too. Women should seek help if their symptoms are having a detrimental impact on their life, and they feel unable to achieve tasks that before were commonplace. By looking at the whole picture, including lifestyle factors, nutrition and family medical history with a professional, a tailored treatment plan can be produced.

Have you experienced any of the above knock on effects of hormones in your 40s? Do leave a comment below and share your experiences and join our community on Instagram here where we’ll be keeping the conversation going.

About The Marion Gluck Clinic

The Marion Gluck Clinic is the UK’s leading medical clinic that pioneered the use of bioidentical hormones to treat menopause, perimenopause and other hormone related issues. Headed up by Dr. Marion Gluck herself, the clinic uses her method of bioidentical hormonal treatment to rebalance hormones to improve wellbeing, quality of life and to slow down ageing. 

Hair photo created by lookstudio, clock vector created by freepik, woman photo created by karlyukav, Hand photo created by 8photo

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.