Perimenopause is the stage preceding menopause and is characterised by changes in the length of the menstrual cycle, often shortening and then lengthening and taking on an overall erratic pattern because of declining ovarian function. The blood flow can change and vary from very light to very heavy and there are hormonal fluctuations that can induce a range of symptoms including:
Hot flashes, which can range in duration and severity and occur at any time of the day and night and can be accompanied by increased heart rate.
Night sweats, sometimes to the point of needing to change the sheets and which can cause sleep disturbance.
Insomnia and disruption to the usual sleep routine that impacts energy levels and mood.
Vaginal dryness and atrophy, which can cause discomfort during sex, increased urination and urinary tract infections.
Mood imbalance, often presenting as anxiety, depression/low mood and/or irritability.
Hair loss, often accompanied by increased facial hair growth.
Weight changes, usually resulting in weight gain around the truncal area.
Headaches, migraine, body aches and joint pain due to reduced levels of oestrogen.
Reduced bone density, that reduces over time together with muscle mass.
Fatigue, reduced libido and cognitive decline/brain fog.
Perimenopause usually lasts for about 4-6 years but can last up to 10 years and commonly begins around the age of mid 40’s but can be years earlier or later.
If you haven’t already, this is a time to start thinking about preventative healthcare. This transition can increase the risk of certain disease such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.
Research indicates that regular exercise, a diet rich in nutrients tailored to the perimenopausal/menopausal stage as well as the individual’s symptoms, nutritional supplementation and herbal medicine can reduce the duration and severity of perimenopausal symptoms as well as the risk of future chronic disease.
Including food sources rich in phyto-oestrogens, fibre, calcium, B vitamins and antioxidants can help to support women through this stage and beyond. Removing problematic foods including refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, hot/spicy drinks and foods, saturated fats and trans fats is helpful.
Addressing specific symptoms and increased/genetic susceptibility to chronic disease can be done with targeted supplementation and herbal medicine.
Lifestyle factors play an important role during this stage by reducing symptoms and working
to reduce future chronic disease. Regular moderate exercise, weight management, stress
regulation, sunshine and good sleep hygiene practices help to play a role in symptom
alleviation and preventative health care.
Conventional medical doctors may prescribe MHT/HRT, the Mirena or the Pill to treat symptoms. Integrative doctors and naturopaths may prescribe natural medicine, nutritional medicine and lifestyle modifications to target symptoms. In any case, it is usually an extended treatment period whilst the individual navigates their way through this transition.
During perimenopause, other areas can be implicated including the thyroid, cardiovascular system, adrenal glands and musculoskeletal system so a Naturopath can arrange and analyse further investigations including functional testing and blood work if necessary.
If you feel you need some extra education and support around managing this stage of your life, our Naturopath, Belle, can assist you with dietary and lifestyle advice and a customised prescription for nutritional supplementation and herbal medicine. Bookings can be made online at http://www.nbip.com.au