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  • Writer's pictureGemma Westfold

Perimenopause: is it sneaking up on you?

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

The peri-menopause can be one of the trickiest times for women to get their head around. One minute you’re 30, full of energy to do all the things you want in your life. Yes, there may be challenges but none of them seem unmanageable. Life – especially when you look back – seemed pretty great.

All of a sudden it seems life and age have snuck up on you. You’re just not quite the same person you used to be...

You notice you get tired more easily, some days you’re literally dragging yourself through the day, you’ve lost your get up and go for no reason, the weight you used to be able to lose in the run-up to an important event stays stubbornly in place no matter what you try and you can’t seem to shift that foggy feeling in your brain. But it can’t be the menopause, right? You’re too young…

The menopause actually refers to a time when you haven’t had a single period for at least a year. The run-up to it can last for years and it’s called the peri-menopause. Think of it as the menopause transition. It can take eight to ten years. Women typically start to experience it in their 40s – and often the most obvious signs are that your periods go a little crazy - though for some it can even start in their 30s.

In the peri-menopause, levels of one of the main female sex hormones, oestrogen, rises and falls unevenly. Progesterone declines. The length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light to really heavy and with worse PMS than ever before, and you may even skip some periods – before they come back with a vengeance.

You might also experience some of the symptoms traditionally associated with the menopause, like night sweats, hot flushes, sleep problems, mood swings, more UTIs and vaginal dryness. Around this time, you might begin to notice that weight loss becomes trickier and your digestion gets a little shaky.

The way some talk about the perimenopause, you’d think it was a disease. There’s no need to go to your doctor to get an official diagnosis – although it’s definitely worth booking and appointment if you notice any of these specific symptoms as they can point to other problems that may need medical attention:

  • spotting after your period

  • blood clots during your period

  • bleeding after sex

  • periods that are much longer or much shorter than normal

If you are really struggling with your energy levels, it’s also worth getting our thyroid checked because perimenopausal and menopausal women are at greater risk of thyroid dysfunction. Added to this, thyroid symptoms can mimic menopausal symptoms. The ovaries, uterus, adrenal glands and the brain require adequate thyroid hormones to function. I've seen lots of women in clinic with symptoms similar to the perimenopausal symptoms who have ended up having hypothyroidism.

Whatever your specific symptoms are, a tailored nutrition plan can really help. I know you could Google ‘nutrition for perimenopause’, but the truth is – and I know this from working with many clients dealing with symptoms and also because I am in the midst of this myself – the answer lies not in fixing yourself symptom by symptom but by looking at the whole picture. In the human body everything is connected in ways you might not imagine. Looking at the whole of you rather than individual symptoms is how we make a difference.

I work with women who are done with dealing with feeling a shadow of the person they used to know and love. I offer free Reboot your Health 30-minute calls to all who are going through this. With this call you walk away with two personalised tips to get started on straight away. Nutrition is KEY at this time, let me help you get yours on track with a 12 week programme. This can suit each budget and range from 4 consultations to 12. And you will always get a personalised nutrition plan, supplement plan (if necessary), testing interpretation (GP or private), a menu plan and a deeper understanding of how YOUR body works, not just that blogger you follow. Book here No time like the present!

But I want to give you something to help you get started. Maintaining a stable blood sugar level can help. If you have heard one of my talks or been on my Sugar Free Challenge you'll know how passionate I am about this!

To do this:

  • Eat three meals a day at regular intervals.

  • Eat a palm-sized portion of protein at each meal (meat and poultry, fish and seafood, tofu, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds – ideally nothing in batter or breadcrumbs).

  • Don’t worry about healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados (the calories in vs calories out myth has been debunked now for a while).

  • Eat a minimum of five portions (three heaped tablespoons) of non-starchy vegetables/salad per day. Always have vegetables/salad with lunch and dinner, breakfast, too, if you wish. There is no upper limit on how many vegetables you can eat. The ideal options are anything that grows above ground.

  • Eat two portions of low glycaemic fruit per day, with meals - bananas are high in sugar, however handy they are to transport so try to stick to berries of any kind, apples, pears, plums, tangerines or similar, lemon and lime, peaches and nectarines.

  • Ideally you should feel satisfied from your main meals and not require snacks though the day, however, should you feel hungry or if you are working out, you can have one snack per day – something like oatcakes with cream cheese, hummus, cottage cheese, ham and tomato, a small pot of natural yoghurt with berries, a Bounce ball, a handful of nuts and/or seeds, a matchbox-sized chunk of cheese with an apple and unsweetened nut butter.

You would be amazed the difference a really good night sleep can have

on symptoms as it helps managing stress levels. On both counts, Epsom salt baths deliver amazing results. You’ll also want to put in place a proper sleep plan that limits screen time at least one hour before bed, has some wind-down time, involves a dark room (or eye mask) … I know you understand that on an intellectual level. But are you actually doing anything about it?

This is already a lot for you to think about so I will leave you with this. Choose to work on ONE thing only this week. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Don’t take on too much at once. Get really good at getting an early night, winding down with a book and enjoying the benefit of good sleep. Or focus on getting in more veg into your diet. Or eating a good breakfast using the guidelines above. Which will you choose?

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