• Petra Fulham

Support for Peri-Menopause Part 1

What is happening with our hormones?

 

The Peri-menopause

The peri-menopausal phase in life are the 4-8 years leading up to the menopause, the cessation of our menstrual cycle. A biologically natural transition when reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen start to fluctuate and decline- no longer following a predictable rise and fall in their cyclical way. Instead the ovaries become more precarious in their ability to produce viable eggs leading to anovulatory cycles where no eggs are released. No egg released from the ovary, means no progesterone is produced, often leaving folks with high estrogen levels in early peri-menopause. These hormonal imbalances can contribute to many of the symptoms experienced, often around the mid-forties.


Image: https://www.mindsethealth.com/matter/menopause-guide


What are some of the symptoms?

There is a growing list of symptoms attributed to the peri-menopause. Among the most common are hot flushes and night sweats, sleep issues, vaginal dryness, achy joints and skin changes, fatigue, brain fog, low-mood and anxiety with a heighten sensitivity to stress.


Some of these symptoms can be attributed by the decline in progesterone and estrogen, however we can also often find ourselves with a significant additional life load at this time; raising and supporting young or teenage children, caring for our elders and parents, high work load commitments, and mediating relationship struggles, to name but a few.

It is estimated that 20% off peri-menopausal folk will have very mild symptoms and a relatively simple transition through this biological life phase. Recent sources have estimated that 75-80% of folks going through peri-menopause may experience more intense symptoms that can significantly impact their quality of life.


Decades ago we thought our reproductive hormones were to solely govern our menstrual cycle. We now know that estrogen and progesterone have far reaching protective effects for many of our physiological systems. To date research has identified four main areas of health concerns for folks post menopause. Insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and compromised bone density and brain health. Coupled with the potential rollercoaster of symptoms, the peri-menopause and postmenopausal years are truly a time when many find they need to take greater stock of their health and wellbeing. Unfortunately as we know there are many social determinants of health that further influence this life phase experience.


What are some of the modifiable behaviours we could consider that would support?


What may help?

The peri-menopausal transition is a natural biological phase. As mentioned, the symptoms experienced as a result of the fluctuating hormone decline will vary, with some symptoms more responsive to health-promoting behaviours than others. Whilst some folks can manage this life phase through supportive and sensitive changes to their food intake, physical activity levels, healthy sleep strategies and stress management, some do require additional HRT. For more information on HRT, a wonderful evidence informed resource is https://www.hormonewise.co.uk/


In part 2 we will explore the many ways we can support both our peri-menopausal physiology and our relationship with food during this life phase when we're experiencing multifaceted changes in our physical and emotional body. We'll explore creative ways with food and eating that can support our blood sugar levels and how this can also ease our stress response, foods to support gut function, fortify our bone health and nutritious recipes to support our cardiovascular system.


I'd like to list some further wonderful resources that you may find useful:


Yoga and Exercise: https://yinstinctyoga.com/

Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-midlife-feast/id1589611177

Body Image: https://www.gennev.com/education/diet-culture-body-positivity-menopause

Mindfulness: https://www.themerrymenopause.com/mindful-menopause-by-sophie-fletcher

Self Compassion research article: https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Brown_SC-and-Well-Being-and-Menopause.pdf