- Natasha Watkinson
Am I in the perimenopause? How to work it out and foods that can help.
Updated: Mar 16, 2022
The perimenopause can catch many women by surprise. Not that long ago you were in your 30’s, feeling energetic and getting on with your life. I’m not saying it was always easy, but things were definitely manageable. When you look back – life seemed pretty great. Then without notice, it seems life and age have caught you out. You’re just not feeling quite the same. You realise that you’re tired all day, but then by the time bedtime comes around you’re wired and can’t sleep. The weight has been gradually creeping on and the tricks you used in the past to lose a few pounds in the run-up to an important event just don’t work anymore. 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 perimenopause. 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 perimenopause, levels of one of the main female sex hormones, oestrogen, rises and falls unevenly. 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 like cystitis 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 worth booking an appointment if you notice any of these specific symptoms, as they can point to other problems and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Fibroids are something very common at this time.
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 your thyroid checked, if it hasn’t been already, 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.
Whatever your specific symptoms are, a tailored nutrition plan can really help. I know you could Google (other search engines are available) ‘diet for perimenopause’, but the truth is – and I know this from working with many clients dealing with symptoms and also because from time to time I like to hang out in menopause online forums – the answer lies not in fixing yourself symptom by symptom. In the human body everything is connected in ways you might not imagine. Looking at the whole of you rather than individual complaints is the way forward.
I work with women who are done with dealing with feeling a shadow of the person they used to know and love. I offer complimentary 30-minute health and energy review calls so we can talk about your symptoms and health concerns.
I will give you some simple nutrition strategies you can start using right away. We can do this over the phone or by zoom (your choice) and you can book using this link
But I want to give you something to help you get started. Maintaining a stable blood sugar level can help. 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.
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. This will do wonders for your gut bacteria too.
Eat two portions of fruit per day, with meals - bananas are high in sugar, however handy they are to transport so try to stick to berries, 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 try a balanced snack that includes some protein– something like oatcakes with cream cheese, hummus, cottage cheese, ham and tomato, a small pot of natural yoghurt with berries, a handful of nuts and/or seeds, a matchbox-sized chunk of cheese with an apple, cut up apple and unsweetened nut butter.
You would be amazed the difference making some changes to what you eat can make.
This is already a lot for you to think about. 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. Focus on getting in more veg into your diet. Or eating a good breakfast using the guidelines above. Which will you choose?