Let's get real, what is perimenopause
Written in Collaboration with Liz Philbrick
First, let’s review what menopause is—menopause occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and menstruation stops. You are officially in menopause when you haven’t had a period for 1 year. After that, you are postmenopausal.
Perimenopause is the symptomatic period leading up to menopause. The reproductive phase is beginning to wind down and come to an end. So the production of estrogen and progesterone from the ovaries becomes erratic and unpredictable.
This is a gradual process!
- On average, perimenopause is 4-5 years but can be as long as 10 years. So for most women they experience symptoms in their 40s but for some it can happen in their mid thirties.
- 20% of 40 year olds are in perimenopasuse
How do you know if you are in Perimenopause
There are symptoms that accompany perimenopause.
Many people think that having irregular cycles (inconsistent ovulation) defines perimenopause, which it is a good indicator but there are many other symptoms that accompany irregular cycles or even precede irregular cycles
- Irregular periods: You might experience shorter cycles or longer cycles or skipped cycles. There can be variation of 7 days or more between cycles. This is because ovulation is becoming more unpredictable.
* A cycle is the length of your full menstrual cycle: So from your period to ovulation to bleeding
- Changes in menstrual flow: often heavier bleeding
- Hot flashes and insomnia
- Changes in libido
- Brain fog
- Changes in mood & mood swings: depression, anxiety, anger
- Changes in body composition, Having a harder time losing or maintaining weight
Why talk about and prepare for perimenopause now?
Maybe you are in your 30s or early 40s and don’t find this relevant. But we are not educated about perimenopause, so many of us don’t know what is going on when it is happening and they think something is wrong with them.
But talking about it and being aware of what’s coming can be so helpful so when you are in it you don’t feel like something is wrong with you or that you are broken.
Perimenopause is normal, it might not be fun, but you’re not alone.
Talk to your friends and see what they are experiencing. Having community around this can make it feel so much easier!
If you are able to check in with your mom or an older sister, see what age they went through perimenopause and menopause. It could help give you insight into when you might go through it.
Preparing our bodies for perimenopause and understanding the symptoms associated with can ease the transistions and make you feel sane when hormone shifts can cause you to feel crazy. Many of us prepare our bodies for pregnancy long before inseption occurs in order to ensure as that our bodies are as strong as they can be for this massive undertaking. Let’s treat perimenopause the same way.
We are going to be in perimenopause and menopause for half of our lives! If we live it loud and proud, nourish our bodies and minds we can destigmatize and celebrate this powerful time.
What are some things we can do with diet, lifestyle and herbs to have a smooth perimenopause?
Diet: Nutrient imbalances at onset can create more severe symptoms.Eat a balanced diet. Make sure you are getting all the food and nutrients your body needs during this time.
- Make sure each meal has a combination of protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.
- Eat 6-8 servings of vegetables a day and 1-2 servings of fruit
- Avoid eating processed foods
- Keep your consumption of sugar, caffeine and alcohol in check
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t add stress on your body by fasting, dieting, restricting calories–this is a time for nourishment and support.
Movement: Try to move your body as much as possible. As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass. It is so important to exercise regularly to maintain muscle mass, to support bone health and it will also help to increase energy and improve mood. I find that a combination of cardio, strength training and yoga is ideal. You don’t have to go crazy. Start small, get it in how you can.
Cultivate Joy and self care: This can be a stressful time in life: Managing family and careers. Try and incorporate some self care into your day to day. Find what fills your cup–dancing, journaling, starting a new hobby, gardening, being in nature, etc. Even if it’s just some deep breathing for 5 minutes!
What Herbs are great for overall perimenopause support?
Nutritive herbs: Fall in line with foods
Nutritive herbs are herbs that are filled with nutrients and minerals. They provide gentle but effective overall support for your body–you can almost think of them in the same way you do food.
Some of my favorite nutritive herbs are
How to take: Tea best to pull out vitamins and minerals
You can make a simple daily tea to drink. I’ll put a recipe in the show notes
To make a nutrient rich tea. Add 4 tablespoons of herbs to a quart mason jar. Pour just boiled water over and steep for 30 minutes to overnight.
The longer you steep the more nutrients will get pulled out. 4 hours plus! Do before bed.
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that help the body heal from and cope with stress. They nourish and support adrenal health and they have been used for stamina, fertility, energy, focus, immunity and overall wellness.
When we are living in chronic stress, which so many of us are–our hormones can get out of balance and cycle issues can surface. So if we are in perimenopause, stress can heighten those perimenopause symptoms. This is were adaptogens can help. Addressing the stress through lifestyle is vital here, but adaptogens can help while you are doing that.
Plus adaptogens can help address so many of the symptoms that come with perimenopause: Fatigue, brain fog, low libido, insomnia, mood swings, etc.
We are going to talk about two of our favorite adaptogens.
While many adaptogens are stimulating, ashwagandha has a calming effect
It’s ability to soothe and calm the nervous system makes it my go to herb for the “tired but wired person.” A person who is depleted and burnt out but can’t fall asleep at night.
It gently replenishes and restores vitality making it helpful for anxiety, fatigue, mental fogg, insomnia, stress induced illness, and decreased libido.
Its regulating action on the thyroid and adrenal glands supports healthy reproductive health.
How to take: Adaptogens work best over time
Tincture (Liquid extract): 30-60 drops 3x day
Tea: Root decoction, I love to add it into a chai, Little Herbal Apothecary Adapdogen Chai (Ashawagandha and Chaga) I have a recipe on my Instagram page
Caution: Ashwagandha is a nightshade so could be problematic if you have a nightshade sensitivity
Medicinal mushrooms! Mushrooms are amazing support for the body. They are amazing immune tonics, supporting and strengthening the immune system. They also support other body systems too: the nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, the liver and more
Reishi is one of the most well known mushrooms
Great for overall support to increase vitality and wellness, and of course its great for strengthening our immune systems and our body’s natural deffenses.
Its a great adaptogen too. Love it for stressed out, run down people, especially those who are prone to frequent colds and flu and who are struggling with sleep.
It is another calming adaptogen Resihi is often used to promote deep sleep
Improves cognitive function and reduces fatigue
Hepatoprotective: Prevents damage to the liver, and supports the livers detoxification, making it helpful for hormonal health
How to take: Little Herbal Mushroom Chocolate. Add the slices to Chai. CapsulesOr get a liquid extract that is prepared properly: Mushrooms need to be heated to release their medicine