Today (11 October) is World Perimenopause Day. The lead-up to and end of menstruation brings and with it so many bodily changes, some more surprising than others. We’re taking a closer look at some health and wellbeing changes and symptoms that may occur following the onset of perimenopause…

By Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist with Bio Kult

Stress can disrupt the production of sex hormones

The amount of oestrogen and progesterone produced by your ovaries declines during the perimenopausal period. This means your adrenal glands, which also produce stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, take over to start producing sex hormones, albeit in smaller amounts.

However, the adrenal glands cannot produce female hormones efficiently when they are constantly pumping out stress hormones. The body will always choose survival over fertility!

TRY THIS: Reduce stress levels through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, spending time outdoors and taking time for yourself.

What you eat affects you even more during perimenopause

Western women appear to suffer with menopausal symptoms more than women from other cultures. This could potentially be due to their diets, which are typically high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods and low in fibre.

This way of eating can lead to blood sugar imbalances and nutrient deficiencies, which can contribute to menopausal symptoms.

Menopause can also be accompanied by an increase in free radicals, due to oxidation, which leads to cell damage and exacerbates symptoms such as hot flushes. There is, therefore, an increased need for antioxidants.

TRY THIS: Eat a diet of unprocessed foods with lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, good-quality protein and healthy fats, such as oily fish, avocado and olive oil.

Your weight can make perimenopause symptoms worse

Being overweight can increase the frequency of menopausal symptoms and the risk of hot flushes. Therefore, taking steps to manage weight may be good preparation for menopause, especially as many women naturally put on some weight around this time.

A holistic approach looking at diet, activity and psychological factors that can contribute to weight gain is likely to be most effective.

Gut health is crucial for managing perimenopause symptoms

Female sex hormone levels influence the composition of the microbiome in your gut, as well as the vagina.

Therefore, the reduction in oestrogen in menopause may alter the microbiome equilibrium in these areas, contributing to digestive issues, genitourinary infections and reduced nutrient absorption.

Keeping a healthy balance of bacteria is especially important to help transition through the menopause. It can also help to alleviate the ongoing effects of low oestrogen levels in the post-menopausal years.

For example, research indicates supplementing with live bacteria may improve bone health and density, help prevent vaginal atrophy, dryness and genitourinary infections, improve mood and stress resilience, help regulate metabolism and weight, protect heart health and support immunity.

TRY a good multi-strain product, such as Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation (£17.40), which contains 14 different strains.

Regular exercise can help with the management of symptoms

Exercise can be extremely beneficial for counteracting some of the symptoms and risk factors of menopause. For example, improving bone health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, weight management, helping with sleep and improving mood.

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly beneficial for bone health. These types of exercise include activities that make you move against gravity while bearing your own (and sometimes additional) weight. For example, lifting weights at the gym, running, tennis, hiking (especially with a backpack) or aerobics.

Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are lower impact examples and are especially good for improving coordination and balance. This is particularly important for reducing the risk of falls and fractures.

Stop smoking to avoid worsening perimenopause symptoms

The use of tobacco has been shown to potentially affect the age of the on-set of menopause.

For example, it has been observed that women who smoke 14 or more cigarettes a day enter menopause – on average – just under three years earlier than women who do not smoke. This is another good reason to quit if you are a smoker.

A positive mindset can help you to manage perimenopause symptoms

Research indicates that women with a more negative attitude towards menopause are associated with more frequently reported symptoms, compared to women with a positive attitude.

Unfortunately, in recent years menopause has been viewed with negativity and treated almost akin to an illness, which is unhelpful. Instead, the transition to menopause can be a time of reflection and inspiration.

Transitions of any kind can be inherently difficult. However, many women experience a newfound sense of freedom and personal growth in their menopausal years.

Engaging in a daily gratitude practice, whereby each day you think of three things that you are grateful for, including your health and body, can have a positive impact on mental health and outlook.

Click here for more advice on recognising and managing perimenopause symptoms.