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By Ann Shaw

Have you suddenly become aware of gradual weight-gain that feels like it isn’t going to stop? A lack of energy and motivation? Low libido? Erratic or heavy periods? Mood changes, hot flushes and sleep problems? Have you noticed hair loss? Faced with all these symptoms can be overwhelming for many women particularly if you don’t have a clue what is happening to you. Well, it is quite common because these can be the symptoms of being perimenopausal and typically they start at around the age of 40, although sometimes late 30’s.

Some women may experience depression, insomnia or anxiety some while before the onset of perimenopause, but by paying attention to your diet and ensuring that it is nutrient-dense as well as balancing your hormones with the correct dosages of good quality supplements, can make all the difference. Balancing your hormones is vitally important so that you do not become high or low in either oestrogen or progesterone. Throughout perimenopause, there can be a huge change in your hormone production as the cycles become more unreliable and anovulatory (without ovulation). This could make you feel as though you have permanent premenstrual tension and affect your functionality, but this can be addressed with if you go about it correctly.

Progesterone (which help keep oestrogen in balance), can be constantly low at the Perimenopause which can be termed as a progesterone deficiency. The symptoms of low progesterone can be much heavier periods lasting longer than usual. This can be coupled with uncomfortable and swollen breasts as well as weight-gain. There can be increased irritability and mood swings which can be higher oestrogen to progesterone balance.

As you near the menopause, your periods can change by becoming more erratic and you may experience vaginal dryness and hot flushes because oestrogen is gradually decreasing. It is at this time that you must take care to balance your blood sugar levels and avoid becoming adrenally exhausted through stress. Our adrenal glands are important because they supply oestrogen and progesterone to keep hormonal balance. You are far more likely to acquire ‘belly fat’ as it is known, if your adrenals do not supply an adequate amount of oestrogen.

To avoid menopausal symptoms and going on to HRT I would advise keeping off the foods you know you are allergic to, ensuring the correct dosage of zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids. I had already avoided the foods I knew were wrong for me for quite a number of years, so that bit was easy. I then made sure I always took the correct supplements, particularly zinc, magnesium and fish oils. My menopause lasted eight years without a single symptom. I remember being late for two appointments which brought on a 2-3 minute warm feeling whilst driving and that was it.

Look to eat healthily to boost your nutrients including foods that contain good healthy fats such as avocados, organic virgin coconut oil, fish oils and oily fish. Fibre from fresh vegetables. Phytoestrogens from oats, fruit, vegetables, sage, seeds, garlic and fennel, and of course lean protein from meat, fish, nuts and seeds. Look to avoid canned, fizzy drinks, caffeine and too much alcohol and make sure to stabilise your blood sugar levels and exercise regularly. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking the appropriate vitamin/mineral supplements and fish oils that are high quality, and remember the menopause is not an illness or disease but a process that we go through. If you prepare well beforehand you could sail through the menopause as I did.

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