Perimenopause is the transitional stage in a woman’s life leading up to the menopause, typically starting in a woman’s 40’s or early 50’s. It is characterized by fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, leading to physical and emotional symptoms such as:
• Irregular periods
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
• Vaginal dryness
• Mood swings
• Difficulty sleeping
• Decreased libido
• Decreased bone density
During perimenopause, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, and eventually stop releasing eggs, leading to the end of the reproductive years and menopause. Women can seek treatment options such as hormone therapy to manage symptoms, but lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and stress management also help.
Perimenopause is often diagnosed by symptoms alone. There is not a perfect blood test to determine if a woman is in the perimenopause due to the widely fluctuating hormone levels.
The following dietary changes are recommended for managing perimenopause symptoms:
• Increase calcium and vitamin D3 intake: to maintain bone health, it’s important to consume adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D3 through food sources or supplements.
• Limit caffeine and alcohol: Excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can worsen hot flashes and cause sleep disturbance.
• High quality Proteins: As estrogen levels drop during perimenopause and the menopause women lose muscle mass which contributes to the growth of visceral body fat. Choosing high quality protein like lean meat, fish, chicken, nuts and eggs help rebuild what is lost.
• Healthy fats: Good fats improve heart health, reduce inflammation and reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Focus on Omega 3 fatty acids that are found in fish, such as wild caught salmon, and seeds, particularly chia and flax.
• Eat a balanced diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help regulate hormones and reduce symptoms.
• Limit added sugars: Too much added sugar can lead to weight gain and worsen perimenopause symptoms.
It is important to note that every woman’s experience with perimenopause is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Consultation with a healthcare provider can help determine the best dietary changes for you.
Supplements that are commonly recommended for managing perimenopause symptoms include:
• Calcium in the form of food first and supplements second. Generally between 1200-1500 mg daily. It helps to maintain bone health.
• Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium and adequate amounts are often necessary in pill form as Vit D3 800-1000 IU daily.
• Probiotics can help regulate hormones and support overall digestive health.
• Omega 3 strengthens the immune system, improves mood and cognition, supports a healthy cardiovascular system
• Dietary Fiber 25-30 gm daily supports healthy digestive system and regularity and promotes weight management
• Turmeric helps decrease inflammation and hot flashes. It improves gut microbiome health. Roughly 2 tsp per day
• Collagen has combined health and vanity benefits. About 5-15 gm/day aids in joint mobility, inflammation and it has been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve the health of your skin and hair and reduce cellulite.
• Magnesium is recommended in the daily diet at 320mg/daily for women. Some of the best food sources are pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach and cashews. Magnesium has a significant impact on sleep, blood glucose control and maintenance of bone health.
Small changes can make a lot of difference in how you feel. Possible treatments for the perimenopause include changing your eating habits, increase your intake of fiber, vitamins and minerals as outlined and consulting with a health care provider when hormone therapy is considered.
Sources: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, John Hopkins Medicine, Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic. Citations available if needed.