Perimenopause (also known as menopause transition) is the stage before menopause where your body goes through hormonal changes that can result in certain symptoms. From irregular periods and night sweats to hair loss and weight gain, it’s not the most glamorous time. To help you feel better throughout this period, we’ve rounded up 8 of the most common perimenopause symptoms as well as how to cope with them as best as possible.
8 Common Perimenopause Symptoms and How to Cope
1. Weight Gain
Many women gain weight during perimenopause. Hormonal changes can lead to weight gain around your abdomen in particular, and weight gain is more common in women who are already overweight or obese. When your estrogen levels start to fluctuate, your body looks for an estrogen replacement and finds one in fat, which is a source of estrogen.
Staying active and eating a healthy diet are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid starchy foods like French fries, refined grains like cereal and cookies and high calorie, sugary drinks. Increase your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as protein and fibre. You should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, with 2 days per week of strength training.
2. Hot Flashes
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense warmth in the upper body, which is usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. They’re often accompanied by sweat and can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Your face and neck may turn red, your heart rate may increase and you’ll most likely break out into a sweat.
There are a number of things that can trigger a hot flash including hot weather, heat, smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, tight clothing and stress. Figure out what triggers your hot flashes and avoid them as much as possible. Keep cool throughout the day, watch what you eat and drink, try meditation and yoga and dress in layers so you can adjust as needed.
3. Night Sweats
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur during sleep and disturb you from getting a good rest. If you’ve been experiencing night sweats, there are a few things you can do to combat them. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight cotton pyjamas that are short rather than long. Use layered bedding that can be removed as needed during the night. Open your windows or turn on your bedroom fan. Avoid common night sweat triggers such as alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and cigarettes. CLICK HERE for more tips to manage night sweats.
Mood swings, irritability and even feelings of depression can develop during perimenopause. The cause of these symptoms could be sleep disruption due to hot flashes, however they could also be caused by factors not related to the hormonal changes of perimenopause.
Make sure to take good care of your mental health during perimenopause. Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, get a good night’s sleep and do relaxation practices like yoga and meditation. You can also consider seeking help from a professional therapist if natural remedies aren’t helping.
5. Irregular Periods
Due to fluctuating hormones, you may experience irregular periods during perimenopause. Your menstrual cycle may be longer or shorter than typical, bleeding may be lighter or heavier and you may skip periods, or have longer time between them.
Consider using a period tracking app or keeping a journal to track your periods. Note when they start, how long they last, how heavy they are and if you experience spotting between periods. Take notes on any abnormal bleeding, pain, discomfort and any other symptoms. If your periods are unpredictable, you can protect yourself from stains with leakage protection products like pantyliners and period underwear. If you’ve missed a few consecutive cycles, you may consider taking a pregnancy test to see if the symptoms are tied to perimenopause or pregnancy.
6. Hair Loss
When your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during perimenopause, hair growth may slow and hair loss becomes more pronounced. If you’re worried about or experiencing hair loss, try to reduce stress as much as possible, exercise, stay hydrated and stay away from heat tools and hair dye if you can.
If you must dye your hair, choose an all-natural hair colour. If you swim in a chlorine pool, make sure to wear a swimming cap, and be sure to wear a hat if you’re in the sun for extended periods of time. Essential fatty acids also play a role in hair health. They can be found in foods like salmon, tuna, flaxseed oil, walnuts and almonds.
Insomnia is another issue that can occur due to hormonal changes in perimenopause. As you age, your body produces less and less melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your body releases into the bloodstream to promote a regular sleep-wake cycle. Estradiol, a form of estrogen, is another hormone that can be involved in sleep problems during perimenopause.
To cope with insomnia, keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible. Stay active and avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoid large meals or beverages before bed and stay away from blue light for at least an hour before hitting the sack.
8. Bone Loss
Declining estrogen levels can cause you to lose bone more quickly than you replace it. This increases your risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes fragile bones. Establishing a regular exercise program is key to preventing osteoporosis. It helps protect your spine, slows the rate of bone loss and builds muscle loss, which can prevent falls.
It’s also important to eat foods high in calcium such as dark leafy vegetables, dairy and fortified plant-based milks, cheese, yogurt, almonds and canned sardines and salmon (with bones). If you can’t get enough calcium from your diet, you may want to consider a calcium supplement. Talk to your doctor to see how much is right for you.
If you’re experiencing these common perimenopause symptoms, we hope these tips help you cope with and overcome them.
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