Irritability, weight gain and extreme sweating is enough to make any woman scream, “Help!” And for women who are in the throes of perimenopause, any tip to help manage the symptoms that come as a result of this life change is welcomed with open arms.
Because symptoms can vary among women, with some not ever experiencing any of these side effects (lucky!), there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hacks for helping you get through this time. However, there are some time-tested strategies that many women have found helpful.
Perimenopausal symptoms can range from irritability and anxiety to depression and insomnia — not just the classical hot flashes that some women experience. Hormonal weight gain, hair loss, poor sleep, memory loss and bloat can also occur with perimenopausal women.
According to Ann Louise Gittleman, certified nutrition specialist and author of Before the Change: Taking Charge of Your Perimenopause, managing the symptoms of perimenopause often means a lifestyle reset.
“Learning better ways to manage stress, a smoother juggling of family matters and career, as well as cutting out processed and fast foods takes discipline and putting yourself No. 1 on your to-do list,” she told SheKnows.
Perimenopause is when all of your habits — both positive and negative — come home to roost. The good news is that it is never too late to clean up your eating, workout on a daily basis and train yourself to get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted rejuvenating sleep.
And if you are anything like me, incorporating relatively easy and natural methods of managing symptoms is essential. Many of these irritating and sometimes major interruptions in our daily life can be alleviated with a few simple hacks of your kitchen, exercise routine and daily self-care.
Ways to help reduce the symptoms of perimenopause
Staying active and eating healthy foods helps just about every phase of perimenopause. That is why both exercise and nutrition play leading roles in heading off unpleasant symptoms. Exercise evokes hormonal responses from the body and can strengthen bones, aid balance and prevent joint stiffness during full-fledged menopause.
Aerobic exercise reduces your insulin levels and elevates your glucagon level, while anaerobic exercise, such as strength training, causes the body to secrete human growth hormone. Focusing on exercise that helps prevent osteoporosis (strength training) is key during this time of bone loss. Aim for five days a week/30 to 60 minutes of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Throwing in yoga, stretching and Pilates can also help manage many of the unpleasant side effects women face.
And nutrition in the form of whole foods (quality protein, vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates and good fats) will help keep blood sugars level, which can help stabilize mood and fight fatigue, belly bloat and weight gain.
Eliminating or reducing alcohol, caffeine and sugar, may also help reduce symptoms. A common theme seen with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and stress is that it will exaggerate any hormonal symptoms that are occurring. Unstable blood sugar and an overactivated stress response (on top of hormone fluctuations) create a perfect storm of emotional outbursts and perimenopausal rage.
Gittleman says that irritability and anxiety can be reduced by ingesting more nerve-nourishing essential fatty acids from the omega-3 family, including flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. She has also found that symptoms of depression can be helped with both magnesium and zinc (two hormonal rescuers), while hormonal weight gain, hair loss and bloat respond well to topical progesterone cream (progesterone is the hormone that is most deficient in perimenopausal women).
And when it comes to nutrients, she has also found that magnesium (5 milligrams to every pound of body weight) 25 to 45 milligrams of zinc (which acts as a precursor to progesterone) and B-6 (which helps reduce water retention) can help perimenopausal women during this difficult time.
Hot flashes and night sweats can be the bane of existence for many women during menopause. And the side effects associated with this annoying symptom can be reduced using various methods of treatment. Hormonal and nonhormonal therapies are a common place for doctors to start when looking at reducing hot flashes, but women have found relief using other methods as well.
One such alternative is acupuncture. According to scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the frequency of hot flashes can be reduced by almost half for about 50 percent of women over eight weeks of acupuncture treatment. Also avoiding triggers such as stress, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, heat and cigarette smoke may help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.