Prepping for the perimenopause: what every 30-something needs to know.
Here’s a simple guide to happy hormones, because the earlier you get your hormone health on track, the better equipped you’ll be to ride the perimenopause storm later down the line.
TRACK: If you’re not already, start tuning into your periods. Tracking apps chart your cycle, mood changes, diet, sleep and symptoms. Uncovering your unique hormonal patterns and having data about your monthly experiences will prove majorly helpful when it comes to understanding and managing perimenopause. As with most things health related, knowledge is power.
RELAX: Cortisol is the ‘master hormone’ meaning it takes precedence over all your other hormones. So if you’re constantly stressed, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels can easily get thrown out. Cortisol can also also deplete thyroid hormones, which impact weight, energy, mood, skin and hair. Levelling out cortisol can have a big impact on hormone health.
How: Meditation, yoga, reclaiming your lunch hour, exercise, spending time outside.
SLEEP: Sleep really is our superpower. It’s essential for serotonin and dopamine, which are crucial to good mental, emotional, physical and hormonal health. It also reduces excess cortisol production (see above). Tiredness increases ghrelin (your hunger hormone) which means you often eat more when you’re sleep deprived and, to boot, poor sleep can also affect blood sugar regulation. It’s the most powerful performance enhancer known to us, make sure you’re getting enough!
How: Good sleep hygiene, epsom salt baths, magnesium rich foods, sleep masks, pillow sprays.
LIMIT: Long-term high alcohol intake can throw your cycle out of whack. Drinking during the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase) can increase feelings of depression and anxiety and many studies show drinking increases oestrogen (and sometimes testosterone) levels. Alcohol can also disturb your sleep (see importance of sleep above).
STOP: Smokers have been found to go through the menopause earlier, have more severe symptoms than non-smokers and a higher risk of heart disease and breast cancers after the menopause. It’s never too late to quit.
How: Talk to your GP.
EAT: Focus on getting some calcium reserves in the bank as women start losing bone mass after the age of 35. The recommended daily intake is 700mg daily (rising to 1,200mg in your 50s) from a variety of sources, including dairy, kale, watercress, broccoli, cooked spinach, tofu (check on the label that it’s calcium set), dried figs, almonds and fortified plant milks. Make an effort to include phytooestrogen foods like tofu, chickpeas and edamame beans into your diet. Don’t be scared of fats, you need them to synthesize hormones. Think healthy sources like sardines, salmon, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, eggs, nuts and seeds.
How: Eat the rainbow, increase the number of plantbased foods you consume, aim for variety.
EXERCISE: One of the best ways of warding off osteoporosis and investing in future bone health is through a combination of weight bearing exercise – walking, dancing, skipping and running – and resistance training. Carry your shopping, get a personal trainer on board or start lifting at the gym – your bones will thank you. And remember: muscle mass burns calories, so the more you have the higher your resting metabolism will be.
How: Most gyms/classes offer taster sessions, keep trying different disciplines until you find something you like. Don’t forget YouTube if you prefer working out at home.