This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Free standard delivery on all UK orders

Are you ready for the menopause marathon? Part 2...

| OCT 18, 2022

Read part 1 here

Written by registered Nutritional Therapist Kate Fisk DipCNM, mBANT, mANP, rCNHC

During our fertile years, we rely on our sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, to keep everything ticking along. Produced in our ovaries, they work together not only to regulate our menstrual cycle and fertility but also to support our mood, brain function, skin and bone health. In addition, they do a great job of helping us to cope with stress and maintain healthy sleep patterns. We have over fifty other hormones, all working in sync with each other. If one gets out of whack, the others will follow, with negative consequences for our health.

During the 2-12 years of perimenopause, our sex hormone levels are nothing short of erratic. Swinging wildly from high to low and back again before tapering out post-menopause. As a result, our bodies struggle to maintain equilibrium, and we experience many different symptoms.

Working on balancing our hormones now will strengthen our resilience, making it more likely we finish the menopause marathon in one piece. So let's have a look at three other areas of our lives we can whip into shape as we approach the starting blocks.

Stress

It can always feel like we have too many plates to spin, and while some stress is good to help get us through unexpected challenges, it's not healthy to feel stressed most of the time.

Our stress response is an evolutionary tactic, a means of survival. When we encounter a threat, our stress hormone, cortisol, is released from our adrenal glands, and our body shifts all of its energy resources into getting us out of danger. 

Unfortunately, in our busy lives, our sources of stress are constant and varied, and our brains don’t distinguish between a physical, psychological or dietary threat. This means the stress response is the same whether you’re being chased by a bear, struggling with a deadline at work or eating unhealthy foods. As a result, our nervous system and, therefore, our hormonal response is constantly set to DANGER. Meaning we can't heal, digest, and detoxify. If these things don't happen, we can become inflamed and ill.

Getting stress under control is especially important as we head towards menopause. As sex hormone production in our ovaries declines, our adrenal glands pick up some of the slack, helping to produce a small amount of oestrogen. But if our adrenals are working overtime to churn out cortisol because we’re constantly stressed, we won’t get the oestrogen we need to function well.

ALL stressors are accumulative. One by one, they fill your 'stress bucket' until it overflows, and we snap. So how can we keep our stress bucket from getting too full?

Consider all the things that stress you out throughout the day, no matter how small. It could be the pile of unopened mail or not having time for breakfast. Then devise a plan to minimise their impact. You could try categorising them into: 

  • 'Do immediately': open and either bin or file mail as soon as you get it
  • 'Delegate’/’Ask for help':  share the school run
  • 'Change approach': prepare breakfast the night before  

Make some small changes that have a big impact:

  • Limit your news and social media consumption.
  • Try saying no to things you don't enjoy or don't want to do. Focus instead on doing things that bring you a sense of calm.

As well as reducing the amount of stress you’re exposed to, there are things you can practise to increase your resilience to stress. These include:

  • Being in nature.
  • Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation and breathwork.
  • Taking a few minutes, a couple of times every day, to close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  • Connecting with friends.
  • Reframing stressful situations.  Rather than resenting finding the time to walk the dog, think of it as an opportunity for some exercise in nature and some valuable and much-needed downtime.
  • Talking therapy can help with those significant stressors against which we feel helpless, such as old family dynamics. 
sun-shining-through-trees-in-a-forest

    Sleep & the circadian rhythm

    It might look like there's not a lot going on, but while we sleep, our bodies are working hard  producing hormones, getting rid of toxins, repairing damaged tissue and counteracting the stresses of the day.

    Seven hours are ideal for most of us. If we don't get enough, we’re more likely to be overweight, stressed, feel low, and be too tired to make good decisions regarding our health. Disturbed sleep is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of perimenopause, as hormonal imbalances disrupt the brain's sleep centres.

    Our sleep patterns and hormone levels are dictated by our circadian rhythm,our internal body clock that keeps things running smoothly in response to different light levels throughout the day. They can also be affected by how much sleep we get, how much exercise we do, what we eat and drink and how stressed we are. If they’re off balance, our hormones are too, including those that govern our menstrual cycle, appetite and mood.

    So what can we do to maintain our circadian rhythm and to give ourselves the best chance of a good night's sleep?

    • Create a sleep haven in your bedroom that promotes sleep and relaxation. Make sure your room is dark and not too warm, invest in the best mattress you can afford, and use natural bedding to avoid overheating. No screens!! If you’re a light sleeper or live near a main road, invest in earplugs - they can make all the difference to the quality of your sleep.
    • Avoid things that disrupt our hormonal balance in the couple of hours leading up to bedtime. Alcohol, intense exercise, heavy meals and anything that's going to raise stress levels, including watching nail-biting thrillers, reading work emails, or conversations about tricky domestic issues.
    • Once you've nailed that, consider setting up a bedtime routine to get you in the mood for sleep so that your body gets to recognise the cues that it’s time to wind down. Drinking a sleepy herbal tea, getting horizontal for a few minutes of gentle yoga or stretching, indulging in a warm epsom salt bath, listening to some chilled music or practising some meditation. Whatever works for you. 
    • One of the best ways to support a good night's sleep is by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, without too much deviation at the weekend. Significant differences in our sleep patterns affect our circadian rhythms, making us feel more tired and hungry and more likely to reach for unhealthy sugary snacks for a quick energy burst.
    • Lastly, one of the best ways to support our circadian rhythm is to be in tune with natural light as much as possible. Exposure to early morning rays is a great way to support the production of melatonin, our sleep-promoting hormone, even if it's just five minutes at the back door while you have a cup of tea. During the evening, exposure to blue light given out by screens halts melatonin production in its tracks. If you have no choice but to be in front of a screen, consider installing a blue light filter or invest in some blue-light-blocking glasses.

    coffee-cup-and-diary-resting-on-bed-sheets

    Movement

    The bad news is perimenopause comes with a loss of bone density and muscle strength due to the reduction in oestrogen output. The good news is we can slow that process down with the right kind of exercise. 

    Resistance work and weight-bearing exercise are they best, as they help keep bones and muscles strong. This could include body-weight work such as push-ups and squats or weight training. Aim for a minimum of two 30-40 minute sessions a week.

    The body releases cortisol in response to exercise – it cannot distinguish between running from that bear or pounding on the Peloton. Therefore, intense cardio exercise can be detrimental to an already stressed-out body causing the stress bucket to overflow, resulting in painful joints, weight gain and muscle wastage. 

    Of course, how we define 'too much' is different for everyone. You should feel invigorated after any workout, but if you feel exhausted, in pain, or like you've hit a plateau (with strength building, weight loss, or whatever your aim is), try slowing down for a bit. Instead, try a more restorative activity such as yoga or swimming. 

    Remember, rest days are just as important as workout days to give our body a chance to heal, repair and rebalance.

    Consider joining an outdoor exercise group.Working out with others with similar intentions might help you stick at it, and the social connection will also support your mental and physical health. Plus, exercising outdoors brings its own benefits: exposure to natural daylight will help keep your circadian rhythm in sync.

    The most important thing when it comes to exercise is to find something you love and keep doing it. If you don't enjoy exercise, there's no way you'll stick at it. Remember, any physical movement is 'exercise', including gardening, walking, dancing, or playing with the kids. Hula-hooping, anyone?

    We tick all these boxes, and more, so you can relax

    Quality, purity and efficacy in everything we make for you

    Additive Free

    Complete transparency

    Made in Norway & UK

    UK family owned

    3rd Party Tested

    Free From Nasties