Nutrition and lifestyle habits have a huge impact on perimenopause symptoms and it’s a massively underutilised tool. This blog explains the diet and lifestyle habits you need to be leveraging in your 40s.
Leverage nutrition and lifestyle habits that can help to:
- Calm the rollercoaster and encourage as healthy a balance of oestrogen as possible in what is naturally a stormy time for this hormone.
- Support the body to ovulate as many months as possible (so that you make progesterone more often than you might have otherwise and therefore minimise its decline).
If you haven’t done so already, make sure you read my previous blog called ‘what is perimenopause’ and then come back to this blog, as that way you will have the full picture and the information I provide here will make more sense.
I cannot emphasise enough how impactful nutrition and lifestyle habits are on your perimenopause experience and it’s a massively underutilised strategy for managing hormone health.
As it’s natural and inevitable that a woman will ovulate less the further she moves through her 40s and the closer she gets to achieving menopause, you might be left thinking that you have to accept and suffer symptoms of low progesterone and unopposed oestrogen.
Well, that’s NOT the case at all. As long as you’re leveraging the nutrition and lifestyle habits to support his phase of life you CAN feel so much better and ENJOY these years.
Here are the best ways to get rid of peri menopausal symptoms and/or keep them at bay.
Calm the oestrogen roller coaster: This is to encourage as healthy a balance of oestrogen as possible in what is naturally a stormy time for this hormone.
1) Improve your liver’s oestrogen clearance/detoxification pathways.
This is so that your liver can break down and clear out your used (no longer needed) oestrogen efficiently, which ensures you don’t have a build up of old oestrogen remaining in your system, increasing your body’s oestrogen load and exacerbating symptoms of oestrogen dominance such as breast pain, heavy periods, headaches, mood swings and even fibroids and increasing your risk of oestrogen-driven cancers.
Foods shown to support the liver’s oestrogen detox pathways include cruciferous vegetables, protein (amino acids), flaxseed (must be ground), oily fish (EPA and DHA omega 3 fats), herbs and spices (especially rosemary, turmeric and loose leaf green tea) and brightly coloured vegetables and fruits (especially berries). Other important nutrients for your detox pathways to occur efficiently are choline, B12, B6, folate, iron, magnesium, Alpha lipoic acid and N-Acetyl Cysteine.
2) Have a healthy bowel movement at least once a day
This is the final phase of oestrogen detoxification. Once your liver has broken down used oestrogen, it goes to your bowels to be permanently removed from the body via a bowel movement. If you are not passing a healthy, fully formed stool daily, the old oestrogen may find its way back in circulation in your body, increasing the total oestrogen load. Good hydration, plenty of fibre from a variety of colourful vegetables, seeds and whole grains and chewing REALLY well are key for healthy, daily bowel movements.
3) Minimise or avoid alcohol
Alcohol needs to be detoxified immediately once it hits the liver and it pushes its way to the front of the queue,shoving oestrogen to the back. Studies have found moderate alcohol consumption to be associated with elevations in oestrogen. So, really consider whether that extra glass of wine or G&T is worth it or not. For me, alcohol just isn’t worth it and I’ve chosen to go without completely. I understand that this isn’t for everyone, but even a small reduction and just being more mindful, can make a big difference.
4) Minimise your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals
‘Hormone-disrupting chemicals’ are various chemicals found in our environment and various products that mimic real oestrogen and can take the place of it in your cells and wreak havoc on the function and communication of your hormones. Not only that, these naughty chemicals will increase the oestrogen load in your body, increasing the symptoms mentioned above. It’s more important now more than ever to be mindful of your exposure to these chemicals.
Where are these chemicals found?
- Perfumed/fragranced products (‘parfum’) and products containing parabens and phthalates, which includes shower gels, deodorants, body and hair sprays, creams, hair care, make up, candles, laundry detergents etc.
- Household and industrial cleaning products, air fresheners and plugins
- Non-natural personal care products such as sanitary towels and tampons
- Plastics, plastic bottles, food packaging, straws, food containers, till receipts
- Cooking, heating and freezing in plastics
- Non-stick pans, plastic cooking utensils
- Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides
What can you do?
Gradually switch to chemical-free versions of your favourite products. Natural skincare brands include Tropic, Green People, Ren and Neal’s Yard. Natural household cleaning brands include Bio-D, Method and Attitude. If you like burning candles, some natural brands include Neom, Espa and Neal’s Yard.
Support your body to ovulate as many months as possible: so that you make progesterone
1) Eat a nourishing, blood sugar friendly diet
Perimenopause is NOT the time to restrict calories or specific foods, especially proteins and fats. It’s a time to be really well nourished with ENOUGH calories coming from:
- Proteins: chicken, turkey, fish, red meat (grass fed, organic where budget allows), eggs, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds. PROTEIN is the KEY nutrient for good blood sugar balance, which is essential if you want healthier hormones and a better experience of perimenopause. Aim for 30-40g of protein with 3 meals per day (yes, that includes breakfast).
- Healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, oily fish (omega 3), coconut, nuts, seeds
- Slow-release carbs: root veg, beans, lentils, whole grains
- Fibre + plant chemicals: colourful vegetables, berries, flaxseed, herbs, spices, green tea.
Your body needs a constant supply of many important nutrients, including the omega 3 fats DHA and EPA from oily fish, iodine, zinc, B vitamins especially B12, B6 and folate (B9), vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin A (as retinol, which is only found in animal foods), choline, selenium and zinc.
2) Manage stress
Stress is the biggest blocker of ovulation (progesterone production) AND makes the oestrogen roller coaster more pronounced.
Your brain will NOT tell your ovaries to ovulate if stress is chronic/you’re always in “fight or flight”. Read more about ovulation and progesterone here.
Busy days filled with work, rushing from one thing to another, intense workouts, scrolling on your phone, answering Whatsapps, being everything to everyone keep you in a state of chronic stress. Add to this, starting it all as soon as you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow at night, and your hormones are in for a rough ride in perimenopause.
Simple lifestyle habits shown to rebalance cortisol levels and switch you out of ‘fight or flight’ into ‘rest and repair’ include walks in nature/green spaces, qigong, yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, having a good evening wind-down routine and good sleep, and getting your eyes into daylight within 30-60 minutes of waking. Even just 5-10 minutes a day of some of these things (scattered throughout the day) can make a profound difference.
Before I go, I’d like to leave you with a couple of questions to consider…
- Which if the tips and tools mentioned here resonate with you the most? Perhaps it’s nutrition related or is it the stress piece?
- What 2 changes can you slowly begin to make, with regards to your dietary and lifestyle habits, that you KNOW would make a difference to how you feel? (start with the lowest hanging fruit).