What is Peri-Menopause? 

Date: 20-05-2022

By Dr Michelle Woolhouse

Peri-menopause is a hormonally driven transition stage in a women’s life. It is a little akin to the hormonal dys-regulation that occurs for a few years after the first period. It heralds the coming to the end of the fertile years in a woman’s life. While some women don’t experience any significant issues, about 80% of women will. Learn about its symptoms, what can make things easier and treatment options. 

Every woman will go through menopause, but there are ways in which we can reduce the negative effects of the symptoms. Understanding the fluctuations, the role of your lifestyle choices, your genetics, your mental approach can help you manage this vital and what can be a transformational period in a woman’s life.  

Peri-menopause defined 

Peri-menopause is caused by the natural evolution of hormonal transformation caused when the ovary starts to decrease its production of hormones. It can start to occur anywhere between 10-15 years prior to the cessation of the monthly bleed. Fluctuations can mean sometimes the hormones levels will spike and other times they will drop. This means sometimes you may get hot flushes, other times you may feel more energised and irritated. Issues such as sleep disturbance, mood fluctuations, body changes occur, along with changes in libido, sex drive, mental outlook, fatigue and body image issues. Approximately 80% percent of women going through Peri-menopause will experience some symptoms.   

What are the symptoms of Peri-menopause? 

Peri symptoms vary from person to person as they are determined by underlying factors such as lifestyle choices, genetics, age, stress levels and other co-morbidities. The following are the five most common PCOS symptoms: 

  • Irregular periods 
  • Heavy or light bleeding 
  • Weight gain and body changes 
  • Mood changes 
  • Poor sleep 

Other common symptoms include hot flushes, low libido, joint pains, cognitive changes, increased anxiety, change in mental outlook, breast tenderness and worsening PMT. Hot flushes that are considered severe and long lasting are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  

What happens during Peri? 

As the sex hormones, such as Progesterone and Oestrogen start to fluctuate and decline, the body naturally changes. Women are particularly protected from conditions such as heart disease, stroke and metabolic conditions in part because of the hormonal cycle. As it changes, there is an increased risk of a whole raft of different functional issues, such as an increase in insulin resistance, increase in inflammation, gastric reflux, changes in bowel function and effects on a woman’s brain. The symptoms you may experience may be in line with your genetic vulnerabilities.  

Even though there is nothing any of us can do to stop the decline completely, there are a lot of things that can make it more functional, more regulated and more easeful. 

Is there a treatment for Peri? 

There is no cure for Peri, but the symptoms can be managed with lifestyle medicine, whole person support, herbal and nutritional interventions and the consideration of hormonal replacement. Altering life choices such as maximising the nutrition in your diet, regular exercise, stress reduction and engaging in personal introspection, are so important in the management of this life transition.  

What is the recommended diet for women with PCOS? 

There is no one-size-fits-all Peri diet, there are some general nutritional guidelines that can help. A healthy diet for Peri should be high in fibre and low in refined carbs and sugar. It’s also important to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. Some women with Peri find that cutting out dairy or gluten helps to improve their symptoms. Everyone is different, so it’s important to tune into your diet choices and see what works best for you. Working with a health professional can be really helpful.  

According to research, eating foods with a low glycaemic index and high in fibre helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Some of these foods are: 

  • Broccoli 
  • Legumes 
  • Peppers 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Lettuce 
  • Tree Nuts 
  • Eggplants 
  • Berries 
  • Pears 
  • Apples 
  • Plain yoghurt 
  • Dark chocolate 

Although Peri cannot be stopped, it can be supported, and making sure you are as healthy as possible heading into mid-life is vital in supporting your health in your older years. The time is now. 

Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options that are suitable for you. 

Michelle Woolhouse is an Integrative GP who runs her Women’s Health Clinic at NIIM Clinic on Thursdays. She is due to publish her book “The Wonder Within – A heart-led playbook for the anxious, stressed and burnt-out” in September this year. To make an appointment with Dr Woolhouse, please call the NIIM Clinic on (03) 9804 0646 or visit www.niim.com.au to find out more

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