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The way you have always done things will not help you comfortably get through all the changes your body is making in perimenopause and menopause. Some lifestyle and diet changes can help smooth the transition.

Perimenopause usually starts in your 40’s. Your periods become closer together and often heavier. This is due to hormone decline. 70-80% of women have symptoms, which are different for everyone. Some report night sweats and hot flashes.

Others report brain fog, depression, fatigue and higher anxiety. The hormone decline has many different impacts. Two types of problems tend to occur when hormones are out of balance:

  1. Uncomfortable symptoms that change how you think, feel, and act

  2. An increased risk of illness, such as depression, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and certain cancers

The good news is with a few changes, you can help improve the hormone balance with (just to name a few):

  • Food and Healthy Fats

  • Probiotics

  • Cut back on alcohol

  • Get excited about exercise, specifically weight bearing

  • Mental Health priorities

  • Think about your skin

  • Take your sleep seriously

  • Manage your stress

  • Supplements

Food and Healthy Fats:

Food is medicine.

Whole foods with many different colors represented throughout the day can be your best ally in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Calorie restriction (aka diets) can slow your metabolism. Do your best to finish eating at least 3-4 hours before bed so that your body can work on recovery and not digestion.

Fats are the essential building blocks for hormone production. They also keep inflammation levels low, boost metabolism, and promote weight loss. Aiming for 15 to 30 grams of healthy fats daily aids in the stabilization and production of stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline.

Good sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy omega-3-rich fats include coconut oil, avocados, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, grass-fed butter, and wild-caught salmon. The benefits of avocado, in particular, include improving heart health, lowering inflammation, controlling your appetite, and contributing to your daily intake of fiber and nutrients.

Probiotics:

Overall health, as well as many diseases, has been linked to digestive health. Research has proven that gut or digestive health equals hormonal balance and vice versa. The gut is teeming with bacteria, both beneficial and problematic. The key is to make sure the good outnumber the bad. Probiotics are known as the beneficial bacteria found in the gut. The right balance of probiotics can improve your production and regulation of critical hormones. Foods that contain these healthy probiotics include:

  • kefir

  • bone broth

  • sourdough bread

  • low-sugar kombucha

  • sauerkraut, kimchi or other pickled vegetables

  • miso

  • apple cider vinegar

Aim for at least two servings of these healthy probiotic foods daily! Additionally, high-fiber foods such as chia seeds and flaxseeds naturally feed probiotics in your system. I throw these foods and seeds into my salads, hot cereal, rice, quinoa and more.

Alcohol:

Alcohol can affect our blood sugar levels and cause a spike in estrogen and other hormone levels. One study published in the medical journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that, for women in their 40s and 50s, even moderate consumption (one drink a day) can affect the hormonal system. Women have reported that they experience night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and brain fog when drinking. Alcohol should be used sparingly. If a similar effect is wanted, it is suggested to try 5-10 mg THC. Using this can aid sleep.

Exercise:

Physical activity can strongly influence hormonal health because exercise reduces insulin levels. In a 24-week study of women, exercise helped balance insulin and adiponectin levels (a hormone that has anti-inflammatory effects and helps regulate metabolism). Studies have also found that being physically active may help boost muscle-maintaining hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, that typically decline with age. Although a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise provides the best results, engaging in physical movement is beneficial. The old way of working out hard does not work. Raising heart rate over a long period of time can raise cortisol and could negatively affect stress.

Your Skin:

When menopause begins, the body experiences a natural decline in reproductive hormones. This can cause the skin to appear flushed, red, and blotchy. Why? Because estrogens have anti-inflammatory properties, inflammation in the skin and conditions like rosacea can worsen when they derease. Losing estrogen can also produce less collagen, dehydrated skin, and a lighter, more pale complexion.

Millions of products are out on the market that claim to “fix” your skin issues, but I encourage you to stop chasing the hype and get back to basics when treating your skin. Start with a simple cleanser in the morning and night. Apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer (which means it won’t clog your pores) and use a broad-spectrum SPF daily.

Sleep:

Your body needs adequate time to rest and recover to work at its full capacity. Most people aren’t getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep, which is messing with their wellness in many ways. To get your sleep schedule in order, prioritize having a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Practice good sleep hygiene by using blue light-blocking glasses for screen time at night or swapping out your phone for a book.

Manage your stress:

Calming your mind will help you manage the day-to-day emotions that will arise. Meditation for menopause will:

  • Shift your perspective

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Try yoga, tai chi, journaling, or simple breathwork exercises. Practicing gratitude is a simple and quick way to stop and calm the mind. Getting outside helps reset your stress.

An interesting study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the human female responses to stress (as well as those of some animal species) are not well characterized by fight-or-flight, as research has implicitly assumed, but rather are more typically characterized by a pattern the authors termed "tend-and-befriend." Specifically, females create, maintain, and utilize social groups, especially relations with other females, to manage stressful conditions.

Supplements:

Getting all the nutrients we need through our diet alone can sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, supplements can help. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Magnesium is a micromineral needed for numerous functions in the body. For example, magnesium helps calm the nervous system and prevents excess cortisol production. Magnesium deficiency is rising due to a drastic decline in food sources. Reports estimate, “magnesium content in vegetables has seen declines up to 80% since pre-1950 figures, and typical grain refining processes for bread and pasta remove 80-95% of total magnesium.” Vitamin D deficiency is also on the rise.

  • B Vitamins play many vital roles in the body. Because there are so many different B vitamins, 8 in total, taking a B complex is recommended to ensure proper intake of each one. B vitamins are responsible for liver detoxification, mood-elevating effects, nerve function, and estrogen balance.

  • Vitamin C lowers cortisol (a hormone that regulates the body’s response to stress and helps metabolism) which helps with improving sleep, reduces stress, and improves lethargy and low energy.

  • Vitamin D acts as a hormone inside the body and helps to keep inflammation levels low. It also works to regulate estrogen levels in the body. Vitamin D is termed the sunshine vitamin because the body creates vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, with everyone covering up and slathering on sunblock, we may need more direct sun exposure, so supplementation is recommended.

While you can get all of the required nutrients through your diet, it takes a lot of work. Ultimately, supplementation may be your best bet!

This is just a start to how to step into your power of managing menopause. There are lots of misconceptions and misinformation that can be confusing. Take the time to notice what is changing, increase your self-care (#selfcareishealthcare) and ask for help. 75% of women just suffer. With the hormones declining, your brain is changing, and there are lifestyle changes that can help.

We are super passionate about spreading accurate information on this. Due to a lack of research and funding, women are still determining how to get help.

Let’s spread the word and support each other as we navigate this time.

In summary, here are six simple steps you can take to feel better and make this life transition easier:

  1. Eat clean foods that make you feel good

  2. Improve digestion and gut health

  3. Reduce stress and inflammation

  4. Calm and clear your mind

  5. Use natural body and skin care

Written by Kim Hart, Solar Coach Wellness

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