Perimenopause and Nutrition

April 27, 2021

Are you a woman in your mid-forties or early fifties? If so, you may be experiencing the onset of perimenopause. This phase, which typically starts in a woman’s mid-forties and lasts for four to six years, marks the time when the body begins its transition into menopause. This natural passage in a woman’s life cycle is marked by the slow reduction of hormone levels. Perimenopause encompasses the years leading up to menopause in addition to the first year after your final period. It’s a natural part of aging and very individual.

The levels of your reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — rise and fall unevenly during perimenopause. Your menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten, and you begin having menstrual cycles in which you don’t ovulate.

The onset of menopause can be accompanied by an increase in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.  In addition, HDL (good) cholesterol levels may decrease, especially in women who gain weight during this time period.  So, being proactive is key!

When your body is preparing and undergoing this change, making some healthy lifestyle changes can greatly help ease some of the symptoms of perimenopause as well as promote good health as you age.

  • Good Nutrition. Reduced estrogen concentrations mean there is an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease at this time, so a healthy diet is more important than ever. Adopt a low-fat, high-fiber diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Add calcium-rich foods or take a calcium supplement. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can trigger hot flashes.  Iron needs decrease with menopause – from 18 to 8 milligrams of iron per day.  Since there is no longer loss during menstruation, your risk of iron deficiency drops.  Discontinue use of iron supplements, unless your doctor advises otherwise.
  • Physical Activity. Regular exercise helps prevent weight gain, strengthens heart and bone health, lowers the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, improves your sleep, and elevates your mood. An active lifestyle can also reduce the discomforts of menopause. Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week.
  • Stress Reduction. Practiced regularly, stress reduction techniques, such as meditation or yoga, can promote relaxation and good health throughout your lifetime, but may be particularly helpful during the menopausal transition.

Why the Weight Gain?

Some menopausal women experience something they may never have had a problem with before – weight gain. The reason is multifaceted:

  • Metabolic rate – the speed at which the body uses energy often slows as hormone levels change
  • Homone changes – less estrogen means that the body metabolizes fat differently, storing it subcutaneously (or under the skin)
  • Sedentary lifestyle – in midlife, some women shift to a less active lifestyle, using less food energy

Planning for your body’s metabolic slowdown by making healthy choices and staying physically active will go a long way towards helping you feel like “yourself” during this time!

For more tips on preparing your body for these changes, or to schedule an appointment with Anne, please email or call 978-302-4768.

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