In this guest post from Wild Nutrition, experts in women’s nutritional health, we look at the knowledge gap surrounding perimenopause, its very distinct symptoms and the need for an integrated approach to smooth the transition to menopause.
Research by Food-Grown® supplement brand Wild Nutrition reveals that of the 2.2 million women currently in perimenopause, 36%1 are unaware what it actually is. Whilst the heightened awareness around menopause is a wonderful thing - after all, normalising the conversation can only be a positive - the focus remains very much skewed to menopause, with awareness of perimenopause lagging. In fact, online searches for ‘perimenopause symptoms’ are outnumbered 3:1 by searches for ‘menopause symptoms’.
“Quite simply, perimenopause is the ‘great forgotten women’s life stage'”, says Henrietta Norton, Founder and Formulator.
What exactly is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a very distinct and unique stage of a woman’s life. A signal that your body is changing, an entirely natural progression. It’s the time when your body’s reproductive system slows down until you hit menopause, the official date marking the full one-year anniversary since your last period.
Perimenopause usually starts around 40-44 years old, but can start in your mid 30s, lasting anywhere from two to ten years, sometimes even longer. The average age for British women reaching menopause is 51.
What actually happens in perimenopause?
When you go into perimenopause, your ovaries prepare to stop releasing eggs entirely by producing less:
testosterone (not just a male hormone)
Think of perimenopause as reverse puberty. Just like puberty, a time of heightened hormonal instability. Yes, it can be a white-knuckle ride (albeit with many extra responsibilities) but equally it can be a time for observation and discovery, a time to acknowledge this profound twist on the journey of womanhood.
“This time in life is often regarded as a time of deficiency but this story needs to change, as perimenopause is a natural transition rather than a signal of pending oestrogen inadequacy. Women are meant to have a decline in hormones, it’s a natural process and marks the next phase of what it means to be a woman.”
1 Future of Perimenopause Report, Wild Nutrition, 2022. Wildnutrition.com
How can I tell if I’m perimenopausal?
There’s no single scientifically-proven test to tell you, with certainty, if you’re in perimenopause however hormone testing is available - via your GP, a specialist NHS clinic (with fewer than 100 clinics in the UK, there’ll be a waiting list but no charge) or a private healthcare specialist.
This life stage is less ‘tangible’ with fewer visible symptoms, so identifying it with any degree of precision can be challenging. A situation not helped by many doctors having neither the time nor the training to investigate your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
Two of the most notable symptoms of perimenopause are:
1) a change to your cycle. Periods may be heavier and longer, or lighter and shorter, or just altogether more erratic.
2) a change to your mood such as anxiety or feeling low. Your moods may fluctuate - feeling close to tears one minute, inexplicably angry the next.
You may also feel: more tired
notice a thickening waistline changes to skin
memory lapses achiness
How can supplements support the symptoms of perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time when you need optimal nutritional support. If you’re starting from a healthy baseline, it will really help the transition. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, not giving your mind and body the care they need, you could be experiencing nutritional deficiencies.
“In your 40s you can’t get away with what you used to ten or twenty years ago. Listen to your body, give it the love it needs, it’s dealing with a lot right now,” Lorna Driver-Davies, Head of Nutrition.
“If you’re experiencing heavy periods or menstrual flooding, you could be low in iron. Your immune system may need supporting or your vitamin B levels topping up. There’s a host of options available.”
What can I do to mitigate the symptoms of perimenopause?
Perimenopause is your body's way of shifting your full attention back onto your wellbeing. Everything you've always known about taking care of yourself - good sleep, a balanced diet, hydration, regular exercise - really comes into focus as you approach perimenopause.
Says Henrietta: “Perimenopause is an incredibly empowering time when a woman can work with her body, holistically, to give balance to her whole system and pave the way to having a less disruptive menopause, minimising the symptoms that most women dread.
“The analogy I use when talking to women about perimenopause is that of a plane coming into land - to make that landing as easy as possible, you need to make sure your body has enough fuel in the tank for that smooth landing.”
So let’s change the conversation and approach perimenopause and menopause the same way we address mental health - from a holistic perspective, considering our diet, exercise, stress levels, sleep quality and, if needed, additional prescription support such as HRT. With millions of British women currently experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, it’s time for a more considered approach.