We need to talk about perimenopause. Just in case no one has told you, and that’s likely, perimenopause is the natural transition that begins for women in their late 30s or early 40s, and it lasts anywhere between two and 10 years.
It’s triggered when your ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, and the experience is marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, among many other potential symptoms. Ovulation becomes erratic and eventually stops altogether. The menstrual cycle lengthens, flow becomes irregular, and you ultimately stop menstruating. After one year of no periods, you’re in menopause.
Although half the world’s population experiences perimenopause, we don’t talk much about it. For whatever reason, we’re less hesitant to discuss period horror stories, uncomfortable OB-GYN visits, or tales of giving birth. But once we get past the baby-making years, the conversations are shrouded in shame or non-existent.
Even Dr. Mary Claire Haver, an OBGYN with special training in nutrition, lacked the knowledge she wishes she had when she hit midlife. Now, she’s getting the word out about all things perimenopause and menopause on social media and beyond.
Menopause isn’t an official medical specialty, but Dr. Haver has made it her business to focus on it—and we are so glad she has. Recently, a Suggest editor stumbled across a video titled “10 Perimenopause Tips I Wish I Knew Sooner.” This info is a game changer.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Is Essential
Dr. Haver says that inflammation is the “root cause” of so many things that start to ail us in our 40s because our estrogen levels are falling. Estrogen is an anti-inflammatory hormone. If you take it away, things get inflamed.
To combat the falling estrogen levels—and the resulting inflammation—make anti-inflammatory foods a major part of your daily diet. Cut back on refined carbs, fried foods, soda, and red meat. Add anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes, nuts, green leafy veggies, fruits, fatty fish, and olive oil.
As Dr. Haver points out, an anti-inflammatory diet is the “best way to combat” the loss of estrogen during perimenopause and tackle the inflammation problem.
2. Intermittent Fasting Is An ‘Incredible’ Tool
Intermittent fasting—where you switch between periods of fasting and eating on a regular daily schedule—is another excellent way to fight inflammation during perimenopause, according to Dr. Haver.
Research shows that intermittent fasting improves weight loss, decreases visceral (belly) fat, decreases cortisol, improves glucose intolerance, protects against age-related memory decline, improves liver function, and improves lipid and cholesterol levels. That’s a pretty convincing list.
3. Magnesium Is Essential
Magnesium plays several crucial roles in the body, supporting everything from muscle and nerve function to energy production.
Low magnesium levels can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes. Foods that are rich in magnesium include greens, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, milk, and yogurt.
4. Get Enough Vitamin D
Dr. Haver says it’s important to get enough vitamin D daily to maintain strong bones, especially during perimenopause, since yet another problem caused by low estrogen levels is bone loss.
Spending time outside in the sun is a great way to increase your vitamin D levels. You can also add it to your diet via fatty fish and seafood, mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
5. Get Enough Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Another key part of your daily diet during perimenopause is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources, or you could take a daily supplement, like this highly-rated Omega 3 fish oil from Sports Research.
6. Lube Is A Must During Intimacy
One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is vaginal dryness. This is why Dr. Haver says using lubrication during absolutely every intimate encounter is essential.
7. Developing Good Sleep Hygiene
During perimenopause, getting a good night’s sleep can become increasingly difficult. Dr. Haver recommends developing good sleep habits to help combat those night sweats and stay asleep for more than three hours at a time.
To improve your sleep hygiene, try keeping your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and free of electronic devices. Going to bed and waking up at the same time are also key.
8. Setting Personal Boundaries
During perimenopause, hormone fluctuation can make you feel tired, angry, or overwhelmed—name an emotion and you’ll probably feel it in a matter of 24 hours. So it makes sense that Dr. Haver included setting personal boundaries on her list of things she wishes she’d known. Trying to accommodate too many people will only intensify your emotions—plus it’s a great idea to set firm boundaries no matter how old you are.
9. Getting The Right Kind Of Exercise
Exercise is an important part of the daily routine during perimenopause, but make sure it’s the right kind. Dr. Haver says to focus on both aerobic exercise and resistance training when you are in your 40s.
Physically inactive people will lose up to 5% of their muscle every decade starting at age 30. But even if you are active, you will still likely lose muscle. On top of all that, research shows that loss of estrogen also contributes to muscle loss. That can lead to weakness and a loss of stamina, which can create a vicious cycle.
All that’s to say, resistance training is vital in midlife and beyond for maintaining and building muscle.
10. Self-Care Is More Important Than Ever
Dr. Haver says not to roll your eyes at the last item on her list—self-care. During perimenopause, she says the importance of “putting on your own oxygen mask first before taking care of everybody else in your life” can’t be overstated. Your body and brain are going through intense changes, and dealing with them should come first, and without guilt.