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What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause or better described as ‘second puberty’ is the transitional phase leading up to menopause, characterised by hormonal fluctuations and changes, Perimenopause is a phase that lasts anywhere from two to ten years before your final period.

Symptoms include:

  • Heavy and/or longer periods (New onset)

  • Menstrual cycles lasting less than 26 days

  • Tender, lumpy or swollen breasts

  • Sleep disturbance (New or worsening)

  • Menstrual cramps (New or worsening)

  • Premenstrual night sweats (New onset)

  • Migraine Headaches (New or worsening)

  • Premenstrual mood swings (New or worsening)

  • Weight gain with no changes to diet & exercise

This is different from menopause which is the life phase that begins one year after your final period. Symptoms of both perimenopause and menopause are not universal with many women experiencing these transitional phases in vastly different ways. Symptoms if they do occur are generally during perimenopause and are temporary.

When can you expect to reach menopause? The range for the final period can vary from 45 - 55 years of age. The normal age range for perimenopause is up to 10 years prior so can be as young as 35. Perimenopause can occur at a relatively young age which is why it is less about ageing and is an important adjustment of the hormonal system that is unavoidable for women.

In modern society we tend to pathologise menopause, due to this and the associated stigma of both menopause and ageing, the majority of women are fearful of this transitional phase in life. This is why opening up conversations around perimenopause and menopause is so important. Connection and understanding itself is an important aspect of this transitional season of life.

While menopause itself is a universal occurrence in a woman's life, it is not a universal experience, some women breeze through while others have a much harder time. Certain cultures view menopause in a very different way for example in Japan the word for menopause ‘konenki’ translates to the renewal years/energy, Anthropologist Yewoubdar Beyene described the Yucatan women in Mexico reported feeling young & free with menopause.

How can we infuse some of this into our busy modern lives? Two differences between traditional cultures and western society are our modern diet, and chronic stress. There are many aspects of health we can support to help with a smoother transition such as our nervous system.

Many women voice being unable to cope as well with stress. One of the mechanisms behind this is the decrease in progesterone which unbalances our HPA axis aka the Stress response system. During perimenopause, progesterone drops before oestrogen, this change is why perimenopause is associated with an increased occurrence of Insomnia, depression & anxiety.

How can we support our nervous system? Take time to slow down and nurture yourself through this phase, it won't last forever and taking time for yourself will be beneficial. Improving the vagal tone and activating the parasympathetic nervous system is beneficial as it allows for ‘rest & digest’.

We can achieve this by:

  • Spending more time in nature is associated with reduced stress, the exposure to natural light can also positively affect sleep and circadian rhythm.

  • Spending time with loved ones and animals promotes the release of oxytocin and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Practising yoga poses that raise the hands above the head as it stimulates blood pressure sensors that improve vagal tone.

  • Pranayama the breath focus of yoga is also very beneficial as it extends the exhalation activating the vagus nerve.

  • Establishing a daily meditation practice to improve stress management and build resilience.

From a nutritional perspective a diet predominantly focused on whole and unprocessed foods rich in nutrients supports every aspect of health including gut health. A healthy microbiome plays an important role in the release of GABA, an important neurotransmitter that plays a role in activating the vagus nerve.

Nutritional approaches in perimenopause and menopause can also be key to mitigating common concerns such as weight gain, insulin resistance and digestive issues.

While a food first and nutrient replete approach is always important, additional support from targeted practitioner supplementation or specific nutrition interventions can help manage some of the less desirable impacts of perimenopause. These include sleep disturbance and Impaired oestrogen metabolism which is associated with heavy periods, sore breasts, PMS and suppressed thyroid function.

If you would like to explore how to mindfully support yourself through perimenopause and menopause and are local to Papamoa please come along to my workshop this Saturday where we explore this more deeply.

Alternatively if you are not able to attend and would like to book a Nutrition & Health Consultation for perimenopause / menopause support you can find out more below or alternatively email me at

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