Are your periods erratic? Do you have heavy bleeding or unpredictable menses? Do you experience hot flashes, anxiousness, and poor sleep? Are you in your mid to late 30s or 40s, or early 50s? Have you gained weight drastically?
If yes, you may be going through the perimenopausal phase. Wondering what it is? It is the final years of a woman's reproductive life, and menopause is a complete stoppage of the menstrual cycle.
Hence, before, during, and after menopause, your estrogen levels will begin to fluctuate, and your metabolic process will slow down, making it more difficult for you to lose weight.
Don't worry! It isn't difficult to lose weight, and read on to explore ways to maintain or lose weight through diet and physical activities.
What Is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a transitional phase where you'll start experiencing symptoms before or around menopause. During this time, the ovaries start to make less estrogen. Perimenopause lasts until you enter into the menopause phase, when the ovaries stop producing eggs altogether.
Your periods become irregular, and your menstrual cycle becomes unpredictable. Your ovaries become fewer hormones, and your menstrual cycles become irregular.
You may also experience symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.
When Does Perimenopause Start?
Your perimenopause generally begins eight to ten years before menopause. It means you may begin experiencing symptoms of perimenopause in your mid or late 30s to early or late 40s or even just before menopause. There is no specific age for this, but any woman can start this phase at any age. It depends on their body, genetics, and lifestyle.
During the perimenopausal phase, your hormones (estrogen and progesterone) will fluctuate. The estrogen level (the main hormone in women) will steadily drop until eggs are no longer released (i.e., to say you have entered the menopausal state).
Some women may go into menopause earlier than normal if they have a family history of early menopause, removed ovaries (oophorectomy) or uterus (hysterectomy), are chronic smokers, or had treatments for cancer along with chemotherapy.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
Depending on certain factors such as family history, body, genetics, and lifestyle, perimenopause can last for a few months to about 4 to 6 years before menopause.
As stated earlier, menopause can occur early in exceptional cases due to surgery, cancer treatments, untoward consequences, etc.
Why Do You Gain Weight During Perimenopause?
Your body searches for an estrogen replacement during perimenopause, which normally begins around 40. Estrone, the least potent of the three kinds of estrogen – estradiol and estriol – is found in fat in your body.
Estrogen comes from fat. The body is, therefore, quite effective at supplying a “replacement,” and it does so by storing fat quickly, especially around the waist.
The strongest of the three types of estrogen, estradiol, cannot be replaced by food or dietary supplements. Although it carries certain health hazards, hormone replacement treatment is the only option to restore it.
Losing estrogen increases your risk of cardiac issues and type 2 diabetes, so gaining weight also increases those risks. It is crucial to enter the menopausal transition, or perimenopause, at a healthy body weight if you want to minimize the risks of chronic illnesses during menopause.
Your metabolism also plays a role in weight gain due to this hormonal fluctuation. There is a decrease in the metabolism during this transitional phase.
Furthermore, some studies have also shown that the hunger hormone “ghrelin” is higher among perimenopausal women, which drives them to eat more calories.
Women should examine the foods that make up their diet as a starting point. How a person's body reacts to certain meals and dietary patterns depend on various factors, including genetics, underlying medical issues, past weight fluctuations, gut bacteria, and many more. Nevertheless, some studies have examined particular foods' role in weight growth.
Refined foods (cereal, cookies), starchy foods (French fries, potatoes), and sugary or carbonated drinks lead to increased weight gain. It doesn't imply that you must avoid certain foods completely. Still, if you do consume them, it is wise to restrict how frequently you do so and to consume them in moderation. Dietary regimens prioritizing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains appear to prevent weight gain.
Perimenopausal Diet Tips
Incorporating these diet tips and negative calorie foods during the perimenopausal phase may help you maintain your weight:
- Fiber-Rich Foods: A fiber-rich diet will help you with digestion and maintain healthy body weight. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are fiber-rich.
- Proteins: Protein is one of the essential nutrients which also helps offset muscle loss. Chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, beans, and nuts are good protein sources.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce cholesterol levels and triglycerides, thus minimizing heart-related risks. Omega-3 is found abundantly in fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. Nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables, and plant oils are also rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Phytoestrogens: These foods help reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness caused due to perimenopause. Soy products, flaxseeds, sesame, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are natural sources of phytoestrogens.
- Calcium: Calcium helps maintain bone strength as the bones tend to become weaker due to hormonal changes. Dairy products and leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red cells and brain function. Eggs, fish, milk, lean meats, cereals, and grains are good sources of vitamin B12.
- Water: Hormonal changes during perimenopause can cause dehydration. Drink plenty of water for proper functioning, including regulating body temperature, cell nutrition, lubrication of joints, burning body fat, and maintaining weight. Consuming about 11.5 cups of fluids is recommended for daily hydration.
Foods To Avoid During Perimenopause
Certain foods and beverages may trigger or enhance perimenopausal symptoms, including poor sleep, anxiety, hot flashes, and weight gain. Avoiding such food items may eliminate or minimize some symptoms.
- Alcohol: Alcohol may trigger or worsen hot flashes and disrupt sleep. Since alcohol contains high calories, you may consume more calories while drinking, resulting in excess weight gain.
- Sugary Foods: Sugary foods or processed foods increase blood sugar rapidly. Consuming these foods can increase the incidence of hot flashes, besides adding high calories to your diet.
- Salty Foods: Salt also contributes to weight gain. Excess salt aids water retention, thus contributing to additional weight. Salty foods influence you to overeat. High salt also risks low bone mineral density and high blood pressure.
- Spicy Foods: Spicy foods have been associated with hot flashes and anxiety. Avoid or minimize spicy foods if it triggers or worsens the symptoms.
- Caffeine: Caffeinated beverages also disrupt sleep, contribute to body temperature fluctuations, and trigger anxiousness during the perimenopausal phase.
Exercising During Perimenopause
It is significant for women over 40 to do moderate-intensity exercise of at least 150 minutes every week and at least two to three days per week of resistance strength-training workouts to maintain muscle and bone mass during perimenopause. It may also help alleviate annoying symptoms of perimenopause.
Including these workouts into your routines may be beneficial for either weight loss or maintaining weight:
- Cardio Exercises: Cardio exercises like running, swimming, and brisk walking may help minimize the risk of heart disease due to lower estrogen levels. They also help improve sleep quality and mood swings.
- Yoga: Yoga helps reduce the blood pressure increase during perimenopause and improves the overall quality of life during this stage.
- High-Impact Exercises: Bone loss during perimenopause leads to osteoporosis and fractures. High-impact exercises like tennis, soccer, aerobic dance, etc., enhance bone strength and preserve bone mass.
- Weight Lifting: Lifting small weights can help you strengthen joints and muscles. They help build the muscles.
- Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises help you reduce stress and alleviate perimenopausal symptoms to some extent.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises: Hormonal changes reduce blood flow to the pelvic floor. These exercises strengthen your gut, vagina, and bladder muscles and improve flexibility and blood flow.
Natural Supplements To Aid During Perimenopause
There is a tendency to gain more weight during perimenopause due to slowing metabolism, muscle tissue thinning, and fat accumulation. You can easily control your weight by managing your eating and physical activities.
Here are a few natural substances that can help maintain your weight:
- Ginseng: This substance improves metabolism and aids in weight loss. It has been used for many centuries for various ailments.
- Acai: Acai berries are used to boost metabolism. It is also rich in antioxidants.
- Hoodia: A succulent that helps control and suppresses your appetite and prevents binge eating urges.
- Bitter Orange: Accelerates your metabolism and helps with weight loss.
- Macafem: Regulates hormones and assists in weight loss.
- Green Tea: Boosts your metabolism and suppresses your appetite.
- Licorice: Helps to balance hormones and reduce menopause symptoms.
- Anise: It has similar effects as estrogen and helps reduce hot flashes in women.
- Coconut: Coconut contains medium-chain triglycerides, which help to burn more energy.
- Maca Root: Lowers stress by decreasing cortisol levels. It also aids in weight loss.
- Red Clover: Prevents bone mineral density loss and helps balance the estrogen level and weight gain.
The Bottom Line
Perimenopause can contribute to hormonal changes, decreased metabolism, loss of bone mineral density, weight gain along with experiencing unpleasant symptoms. Some of the above-mentioned measures may help you combat weight gain and alleviate perimenopausal symptoms.
Lifestyle changes, diet, hydration, and regular workouts can contribute to overall general health.