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Managing Perimenopause Naturally

Perimenopause is the stage of life leading up to your last menstrual period, during which the body undergoes various hormonal changes. During this stage, women may experience some of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats (also known as vasomotor symptoms), mood swings, sleep disturbances, brain fog and irregular periods. 

The average age of menopause is 51 years, but it can happen earlier. Most women present symptoms for 5 to 10 years. While hormonal therapy and medications are commonly prescribed to alleviate symptoms, many women seek natural approaches to manage perimenopause in addition to other treatments.

This article explores scientifically backed natural strategies to help women navigate this stage of life.

Diet & Nutrition

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in managing perimenopause symptoms and promoting overall wellbeing. A balanced diet can help alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings while supporting bone health, heart health, and weight management. The following sections will take you through the do's and don'ts when it comes to your diet and nutrition.

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Research suggests that phytoestrogens can be beneficial in reducing the frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women without serious side effects. 

Incorporating foods rich in phytoestrogens into the diet may help balance hormone levels and reduce hot flashes:

  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Flaxseeds
  • Tofu 

Intermittent Fasting - Not The Time To Start

There are a number of potential concerns when fasting is used during perimenopause. Its impact on hormonal balances can potentially lead to a worsening of hormonal fluctuations, resulting in increased symptoms. It can also be stressful for the body, potentially causing adrenal fatigue or exacerbating existing stressors that result from perimenopause. Instead, focus on an anti-inflammatory diet to meet your nutritional needs. It has been shown that the Mediterranean diet pattern, along with other healthy habits, can aid in the primary prevention of bone, metabolic, and cardiovascular diseases in the postmenopausal period. 

Aim For Protein

Researchers suggest that the body's appetite for protein increases during perimenopause (due to hormonally-induced tissue protein breakdown), but if protein requirements aren't met, women over consume other forms of energy. The Protein Leverage Effect means that without increasing the proportion of protein in the diet, the body's drive to reach its target protein intake will make you continue to eat unnecessary calories unless your protein requirements are met.

Science-Backed Supplements To Alleviate Symptoms


More research is needed on the effectiveness of other commonly used supplements, such as probiotics, prebiotics, cranberry extract, kava, DHEA-S, dong quai, and evening primrose oil, to help alleviate vasomotor symptoms.

Maintaining Bone Health With Calcium And Vitamin D

Ovarian function declines with age. The onset of menopause decreases the production of estradiol, a hormone that, besides maintaining the reproductive system, also regulates bone metabolism. Osteoporosis is the most prevalent disease in menopausal women and is strongly associated with low quality of life. Menopause hormone therapy is considered the first-line choice for the prevention of osteoporosis, and its effectiveness has been demonstrated by various studies. However, hormone therapy is recommended for women who are less than 60 years old and/or less than 10 years postmenopausal. 

Women should ensure adequate calcium intake and vitamin D, which are essential for maintaining bone health. Foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals are excellent sources of calcium, while sunlight exposure and fatty fish provide vitamin D.

Trigger Foods

Certain foods may worsen symptoms. Some women find that reducing their intake of caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods reduces their hot flushes.

Keeping a symptom diary can be quite helpful in identifying triggering foods; if you feel that particular foods trigger your menopause symptoms, try to reduce your consumption or avoid them altogether. Research has also shown the benefits of a plant-based diet, minimising oils, and consuming soybeans daily to reduce the frequency and severity of vasomotor symptoms.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals & Hormones

The endocrine system is a complex network of glands and organs. It uses hormones to control and coordinate your body's metabolism, energy level, reproduction, growth and development, and response to injury, stress, and mood. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be either natural or manufactured chemicals and are found in almost all industrial products, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, toys, food packaging, medical devices, households, and plastics. Persistent exposure to EDCs is associated with early menopause in women since different types of EDCs impair antioxidant capacity and increase oxidative stress in the female reproductive system.

Reducing exposure to EDCs:

  • avoid plastic containers, bottles and packaging
  • avoid canned food/beverages
  • consume fresh and organic food
  • avoid fast/processed foods
  • supplement diet with vitamin C, iodine and folic acid


Hydration

During peri & menopause, hydration is often an issue. Female hormones help regulate fluid balance in the body. Thus, it's not surprising that a woman's risk of dehydration increases when her hormones are in flux. Additionally, women experiencing hot flashes and night sweats are losing more fluid; if it's not replenished, this additional fluid loss will contribute to dehydration. Drinking 8 to 12 glasses of water daily can help with these symptoms.

Weight Management

Many women report gaining weight as they transition through menopause. Weight gain during menopause is predominantly due to a reduction in spontaneous activity. For most, the weight gain is modest and can be reduced with a conscious effort to limit energy intake and increase energy expenditure. However, many women who are already overweight and obese will gain more weight as they approach menopause. Lifestyle modification can prevent the modest weight gain that occurs as a result of declining oestrogen levels. For those already overweight, it will be important to lose weight rapidly and keep it off. A very low-energy diet (VLED) is an approach suggested by RACGP. There are many of these products on the market, but not all are suitable. Suitability can be assessed by a qualified dietitian who can check that all required micronutrients are included at the appropriate levels for a peri/menopausal woman.

Exercise

Preliminary research indicates that resistance training is a significantly beneficial exercise for peri & menopausal women to undertake due to improved menopausal symptoms and functional capacity. Additionally, aerobics training has been found to effectively improve the anxiety and depression of perimenopausal women and improve sleep quality. It is also recommended to incorporate stretching and balance exercises into your routine.

Exercise offers many benefits for women before, during and after menopause, including:

  • Preventing weight gain
  • Reducing the risk of cancer
  • Strengthening your bones
  • Reducing the risk of other diseases
  • Boosting your mood

Stress

Stress is well-documented to worsen menopausal symptoms. Adopt stress reduction techniques. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and other relaxation techniques can help manage stress and promote emotional wellbeing.

Sleep

The lower levels of Estrogen and Progesterone have a direct impact on sleep. Lack of sleep can make you feel irritable or depressed, might cause you to be more forgetful than normal, and could lead to more falls or accidents. Research now suggests that waking up itself may trigger hot flashes rather than the other way around.

Implementing good sleep hygiene practices can significantly improve sleep quality and minimise associated symptoms.

Take Control of Your Lifestyle

  • Drop Bio Health developed an at-home, finger-prick blood test to help you track changes to your lifestyle and understand how they impact your body's biochemistry and health. The WellBeing Test combines blood biomarker analysis with a lifestyle survey to provide you with insights in core categories related to long-term health: Energy, Sleep, Stress, Inflammation, Fitness, Body Fat Composition and Biological Ageing. If you are interested in getting your lifestyle habits on track in the lead-up to and during perimenopause, learn more about the WellBeing Test.

This article explores scientifically backed natural strategies to help women navigate this stage of life.

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