Do any of these issues ring a bell for you?
Brain fog and memory issues
Headaches and sore joints
Anxiety and feeling overwhelmed
These are some of the symptoms we can be lucky enough to experience as we head into the perimenopausal years. The timing of which varies from woman to woman but hormonal changes can be going on from our early 40s, with the average age of natural menopause being 51 (‘The Happy Menopause’, Jackie Lynch).
As I’m in my late 40s, lots of my conversations with friends seem to come round to these topics! I’ve known for a while about the benefits of magnesium at this stage in our lives, so I will mention that a bit, but I’ve rounded up some other info and advice that will hopefully come in handy. Not just for PMS, perimenopause and menopause. And not just for women!
First up, not to alarm you, but Jackie's book mentions some fairly scary statistics:
1 in 4 women experiences severe symptoms during menopause
40% of women suffer from low mood or depression
A third of women struggle with anxiety
70% of women have hot flushes
A quarter of women consider quitting their job due to how their symptoms affect them.
Yes, our hormonal changes will have an effect on us, just like they did when we were in our teens, but menopause doesn't have to be something that we suffer through. We just have to maybe tweak a few things. Be a bit kinder to ourselves.
In a way, it's tricky to separate all the elements of our lives, our physiology, our thoughts and beliefs that contribute to how we experience and deal with perimenopause. So hopefully these posts (there's too much info for one blog) don't jump too haphazardly from one topic to another. If they do, please excuse my perimenopausal brain (that didn't get enough sleep last night, not from night sweats or insomnia, but from 2 teens waking up at odd hours, switching lights on and generally making a racket) that is trying its best without wanting to get too stressed!
On that note ... STRESS
Did you know that when our ovaries stop producing oestrogen, our adrenal glands take over the job? They produce a much weaker form of oestrogen, because we still need this hormone for things other than reproduction. For example, it helps to regulate cholesterol levels, keeps our tissues flexible and resilient, and can reduce the risk of arteries becoming hardened.
But you know what else our adrenal glands produce, right?
Our stress hormones - cortisol and adrenaline. And at this stage of our lives, so many of us have stressors coming at us left, right and centre. This chronic stress*, even if it’s low level, is keeping our adrenal glands so busy they don’t get the chance to make oestrogen.
* Things like work demands, our hormones going haywire just when our children are under the control of their teenage hormones, helping aging parents, financial concerns, relationship issues, trying to make time for exercise only to injure ourselves when we do! You name it, it can give us stress.
Which is why we can help ourselves by reducing our stress load (or at least how we handle it) and allowing our adrenal glands get back to doing the other jobs they need to do, like producing the oestrogen that will help us feel better.
It's annoying in a way that our bodies' communication systems haven’t updated to match our modern lives. When our stress hormones rise, our body doesn’t know it’s from something as benign as a traffic jam making us late for work, our email inbox that never gets down to zero, getting a call from school (my heart races when the school number appears on my screen – my mind always goes to the worst case scenario) … you get the picture.
So much low level yet continuous stress. We think we're handling it ok. But No - our body STILL thinks there's a tiger chasing us. All our energies go to escaping that tiger. 'Unessential' systems like immune, digestive and reproductive are ignored. After all, you wouldn’t stop to digest a tasty meal if you really were trying to escape a blood-thirsty predator. No wonder we get symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, poor focus, increased belly fat**, and low mood. Instead of getting annoyed by things though, we maybe need to ask - what is my body telling me? And what can I do about it? (in a way that isn't adding yet more stress to your day of course!)
** Our fat cells can also produce oestrogen which is thought to be why, when we’re stressed and the body realises the adrenals aren’t making it, we lay down a bit more belly fat to help. Our body is trying to be kind to us. Turns out we need to be kinder to our bodies!
Jackie’s top tip for handling the stresses of menopause (seeing as we can't wave a magic wand to remove them all) is maintaining your blood sugar levels by eating a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates at every meal. Her book features some great food swaps to make this easy. You don’t have to rethink your diet, just tweak what you already do. For example, if you like toast with jam for breakfast, just make sure your bread is wholemeal and top it with a nut butter instead. Enjoy your same dinner but add an extra helping of veg, especially dark leafy greens to give you a magnesium boost, and help your liver do its job of processing and eliminating old hormones.
And so we come to magnesium. When I read the list of perimenopause symptoms I thought – hold on, they’re all things that magnesium can help with! One of the best things about magnesium is that it supports your nervous system, helping you to cope better with stress. It won’t get rid of the traffic jam or the inbox emails, but it will help you feel less irritated by them.
Our take on getting extra magnesium is - don't pop a huge pill - pour a deep bath!
An Epsom salt bath is a great double whammy stress reliever. It relaxes your muscles and calms your nerves, all while you enjoy a bit of peace and quiet down time.
It’s this down time aka self care that is so important too. You really do have to put yourself first more often than maybe you’re used to. You’ve no doubt heard this so many times, but it bears repeating because we are just too good at putting other people first. Your health and well-being has to at least get at least top equal billing! Can you say 'no' to one commitment a week to do something nice that will serve YOU? You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to achieve this. See here for some quick, easy stress-busting ideas. They're free and take only minutes.
But back to the bath. Don't laugh at scheduling one for yourself! Make it a routine like you may have done with your newborn. Let the family know that 2 or 3 nights a week, the bathroom is blocked off for your use. Then simply enjoy a long, relaxing Epsom salt bath. It’s great to do this an hour or so before bedtime as the lowering temperature of your body is a sign to your brain that it needs to get ready for sleep. Don’t worry that the temperature will leave you with a hot flush! Though you can always follow your bath up with a cold shower – also proven to have some great benefits.
If you have a stressful event coming up, like giving a talk at work, plan a bath for the night before to help you relax and stay calm, and support you to have a good sleep.
Support is what we're all about. Supporting ourselves and supporting each other. If you know someone who might like this blog, please share it with them. Or pop it on Facebook - isn't it mainly us oldies who use that these days?!
If you'd like to support your self care routine with one of our natural NZ-made bath soaks - Relaxing, Soothing, Uplifting or Luxurious - please feel welcome to use code SUPPORT for 15% off. In fact, this code will work for your whole order, so if you fancy pairing your bath with a scented candle, or boosting your magnesium levels even more with a magnesium oil spray, we've got you covered. Literally!