In my last post, I shared three ways that nutrition can support you as you’re moving through perimenopause, the gradual sequence of events that happens before you reach the menopause, the day when you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
Even if you’re not close to being perimenopausal (this can start as early as your late 30s, but most typically starts in our early to mid 40s), what you do in your menstruating years will set you up for a better perimenopause and menopause.
Here are three more areas that you can look at to help you have a better perimenopause: alcohol, sleep and stress.
Be more intentional about how you drink alcohol
Stress levels can definitely increase in our late 30s and 40s. It feels like we have a lot more to juggle between work, family, side hustles, friends, ageing parents and more. With so many balls in the air, alcohol can feel like an easy way to release the pressure.
Since the pandemic, alcohol intake has increased and some of us have started relying on it more as life gets back to a new kind of normal. It can help us feel like we can unwind even when we’re expected to do more and more.
I’m sure you won’t find it surprising to hear that alcohol isn’t great for our changing hormones during perimenopause. As we talked about last week, our livers are working hard to metabolise changing estrogen and progesterone levels. When we throw regular alcohol intake on top of this, our liver has to work even harder, which isn’t ideal.
If you’ve been wondering why your sleep is getting worse and perhaps why you’re starting to experience night sweats, this could be one of the reasons why. Alcohol stops us from going into that deep restorative sleep that helps us wake up feeling refreshed and reduces sugar cravings. You may even notice that you’re a bit grumpier too. Alcohol depletes vitamin B6, one of the nutrients we need to make serotonin, our happy hormone.
We’re heading into the time of year when there can be more drinks on offer, with Hallowe’en parties, Bonfire Night and of course, the run up to Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year. Could you start to be more intentional about how and when you drink? Could you drink less often and drink less when you do.
Try it and notice how you feel the next day.
Click here to read how you can change your sleep and manage stress to help you have a better perimenopause experience.
Prioritise a great night’s sleep
Sleep is the foundation of our health, yet so many of us tend to skimp on it, thinking we’ll catch up at the weekend.
Changing estrogen and progesterone levels can affect the quality of our sleep, leading to perimenopausal insomnia or simply more difficulty falling asleep. Then if you throw hot flashes, night sweats and waking up to urinate on top, it’s not a recipe for a great night’s sleep.
There’s a lot you can do to improve the quality of your sleep, despite changing hormones.
When we consistently go to bed and wake up around the same time each evening and morning, we prime our brains to expect this routine. Don’t forget how much our brains love a routine. A routine creates a shortcut and lightens the mental load, which I know so many of us appreciate.
Drinking less alcohol, especially before bedtime helps us sleep better too.
If you find yourself struggling with winding down before bed, try adding a magnesium glycinate supplement. Magnesium is nature’s relaxing mineral and this version has glycine, an amino acid that can reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Be mindful of you’re managing stress levels
When I talk about stress, I use the analogy of ascending a staircase. As your stress levels increase, you go up the staircase step by step. As you go up each step, your body tries to adapt to the increased stress levels. But if you reach the top of the staircase, that may be the point where you notice burnout starting to creep in. You could be the duck on water, outwardly gliding across, but inwardly frantically paddling beneath the water to keep up.
Instead of looking at reducing stress as yet another thing on your to do list, consider what you can do to punctuate the day with little moments that help to reduce your stress levels.
Deep breathing is an easy one. When we take a long breath in through our nose and exhale it out through our nose, we give ourselves the opportunity to calm our nervous system and reduce our cortisol (our primary stress hormone) levels.
You could also try sighing, humming or singing, all of which helps to activate the vagus nerve, the long nerve that goes from the gut to the brain through our lungs, throat and around the back of our head to our brain. The vagus nerve helps to shift us from a fight or flight highly stressed state to a calmer state.
Have you noticed the effects of mindful drinking, better sleep and less stress on managing perimenopause symptoms?
Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones.
Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.
Her first book You Can Have A Better Period was released in March 2022.