Perimenopause is the phase women enter before menopause. It usually occurs when a woman is in her 40s but could begin mid-30s. Changes, such as irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, hot flashes, moodiness, and digestive issues, are common due to fluctuating hormones. However, there are ways to minimize some symptoms, and it’s best to strategize prior to being thrust into this phase of life.
Minimize drinking. Who doesn’t love a good brunch? Day drinking with bottomless mimosas, bellinis, and vodka sunrises have become weekend norms. Having a couple of glasses of red wine to take the edge off is customary. But as you age, not only do your hormones shift, so do the enzymes that help you process alcohol. Consequently, a few things occur: your body becomes less tolerant to alcohol, and these intolerances can worsen perimenopause symptoms. Drinking red wine lowers estrogen and in some cases, can increase hot flashes or night sweats. If you don’t want to ditch alcohol altogether, you can change the types of alcohol you’re drinking. Opt for an organic wine, which tends to have fewer sulfites, or a European wine, which has less alcohol content. If you prefer spirits, then choose a gluten-free, organic vodka or gin that has zero sugar. There are plenty on the market, and your body will thank you for the shift.
Attune mental health. Hormone levels are up and down during perimenopause. It’s like PMS on steroids. One day, you may wake up on top of the world. The next day, you may want to commit an act of violence against those you love simply because they asked, “How are you?” Coping strategies will help to alleviate moodiness and more. While seeing a therapist and resolving childhood issues are ideal, there are other ways to support your mental health. Exercise can relieve stress and help with sleep, two things that impact mood. However, moving your body in midlife should be tailored to things you enjoy. Don’t run because everyone is running in your neighborhood; think about what is fun to you, such as dancing, biking, or hiking. Try something new, like yoga, which calms the nervous system and, subsequently, can stave off anxiety and depression. If you’re new to exercising, then try an app, hire a wellness coach, or simply begin with a walk. Either way, implementing and maintaining an exercise regimen is integral for overall well-being as you head into your 40s.
Balance gut health. For some, perimenopause brings on a host of issues related to the gastrointestinal tract, or your gut. This could mean developing leaky gut, heartburn, bloating, or constipation. The new recommendation for having a colonoscopy, the procedure that can detect cancer and other abnormalities, has changed from 50 to 45. Until then, there are a range of ways you can ensure that your gut is healthier. The easiest change is to include the American Heart Association’s suggestion of approximately 28 grams of fiber per day. More fiber will help move things along in the digestive area. Eating a plant-based diet can also be helpful. Plant-based doesn’t mean you have to become vegan or vegetarian (although a vegan diet may lead to fewer menopausal symptoms). This switch could mean swapping out meals or days where you’d normally have meat. Remember Meatless Mondays? Choosing one day to avoid meat is an easy way to add veggies and alternate sources of protein to your diet, which gives your gut a rest. If you want to do a major overhaul, try an elimination diet, where several foods are removed to help you start over with a clean gut and to understand what, specifically, could be a source of inflammation.
Try one or all of these suggestions. Be a healthier you before you have to.
*This article does not replace seeking medical advice.*
Between Mother and Crone will focus on topics rarely discussed among Black women. It will bring forth the things our grandmothers and aunties haven’t shared. Topics will range from health concerns, such as why Black women should consider hormone replacement therapy, to beauty topics, such as why wearing gray hair should be embraced.
Article Written by: K E Garland | K E Garland is an award-winning creative nonfiction writer, blogger, and author based in Florida. She uses personal essays and memoirs to de-marginalize women’s experiences with an intent to highlight and humanize contemporary issues. She has a husband and two adult daughters and is an associate professor at a community college.