THE 10 years or so leading up to menopause, known as the "perimenopause", can be an interesting time for women.
The changes that occur can be extremely disruptive if you don't know why your body is making you feel this way, and what you can do to ease the symptoms.
But once you know what's going on, it's easier to work with, and there are lots of things you can do in your diet and lifestyle to ease your transition into the menopause.
There's a real biological reason why your hormones can misbehave.
In the years when your reproductive process is in full swing, one of your ovaries should produce an egg every month.
The cells left behind on your ovary after the egg has been released are known as the corpus luteum.
These cells have a vital role in fertility, because they secrete progesterone.
This is a vital hormone that lets your uterus know an egg has been released.
Progesterone also helps keep you calm and happy, as feeling stressed reduces your chances of conception.
If the egg isn't fertilised, the corpus luteum diminishes, your progesterone levels gradually drop and your uterus is no longer receiving instructions to keep the lining in place. So it lets it go (that's your period).
As you get closer to menopause, your ovaries don't produce an egg every month, so there's often no corpus luteum, and less progesterone.
That also means a less harmonious balance with oestrogen, as progesterone's other job is to act as a counter-balance for oestrogen.
The shortage of progesterone can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, increased anxiety, and bladder urgency.
The excess of oestrogen can lead to amplified pre-menstrual tension with its increased stress, mood swings, fluid retention, and irritability.
There are also lots of practical steps you can take to help: legumes are a key strategy, and a girl's best friend for helping balance hormones through diet.
Enjoy half a cup of cooked legumes every day for their nutrients as well as their fibre, as they boost levels of sex hormone binding globulin (this helps "mop up" excess hormones).
Exercise helps moderate oestrogen, because it reduces your blood sugar level, and reduces stress.
Olwen Anderson is a nutritionist naturopath based in Murwillumbah.
Click here to visit her website.
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