The years leading up to menopause, when ovaries produce less estrogen starts as early as our 30s. If you’re a woman over 40, it’s time to talk about menopause.
I remember the first time someone suggested to me in a text that I might be experiencing the very earliest stages of menopause.
I wanted to throw my phone at the wall.
I was barely 40 at the time and thought “Woah. What? No way. I’m a LONG way off from menopause.”
And while it is true that many of us won’t actually go through menopause until we’ve moved out of our forties, the discomforts that signal this next life stage can start much earlier.
If only Molly Ringwald had done a “Forty Candles” flick to warn us of the impending changes.
I estimate that at present, GenX women fall somewhere between roughly 40-55 years of age. That puts us smack-dab in the middle of a life stage that’s both aged enough to experience the symptoms of perimenopause and possibly menopause, but young enough to be overlooked in this conversation.
(Being overlooked is not unfamiliar to us GenXers — the most overlooked generation in history. But that’s a post for another day.)
September marks Menopause Awareness Month and I’ve partnered with Life Extension again (be sure to check out The Perimenopause Episode I recorded with Dr. Mike from LE last year) to revisit the importance of recognizing, understanding and being willing to discuss where we’re headed with our hormone health… and more importantly, how we are managing the associated discomforts.
Facts about Perimenopause:
Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, begins somewhere in our 40s and perhaps even our 30s as our ovaries begin to produce less estrogen.
The discomforts brought on by perimenopause are much more than simply hot flashes and irritability. Early mid-life hormonal shifts actually bring about changes ranging from sleep disturbances to joint discomfort.
For me personally, sleep disturbances have been one of the discomforts I’ve struggled with most (probably no surprise to you if you’ve listened to either of the Sleep Episodes from Season 1 or Season 2). Not only have I struggled with middle-of-the-night insomnia, but I’ve also had my share of night sweats.
I’m happy to say, though, that over the past few months, I can only recall a very rare occurrence for either. Here’s what I’ve been doing that seems to be working for me:
- Reducing alcohol consumption — I’ve talked about this on the podcast, but I can’t say it too many times. (This is a reminder for me as much as it is for you. I have to continually tell myself this!) Alcohol, especially red wine, in almost any amount disrupts my sleep in a way that it never did in my 20s and 30s. That disruption can range from a slight tossing and turning, to an absolute torturous watching of the clock all night.
- Limiting caffeine — It should come as no real surprise that caffeine can disrupt sleep. But, after I realized in The Nutrigenomics Episode that I’m genetically predisposed to metabolize caffeine more slowly, I have become even more committed to cutting back on caffeine.
- Increasing carbohydrates at dinner — I learned this through my macro counting experience and specifically, the one-on-one work I did with Emily Field, RD. While I do tend to cycle my heaviest carbohydrate consumption around my workouts, I’ve found that a very low-carb dinner will cause a 2 am-ish wake up that’s frankly just my body saying, “Feed Me.”
- Increasing fiber — This is a recommendation everyone can benefit from, (be sure to read about my experience creating a High Fiber Protein Powder), but it’s especially important for women my age. Beyond just the basic “bathroom benefits” of fiber (Yes. There’s a Poop Episode for that), from a hormonal balance standpoint, insoluble fiber binds toxins and excess hormones in the GI tract and sends them out of the body. This can be an often overlooked, but important part of hormonal balance that’s supported simply by eating enough fiber.
- Decreasing the frequency of high-intensity cardio workouts — I’m gonna get into this more in Season 3 with an upcoming episode. So stay tuned for more on this one. (Spoiler: Too much cardio is stressful on your body. And very few of us unmillennial women need MORE stress.)
- Adding Menopause 731™ to my supplement regimen — Shortly after finishing up The Perimenopause Episode, I decided to give this product a try.
What Is Menopause 731™ ?
One of Life Extension’s new products, Menopause 731™ contains Siberian rhubarb — a product that’s been clinically shown to provide support of so much more than hot flashes and night sweats. It also supports irritability and mood swings, general sleep disturbances, physical and mental exhaustion, joint and muscle discomfort, vaginal dryness and helps support healthy urinary tract and sexual function.
How Does It Work?
While the female hormonal internal complex is rather… well… complex, the basics around how Menopause 731™ works are less so. Internally, we have two different estrogen receptors — ER-α and ER-ß.
ER-α is primarily located in female reproductive tissue and affects reproductive tissue when activated.
ER-ß is primarily found in women’s non-reproductive tissues and produces non-reproductive effects that sustain tissue health, flexibility, and function.
Since Menopause 731™ selectively activates ER-ß, it provides more comprehensive relief of both common and uncommon menopausal discomforts.
What About Fitness, Nutrition, and Perimenopause?
According to the National Institutes of Health, menopause is often accompanied by the need for healthy weight management and cardiovascular and metabolic health support. This is why I take working out and maintaining a healthy weight seriously as a crucial part of healthy aging. Here’s what I do:
Fitness: I work out with weights 3 to 4 times per week. I aim for 10,000 steps per day. I try to do BodyFlow or yoga once a week.
Nutrition: I walk the fine line daily of balancing enough protein for maintaining muscle mass (something that’s increasingly difficult when you age) with the need for more plant-based meals for hormonal health. Fruits and veggies are notoriously rich in phytonutrients and fiber, both of which have been linked to supporting the healthy aging process.
I also fast occasionally and am mindful of time-restricted eating. I discussed the importance of giving our gut time to rest-and-digest in both The IBS Episode and The Intermittent Fasting Episodes (Part I and Part II). [I also gave important reminders about who fasting is NOT for, so be sure to listen to those as well.]
Lastly, putting aside all of this talk of food, fitness, sleep and supplements, I think it’s important that we GenXers start talking about this upcoming change in a way that de-stigmatizes it. Let’s be honest. The Change sounds like some sort of creepy, scary Game of Thrones spin-off detailing the evolution of White Walkers (can you tell I’ve just finished binge-watching GOT?).
Who on Earth or Westeros wants any part of that? Instead, let’s acknowledge it for what it is — a hormonal shift that was earned after years of putting up with periods.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that menopause means more when observed through the lens that it marks a crossing over to what is very likely to be the other side of our mathematical predictions for a long life span. But I think we can all agree that hushed whispers won’t stop it from coming and won’t make it more manageable. And neither will phones thrown at the wall.