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  • Writer's pictureAmy Slater

5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Perimenopause

This could really be summed up in one main thing....

Stop depleting your minerals.

Ok, seriously, I am done right there! Just kidding. Let's dig into this for a minute.

Mineral depletion is a common concern among perimenopausal women because it comes on the tail end of a season of life that typically has us pushing our limits and often neglecting the self-care practices that build up our adrenal health and mineral levels.

Take my client Cindy for example. Cindy is 48 years old, with 3 kids, one is headed off to college in the fall, one in highschool and one in middle school. Cindy has worked outside the home for the last 10 years and received little help to care for the home (no cleaners, nannies or babysitters). Cindy and her husband both work which leaves little time for herself other than the hour in the morning before she gets the kids off to school and herself off to work. She came to me with the following frustrations:

  • Weight gain that looked different than it did 10 years ago, her middle is just much "thicker".

  • Difficulty gaining muscle despite lifting weights 4 days per week with a program.

  • Blood sugar crashes every night leaving her reaching for sweets to prop up her energy.

  • Joint pain and poor recovery from exercise.

  • Difficulty task switching and short term recall issues

  • Constipation and bloating after meals

Cindy had been reading about HRT and hypothyroidism. She was feeling frustrated, was eager for a change and really did not want to wait it out and see how she would do by slowly implementing change. Her weight gain, body pain, brain fog and blood sugar all were making her much less tolerant with the kids, short tempered with her husband and a different person than she wanted to be.

So, let's talk about these five things Cindy put in place for her symptoms:

1.Light exposure has a huge impact on our thyroid's ability to function optimally.

Our light exposure (both natural and artificial light) has a huge impact on our thyroid's ability to function optimally. OUr thyroid hormone release is based off our circadian rhythm . Circadian rhythm is easily explained as our body's clock. We have a clock built into our body that measures a 24-hour day. It knows that there is a period of daylight and a period of darkness. It even knows all of the specific shifts in light throughout the day, which is why syncing up with natural light outside is important. When our circadian rhythm is out of sync with the natural light, we can have a hard time producing adequate levels of thyroid hormone. This is just another hurdle for the perimenopausal woman to conquer when when she is struggling to build energy.

Cindy had to replace her habit of scrolling on her phone during her daughter's late night soccer practice with either going for a walk around the field or bringing a paper book to read. She also learned to adopt the habit of getting sunlight into her eyes during the early morning hours, again at lunch and then at sunset.

2. Blood sugar later in the day is regulated by what we eat EARLY in the day.

This is probably the biggest tool in our tool kit and a box that I rarely see checked. Perimenopausal women still are in a season of life where the mornings are a hustle. Kids out the door early, off to work or trying to squeeze in a workout. These things all set us up for blood sugar dysregulation later in the day.

Starting the day with a dense, protein-rich breakfast within an hour of waking is one of the best things you can do for your blood sugar.

Not only does the dense protein ease th blood sugar response leading to more consistency, but prioritizing eating your breakfast within an hour of waking is a great way to naturally support your circadian rhythm. Eating is one of the ways outside of light exposure that we tell our body what time it is. We are typically more sensitive to insulin (a super important hormone that helps balance blood sugar) during daylight hours.

Cindy had to build the habit of planning out a nourishing breakfast. She had to let go of the mindset that eating breakfast would cause her to gain weight because it would add too many calories to her day. Cindy's schedule during the week did not allow her to sit down and make a nourishing meal that she could take her time eating. She was up at 5:00 am (before sunrise), squeezing in a workout at 5:30 am-6:15 am, feeding her highschooler at 6:20 for them to catch the 6:45 bus. Then she took a quick shower and was feeding her middle schooler by 7:20 for them to catch the 7:40 bus. By this time she had drunk 2 cups of coffee, 16 ounces of water and was not hungry with all the rushing. Her husband handled the elementary school child and she was out the door by 7:50. Guess when Cindy would typically eat breakfast...10 am on a good day but typically, she just skipped that meal and ate lunch at her desk.

Cindy rebuilt her morning...she taught the two older kids how to prepare their breakfast and found some nourishing proteins that they could put together. This gave her the time to eat a snack before her workout of cottage cheese, cherries/berries and drink a mineral hydration powder suited for her based on her HTMA test that we ran. She then had these options ready to roll for her breakfast which she ate on the porch while to get some sunlight before heading into work:

  • Roast, sweet potato, broccoli, avocado

  • Steamed cauliflower rice with kale, a tin of sardines, olives and an orange

  • Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and blueberries

  • Chicken thighs, cooked carrots and cabbage

Cindy mapped out her meal choices and then prepped what she needed on Sunday so she was ready to quickly assemble on weekday mornings. GUESS what happened to the sugar cravings after dinner?

3. Low mineral levels, especially sodium, will lead to low energy.

Low energy is often linked with low mineral levels, especially sodium.

Sodium is important for allowing nutrients and hormones to pass through our cells. when levels are low, this slows down how quickly we can nourish our cells and will impact our energy. We also need it to respond to stress appropriately. If you are low energy and feel like you don't handle stress well, sodium is likely the culprit.

Potassium is another key mineral that is important for energy metabolism. Remember Cindy's strategy of skipping breakfast and only eating twice a day? The stress that this habit put on her cells landed her in a Fast 4 Four Lows metabolic type with depleted minerals. You can see the sodium (Na) and potassium (K) both reflecting her low overall mineral status. When this occurs, especailly in perimenopause, digestion is compromised and liver burden increases. As thyroid and metabolism slow, important processes like stomach acid production do not do as well. This leads to slowing down of transit time, constipation, bloating, and increases the burden on the liver. ALL of these things can lead to increased fat gain. Our liver also requires minerals to detoxify properly. You can see the sulfur (S) is quite high showing the body trying to detoxify but unable to do so adequately as you can see with the cobalt (Co) insufficient. This further leads to hormonal chaos.

Cindy needed to learn about minerals and how to strategically eat to replete the losses she was dealing with. This was a behavioral and educational shift. Cindy needed to shift her mindset that the foods she was choosing would nourish her energy, support her hormones, help her detoxify her body and improve her digestion. She learned key foods to support her mineral losses. Cindy incorporated adrenal cocktails, organ meat sausage (liverwurst and head cheese). As Cindy developed her habit of nourishing her body she slowly incorporated a mineral supplement customized to her mineral losses.

4. Adrenal health is impacted by minerals, light exposure and level of fitness.

As minerals become depleted, adrenal function slows and the ability to respond to stress appropriately declines. This can then impact hormone production and how we utilize hormones in the body. This can also impact how we make and use thyroid hormone, which is essential for healthy hormones.

In addition to Cindy's health history and stress time line, we can use her sodium to magnesium (Na/Mg) ratio on her HTMA test. This is also known as her adrenal ratio and shows the relationship between magnesium and sodium. Her ratio was quite low demonstrating extreme adrenal stress. Cindy's first course of action was to nourish her body and her adrenals with the habits described in 1-3.

Adrenal health is also impacted by an individual's level of "fitness". When I say fitness, I am not describing fitness the way that our industry portrays it. Fitness for Cindy meant joint health, muscle strength and mass, cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance as well as metabolic health. All of those points should be included during perimenopause and especially someone struggling with low adrenal function. The key is that those workouts do not look like "cardio weights and HITT training".

5. You can eat lots of healthy food but if you cannot digest it, your liver will struggle and so will detoxification.

When we experience imbalances in our gut microbiome, it can have a profound impact on the health of our gut and immune system, which will trickle down and impact all other aspects of our health, especailly our hormones. This may look like: digestive issues occur--> immune system weakens

--> increased food reactions --> inflammation increases --> histamine and liver overload. This issue is especially compounded for Cindy as she was also focused on limiting carbs which was affecting her digestion (lack of fiber) and liver.

Let's dig deep for a moment:

Proteins breakdown to amino acids. Amino acids help to fuel both phase 1 and 2 detoxification. They also help to support digestive enzymes and juices, so that means we need adequate protein for all 3 phases of detoxification. Protein supports our metabolism. Our metabolism is key for detoxification (and pretty much everything else). Adequate protein supports our thyroid and energy production. Without adequate energy, our metabolism slows, which means detoxification also slows.

Glucose is the body's preferred fuel source. Carbs are just as important as protein since thy breakdown to glucose, which is our body's preferred fuel. If we don't eat carbs, our body will find another way to make them, whihc increases stress hormones and takes the focus away from detox. Cindy needed to learn how to eat her carbs again!

Cindy's practice of fasting was putting a large tax on her liver. Fasting lowers overall energy intake and can put us into a stressed state over a relaxed one. This will use up more stored glucose in our liver, which then makes restful sleep harder to come by. We do the majority of detoxing at night so quality sleep is super important for this.

Cindy needed to reshape her mindset around nourishment. True detox requires nourishment. That was step one. But, she also needed nutrients to support her digestion and gut barrier. Both of those were included in Cindys protocol.

If you are struggling during perimenopause....

HRT and thyroid support are both valid treatments. BUT, consider the five points above and hearing Cindy's story. Changing habits and incorporating behaviors that will nourish the cells and balance minerals will make every other intervention that much more effective.

Cindy's update...

Cindy is 8 months into her new way of living. She no longer craves sweets at night and instead looks forward to her favorite treat of raspberries, dark chocolate and an evening walk. She has a rhythm down with her nutrition, light exposure and sleep. She is on her second round of custom mineral support and is having large regular bowel movements. She is on task most days and her recall is improving. She has an appointment scheduled with an HRT specialist in 4 weeks and looks forward to initiating her "pre-menopause" support.

If you are interested in learning more about testing minerals and supporting your body, feel free to head over and fill out an application to work one on one.


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