I’ve been experiencing perimenopause symptoms for about 3 years now. And whilst there have been a few wobbles along the way I’m pleased to say that I am now at a point where my symptoms are much more manageable. In this article I’m going to share 8 things that have helped me on this hormonal rollercoaster in the hope that it will help you to reduce your perimenopause symptoms too.
Let’s take a look at what they are:
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) has been a godsend for me. It’s not for everyone, however and it is very much a personal choice as to whether you decide to go down this route to reduce your perimenopause symptoms. Some women prefer a more holistic approach. Some women are advised not to go on HRT as they have a family history of breast cancer for example. And some women may struggle to get prescribed it from their GP (although I’m pleased to say that things have improved dramatically on that front over the last couple of years). But there are also many, many women for whom HRT has changed their lives considerably.
There are many different types of HRT available; gel, patches, spray, implant, tablets; so make sure you do your research and speak to your GP or health practitioner as to which one is best suited to you. Most women find that there’s a bit of trial and error needed before finding the right one. You may also have to play around with the dosage a little before hitting that sweet spot. I combine oestrogen gel with progesterone tablets, and it took me a good 6 months before I got the dose of the oestrogen gel right. I started off with 1 pump of gel per day, then upped it to 2 pumps, and have now settled on 3 pumps per day which seems to be working for now.
2. Balance App
The Balance app was the thing that gave substance to my perimenopause symptoms when I started to question whether I was making it all up or whether it might be something else entirely. I’d long suspected that things weren’t right. You just know, right? But the doctor only wanted to prescribe me antidepressants and evening primrose oil, and we weren’t long out of lockdown, so yes, I started to question myself. But even then, I just knew.
The Balance app by Dr Louise Newson (she features in the Davina documentary (see below) and is a guru on all things related to female hormones and the menopause) is brilliant. It is packed with tonnes of information about perimenopause and its accompanying symptoms, as well as useful resources. But what I found the most useful was the Journal section, which allows you to log things like sleep, mood, activity, symptoms, and periods etc. By doing this for a few months I soon had the proof I needed. I was having 2 periods a month and heaven knows when they were coming, they were literally all over the place. And by tracking my symptoms and mood I soon figured out there was a bit of a pattern emerging and that what I was going through was definitely not made up. This information gave me the confidence to approach a private menopause specialist, who prescribed me HRT within 20 minutes of me explaining everything I was experiencing. I finally felt heard. Let me tell you… there were tears!
Even better, this incredible app is free. There is literally everything you need to help reduce your perimenopause symptoms right there on your phone. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, please do, it will change your life.
3. Going Caffeine Free
The perimenopause symptom that I found the hardest to deal with was an increased feeling of anxiety and panic. I had days where negative feelings would consume me so much I felt as though I was going mad. It made me emotional, it made me question everything, it made me overthink, it made me worry, it made me catastrophise, and it made me question my worth and purpose in the world. It was an awful, awful feeling.
HRT helped hugely with alleviating this symptom, but the other thing that aided the reduction of this symptom was my decision to cut out caffeine. I was never a massive coffee drinker; I had maybe 3 cups maximum a day and never after 2pm. But there was something niggling at the back of my head, that perhaps my caffeine intake wasn’t helping matters. A few years back I took a DNA nutrition test that looked at the ways my body handled certain substances, and one of those things was caffeine. The results came back informing me that I had a low tolerance to caffeine, a fact which I’d kind of forgotten about until the point at which my perimenopause symptoms had worsened. I gradually reduced my daily coffees from 3 cups, down to 2 cups, and finally to just one cup first thing in the morning, until I reached a point where I dropped it entirely and made the switch to decaf.
Interestingly, my anxiety levels have massively reduced. They haven’t disappeared entirely; I tend to still get very mild anxious feelings brewing a couple of days before my period starts. But I am certain that the caffeine played a part and certainly wasn’t helping the situation.
So, try it for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelming anxiety all the time, try cutting down on your caffeine intake and see if it makes a difference for you in the same way it did for me.
4. Davina McCall
There are other female celebrities talking about perimenopause and menopause, but Davina really is the G.O.A.T when it comes to openly discussing everything and anything to do with this stage of our lives. It was Davina’s 2021 TV documentary, Sex, Myths, and the Menopause, that positioned her as someone us menopausal women could look up to, as she not only openly shared her own experiences in a way that made us and the subject feel totally normal, but it also opened up the conversation to a much wider audience. That programme was the catalyst for so many women to go to their GP with their symptoms, which then also prompted more education for GPs who had little training or specialised experience in this area.
Women are now being heard and perimenopause is being taken seriously. Which although not a direct way to reduce your perimenopause symptoms, I do believe that knowledge is power. And if we can equip women with as much knowledge about perimenopause and menopause as possible before they’ve even got there yet, it can help take the stress away if and when symptoms do occur.
Since that programme, Davina has worked closely with menopause charities, doctors specialising in female health, released her book Menopausing, and continues to support women who are going through the menopause. If you aren’t following her on Instagram, haven’t watched her documentary or read her book, I urge you to do so. She will educate you, empower you, and equip you with the necessary information to guide you through this oftentimes tumultuous stage of female life.
Exercise is probably the cheapest and best thing we can do for both our physical and mental health. And if you can do it outside, even better.
It’s sometimes hard to motivate yourself to exercise, especially if you’re feeling down on yourself, if you’ve put on a bit of midlife weight, your joints ache, or you’re suffering from the vast array of other perimenopause symptoms thrown at you. But the thing is, exercise makes you feel amazing, and incorporating it into your daily routine will over time help ease those symptoms. The exercise you do doesn’t need to be strenuous. Even going for a half hour gentle walk every day is going to make you feel better. As long as you’re moving and your heart rate goes up, that counts.
When I was at the peak of suffering from my perimenopause symptoms, I relied so much on the power of exercise. Going out for a run allowed me to escape the house, get some fresh air, gain some perspective on things, move my body, enjoy the rush of endorphins, and just have some time by myself. There were runs I cried on, runs I laughed hysterically on, runs I had massive internal conversations with myself on. I guess in a way it was a form of therapy for me. Whatever it was, it worked, and I continue to use this as a coping mechanism today.
6. Ditching The Alcohol
OK, so I know this sounds like a big deal, and it’s boring, and that dealing with perimenopause symptoms is bad enough without being denied gin, but hear me out. I have now been alcohol free for 4 months and I’ve got to say, I’m feeling amazing because of it.
We all have our reasons for drinking. Mine was because it helped me relax and gave me a bit of confidence when socialising. Or so I thought. The reality is that alcohol fed my insecurities. Well certainly afterwards anyway. For a good couple of days after I’d have even just one glass of wine I would feel anxious, tired, stressed, and not myself. Turn that into a few more glasses of wine and those off days turned into an off week. I just couldn’t keep it up; the alcohol wasn’t worth the feelings afterwards. So, I gave it up and haven’t touched a drop since.
Now, I’m not here to be all holier than thou and tell you that you must completely give up alcohol. I just want you to think about how alcohol may be making your perimenopause symptoms worse and that even by reducing your intake a little you may feel better for it. It’s certainly worth giving it a try to help reduce your perimenopause symptoms.
7. Taking Collagen
The body naturally produces collagen, however as we age its ability to produce collagen lessens. Factors such as exposure to sunlight, smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise all reduce this production further. So, by the time we reach perimenopause and menopause we really start to notice the effect of this. But what are the effects? What does collagen actually do for us?
Collagen makes up 30% of the protein in our body and its job is to provide structure, strength and support to our skin, connective tissues, hair, nails, muscles and bones. When you’re going through perimenopause you may start to notice your hair thinning, your nails breaking, your joints aching, and your skin sagging and this is down to a reduction in collagen.
I have been taking collagen for about 2 years now and have noticed some massive benefits. I have always been one to suffer with outbreaks on my face, but since taking collagen and giving up alcohol my skin has never been so clear. I also heal a lot quicker if I get a cut. Likewise, my nails have been really weak in the past (not helped by my bad habit of skin and nail picking) but since taking collagen they have got so much stronger and grow quicker and this has actually resulted in me picking them far less. My hair too is stronger, grows quicker, and I definitely think less falls out when I wash it now.
Collagen comes in a few different forms, I take 25ml of liquid marine collagen, which I have with my breakfast, so it has slotted into my morning routine really easily. If you are experiencing any of these things and suspect it could be collagen related I would definitely recommend giving it a go. Just be aware that it will take a good 3 months of taking it before you really start to notice the benefits, so persevere.
8. Female Friends
Ahhh the sisterhood. There’s nothing that makes you feel better about things than a good old natter with your female friends. Knowing that what you’re going through is normal and that others are going through it too won’t reduce your perimenopause symptoms per se, but it will make you feel heard and supported and that my friends is everything.
Nowadays, conversations around perimenopause and menopause are way more open. It’s like we’ve suddenly been given permission to talk about these things without any shame or embarrassment attached and I can’t tell you how liberating that is. Speaking to your friends about what you’re going through will help them understand why you might not be your usual self. Plus, you’re actually doing them a favour, because if they’re not experiencing any of this yet, you’re equipping them with incredibly useful information for when it does happen.
It’s worth talking to your mum about this subject too, as it’s likely that if she suffered from certain symptoms you probably will do too, as a lot of this does seem to be based on genetics. And there’s no harm in talking to your daughter (and indeed your son and husband for that matter) about what you’re going through. In my opinion it’s just as important for girls learn about the menopause as it is for them to learn about periods. It is something they will go through, so it’s only right they know as much about it as possible.
Even just doing one of these things should help reduce your perimenopause symptoms, no matter what they may be. And it goes without saying really, but if you are worried about something in particular, always go to your GP and ask their advice, because the thing is there are so many perimenopause symptoms and they all pretty much could be symptoms for something else. It’s best to rule those other things out and then you at least know what you’re dealing with. But as I have mentioned in the article, you kind of just know when things aren’t right.
If you’re not feeling like yourself, if your periods are all over the place or if they’ve changed in any way, if you’re suffering from night sweats or hot flushes during the day, your sleep is affected, brain fog’s got you bad, or numerous other things that are connected to the hormonal changes that happen to us during this stage of our lives, do your research and get some help. Help is definitely out there, you just might have to go looking for it. I’m hoping that the 8 things listed in this article will help you as much as they have me. It’s certainly information that I wish I’d known when I first started experiencing my own perimenopause symptoms.