Feeling Great Through Perimenopause

Feeling Great Through Perimenopause

Perimenopause, a period of three to ten years when menstrual cycles become irregular as a woman approaches menopause, is a time of restructuring in both body and mind. As the body undergoes physiological changes, our desires and aims can also shift. 

How are you called to serve the world in your later years—and how has this changed from when you were younger?

Perimenopause is most likely to occur between the ages of forty-five and fifty, with changes such as irregular periods and an increasing dry quality in the skin, hair, menstrual blood, and vaginal tissues being apparent from about thirty-five onward. While perimenopause may last anywhere from three to ten years, the average duration is four years. 

With Ayurveda's understanding of life stages, we have a magnificent view of perimenopause and menopause: how to support smooth changes, maintain luminosity, and manage imbalances that may arise. 

Implementing lifestyle and diet changes before menopause provides the qualities needed for a smooth transition. 

If you are somewhere between the ages of thirty-five and fifty, it's prime time for fostering balanced habits. And if you're in your thirties, even better, as it's never too early to start setting yourself up to flourish during perimenopause and menopause. 

The Elements and Doshas During Perimenopause

According to Ayurveda, we move toward the vata stage of life as we age, while pitta and kapha dosha recede.The space and air elements slowly begin to predominate, causing the body to become more dry and potentially less resilient to stress. 

Imagine a cottage weathering a windstorm. If the siding or the roof are drying out and losing their binding moisture, they are likely to degrade, develop weak spots, and become more vulnerable to the elements. 

The changes bodies undergo at perimenopause, though gradual, are like a home weathering a season of wind. Ayurveda teaches us how to shore up our roof and siding, and prepare for the storm. Preferably before the season is upon us.

Symptoms tend to become more noticeable, and hormone changes more drastic, the closer one gets to menopause. 

While some may not experience many symptoms at all, others may feel completely overwhelmed by the changes. 

In general, those with more earth and water elements in their constitution may “weather the storm” better than those with lighter constitutions of space, air, and fire. Those with pitta constitutions may notice more signs of fire such as hot flashes and irritability, whereas vata types may feel more unstable, dry, and depleted, and fluctuate between hot and cold. Kapha types may enjoy a steadier transition but tend to see more weight gain or fatigue with metabolic changes. 

woman in her 40s meditating

Balancing the Elements 

Introducing a daily routine helps calm the air element of vata dosha, while supplying more earth and water elements to your body and life helps maintain balance throughout the system. This can be done by using natural oils such as Body Oil on your skin and focusing your diet around warm, dense, and moist foods like stews and root vegetables. 

These simple practices, sometimes used in tandem with cool and unctuous herbs like shatavari, can alleviate hot flashes, sleep imbalances, a metabolic slump, or feelings of anxiousness or emotional heaviness during perimenopause.

Irregular Periods during Perimenopause

As hormones fluctuate, intervals between cycles can become longer or shorter in perimenopause. Periods can become inconsistent in the amount of blood shed: women may have spotting before or between periods, or experience heavy or longer-than-normal periods. 

The best medicine for irregularity is routine. 

If you are traveling a lot or finding yourself too busy to sit for a meal or do an oil massage, and your periods are irregular, it is even more important to establish grounding routines. Consistent mealtimes, a consistent bedtime, or establishing a regular rest period (especially when bleeding!), will all provide stability for your body.

When daily routines do not remedy irregular cycles, working with herbs can help. Start taking Women's Natural Transition, or consult an Ayurvedic practitioner who can suggest a mixture of herbs to support your overall balance. During perimenopause, some irregularity in the menstrual cycle is normal, but if you consistently have spotting between periods, bleed for more than seven days, or experience a new onset of pelvic discomfort, see your healthcare provider.


woman relaxing on couch

The Role of Stress in Perimenopause Symptoms

The enemy of inner strength is stress. It's easy to allow stress to eclipse self-care during the active stage of life. The effects of this compromise are not easily undone when one approaches the mid to late forties. 

Perimenopause symptoms in mind and body will be most challenging when a woman has been under a lot of stress for a long time. 

The body in this case has learned to prioritize stress hormones, and as sex hormones naturally reduce in this stage of life, stress hormones do not have the same buffer of their cooler counterpart, estrogen. Grounding qualities in the physical body, which work to support a sound body-mind, start to wane as we age. 

The stress, emotions, or activity levels that were easily maintained prior to perimenopause may begin to feel overwhelming. 

Life's stress levels may be the same, but the nervous system's ability to manage them is changing. This process may cause feelings of irritability, anxiousness, sadness, and other mental fluctuations. According to Ayurveda, the mind permeates the entire body and colors our experience. The body's changing ability to cope with stress underlies many of the mental fluctuations women experience in perimenopause. 

At this point, we have the opportunity to see the interconnection between hormones, mind, and stress instead of compartmentalizing the mind. The great news is that one can see improvements in body and mind with simple Ayurvedic practices. For example, mental fluctuations may be soothed by an oil massage, which soothes the nerves, or by eating ghee, which also has an affinity for the nerve tissues.

The most important factor for coping with fluctuations in perimenopause, however, is to embrace doing less. 

Doing less reduces mental pressure, increases mental space, and opens the flow of the channel of the mind. Give yourself permission to ease up.


woman waking up looking happy and rested

Rhythm and Routine for the Win

Experiencing irregularities in body heat, mood, menstrual cycle, or sleep can be a part of perimenopause, but establishing a stable flow of energy over a monthly cycle yokes the irregularity to nature's flow. Bodies love this; they seek stability. 

With irregularity being the hallmark of perimenopause, simple routines around sleep, meals, work, play, and rest are the medicine. 

Perimenopause is an opportunity for developing a deeper sense of self and purpose, harnessed by allowing ample space to accept, digest, and absorb changes that can affect your body and mind, as well as your sense of purpose. There's no need to crash headlong into battle with one of life's biggest rites of passage. Instead, turn to nourishing foods and healthy rhythms during this time to fortify a strong, resilient vessel that can weather the changes well.

About the Author

Kate O'Donnell, AP

Kate O’Donnell has spent the last twenty-five years traveling through the far-reaches of India in search of ancient healing practices to bring back to...

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