Lifestyle Changes to Combat Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms

Lilli Link, MD
Medically Reviewed
January 27, 2021

Stress management is the single greatest impact you can have on your body’s response to perimenopausal symptoms. Prioritizing meditation , breathwork , walking, and yoga during this stage of life can make a noticeable difference in symptoms.

Because your ovaries are no longer producing the same amount of estrogen and progesterone, your body starts to rely on the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They are also capable of producing sex hormones.

In premenopausal women who are fertile, the adrenal glands only produce a small amount of sex hormones (the ovaries produce the majority during this time). But in post-menopausal women, the adrenal glands produce up to 80 percent of progesterone and estrogen.

The adrenal glands also play a role in stress management; they produce the stress hormone, cortisol . The precursor to progesterone and estrogen is also the same precursor to cortisol : the hormone called pregnenolone. If the majority of pregnenolone is being shunted to cortisol, less will be available for the production of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (so named the “pregnenolone steal”). By lowering lifestyle factors that lead to stress, the body is naturally supporting the adrenal gland production of sex hormones, thus minimizing menopause symptoms.

It is also common for women to gain weight during this hormonal stage , and most will try to increase exercise intensity and duration to offset this change. However, too much high-intensity exercise can further increase the demand for cortisol and perpetuate pregnenolone steal, making symptoms of menopause worsen.

Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, schisandra, and rhodiola support the adrenal gland’s function and may benefit menopausal women by helping with stress management and therefore decreasing cortisol production. Black cohosh is another adaptogenic all-star herb because it helps support estrogen levels and reduce hot flashes. Maca is also helpful for relieving hot flashes and improving vitality, energy levels, and libido.

Parsley Health providers practice holistic-lead medicine and are available to work with perimenopausal and post-menopausal women. Whether you feel you need stress management techniques, nutritional and movement guidance, and/or lifestyle adjustments (that may impact sleep, mindfulness, and more), our practitioners can help guide you during the transition. Personalized care for your symptoms may also include a supplement plan to support hormone and libido levels and address adrenal dysfunction—all developed to help you live a vibrant and healthy life.

Lilli Link, MD

Dr. Lilli Link is a board-certified Internist and Functional Medicine Practitioner who graduated from medical school at the University of Chicago, and completed her residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.

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