Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 

In short, Yes! 

I’m currently 44 and for the last year or so I’ve been feeling like I’m suffering from some perimenopausal symptoms. Not enough to warrant talking to my doctor about HRT but enough to make me look for some answers and find some help. 

Having opened up the conversation within Forza Fitness, talking very open and honestly with pretty much all my female clients, it’s clear a lot of feel the same way. We might be experiencing different effects, we might be different ages but we’re all looking for things we can change to help us with this period of hormonal chaos.  

I had a lot of people who’s voices I trust talking about herbal adaptogens so I decided to explore this avenue as they were all saying how this has helped. 

I’ve been taking Ashwagandha and Schisandra now for over 7 months, as they were the two best suited to help me with my particular symptoms, and I can honestly say they have been the answer for me. I am under no illusion that further down the line I may need to look seriously at HRT and if that time comes, trust me, I will not hesitate, but for now this is enough and I feel like myself again. 

As your oestrogen levels decline your stress levels increase which in turn upsets your mood and concentration – brain fog was a big one for me for sure – I have, in the past, even forgotten my own post code!

To help your body combat this stress, you can introduce adaptogens. Herbal adaptogens work by increasing your body’s resistance to stress and they do this by targeting the neuroendocrine system that controls your reaction to stress and regulates multiple bodily functions such as mood, temperature control, immunity and digestion. 

Taking adaptogens means that over time, they build up in the body and block your cortisol response. This means you experience less stress. 

Here’s the low down on the three different herbal adaptogens that have come up most often in my research: 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha increases your DHEA testosterone, which helps lower anxiety and cholesterol. It also improves insulin sensitivity meaning you’ll better blood sugar control and less prone to storing fat. 

Research on athletes has shown that it can help increase endurance and power. 

It is also an anti-inflammatory so can help reduce soreness after those tough workouts. 

It has also been known to help regulate body temperature so can help reduce hot flashes. 

Recommended Dose: 250 to 300mg twice a day (tablet)

Contraindications: Can affect your T3 and T4 thyroid hormones so those on thyroid medication should avoid. 

Schisandra 

Schisandra is widely used in Chinese Medicine and is commonly known as Five Flavoured Fruit. 

It is is the adaptogen for brain fog as it stimulates the central nervous system and improves cognition. This means it can clear the fog and help with your concentration and focus. 

It helps strengthen your mitochondria (where energy is created in the cells) so it can improve aerobic capacity. 

Finally it can help regulate fluctuating hormone levels and reduce hot flashes. 

Recommended Dose: 500mg to 2grams a day (powder) 

*I add mine to my morning coffee

Caution: It has a caffeine like effect increasing alertness so can disrupt sleep. It best taken in the morning and avoided in the afternoon / evening. 

Maca

Maca Root is often referred to as Peruvian Ginseng and is a hormone modulator. It also works as a steroid hormone so is a powerful herb! 

It helps improves the onset of night sweats, hot flashes. 

It can increase mood and help overcome the onset of anxiety and/or depression which are common during perimenopause. 

Research has found it can improve energy levels as well as mood and some people describe Maca as giving them a natural high. 

It also has anti inflammatory properties so can help reduce muscle soreness after workouts/ 

Recommended Dose: 450mg three times a day (tablet)

Contraindications: Can affect adrenal and thyroid function so those on thyroid medication should avoid. 

Some products containing Maca are also on the WADA banned substance list so if you are a competing athlete subject to drug tests either avoid or be 100% the product you are taking is ok. 

***Please remember I am not a doctor. The information shared here is purely for general information purposes. It is not medical advice. 

  • Supercompensation – the effective but counterintuitive training methodology.
  • Practical Mental Coping Strategies for Endurance Lows
  • Avoiding the Euphoria-Despair Roller Coaster in Endurance Racing
  • The Importance of Periodisation in Endurance Training
  • Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Endurance Training
  • All About Stress
  • Train your breathing for better race results
  • Does how you breathe really matter?
  • Unlocking Your Athletic Potential: Nature vs. Nurture
  • Recovery: The Unsung Hero of Triumphs
  • Build Consistently, Adapt Relentlessly
  • Minimum effort. Maximum Impact
  • Specificity is KING for Endurance
  • Strength Reigns Supreme in Endurance
  • The 5 Pillars of the DB Training Methodology
  • The Three Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes make…
  • Mastering the SAID Principle for Endurance Training Success
  • Mastering Heart Rate Zones for Peak Endurance Performance
  • Setting your HR Zones & How to Judge Progress
  • How to Test your Lactate Threshold
  • Why Lactate Threshold trumps Max Heart Rate for Endurance Training
  • Golden Rule #5 Extreme Ownership
  • Golden Rule #4 100% Effort
  • Golden Rule #3 Focus on You
  • Race Day Nutrition – A Rough Guide
  • Race Week Nutrition 
  • A feeling or results… which do you want?
  • Post Workout Nutrition
  • Pre Workout Fuelling
  • Golden Rule #2 Find the Positive
  • How to work out to beat Menopause

    Hitting this period of life, regardless of the age you go through it, can be so tough.

    Some women are lucky and feel very few, if any, effects. The more common story is one of weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, crazy body temperatures and frustration.

    There are 4 things Perimenopausal women should be doing in their training to help overcome these negative symptoms. Trust me when I say you can still be competitive, you can still PB and PR your workouts and you def don’t have to stop and let this change take over your life.

    1 – HIIT Training
    Now most that know me know that “HIIT” is a particular annoyance of mine as it is one of the most over used, and wrongly used phrases in the fitness industry. Check out my blog post here to learn more (HIIT – are you doing it right)

    However, executed properly it is has huge benefit and for this you def shouldn’t be doing any interval for more than a minute and the ideal for menopause is 30 seconds.

    Firstly, it improves insulin sensitivity and lowers fasting blood sugar levels. This is especially helpful during the menopause transition when blood sugar can be harder to manage. It is also good for your general cardiovascular and metabolic health.

    Secondly, it improves your fat burning ability and helps manage visceral fat (the deep internal fat) which usually increases during menopause.

    Finally, when done right, it puts a high demand on your muscles, which in turn sends a message to your brain that you need more human growth hormone (HGH). This increases your testosterone levels, which helps build or regain muscle mass, increasing your power and performance.

    2 – Strength Training
    This doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a heavy barbell around, although if thats your jam then do it. Strength training can mean free weights (kettlebells and dumbbells), resistance bands and even bodyweight exercises. It needs to be strength work though rather than muscular endurance work to be truly effective so think heavier weights and shorter reps per set, rather than long sets of 15/20 reps.

    The risk of osteoporosis rises substantially following menopause due to the decrease in estrogen, which is needed to help build, repair and strengthen bone) so strength training is especially vital. 

    Effective strength training will help to build bone as well as increase muscle strength, burn fat and help boost your metabolism.

    3 – Plyometrics (or Jump Training)
    Jumping is often overlooked but it is brilliant for building strong muscles, bones and joints and making them overall more resilient. It also helps produce and reinforce strong and powerful muscle contractions and as our estrogen levels decrease we lose the hormonal stimulus to do this so jumping overcomes this loss.

    Adding in some plyometrics to your weekly routine can also increase your bone density building stronger bones. It can strengthen your joints, especially knee and hip joints and help keep the joint cartilage healthy plus it’s generally good for your cardiovascular health.

    Simple ways to add jump training into your weekly routine: Box Jumps, Skipping, Jumping Jacks, Squat Jumps and Jump Lunges.
    *As always though make sure you know the correct form for these movements as done incorrectly you can mess yourself up so seek a coaches help if unsure.

    4 – Balance Work
    Balance is a neurological skill, which means it can’t be trained. It has to be practised. Doing some balance work is hugely beneficial for all athletes but adding it to your regular routine for combatting the menopause is a really smart move.

    Women suffering with vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats etc) can often find they become less stable so it makes sense to work on building your stability and balance.

    It can be as simple as practising standing on one leg, and then once you get good at this, doing it with your eyes closed or add in throwing and catching a ball. Or, you can work on moves that also combine some strength work such as Single Leg Deadlifts or Single Leg Squats.

  • Supercompensation – the effective but counterintuitive training methodology.
  • Practical Mental Coping Strategies for Endurance Lows
  • Avoiding the Euphoria-Despair Roller Coaster in Endurance Racing
  • The Importance of Periodisation in Endurance Training
  • Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Endurance Training
  • All About Stress
  • Train your breathing for better race results
  • Does how you breathe really matter?
  • Unlocking Your Athletic Potential: Nature vs. Nurture
  • Recovery: The Unsung Hero of Triumphs
  • Build Consistently, Adapt Relentlessly
  • Minimum effort. Maximum Impact
  • Specificity is KING for Endurance
  • Strength Reigns Supreme in Endurance
  • The 5 Pillars of the DB Training Methodology
  • The Three Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes make…
  • Mastering the SAID Principle for Endurance Training Success
  • Mastering Heart Rate Zones for Peak Endurance Performance
  • Setting your HR Zones & How to Judge Progress
  • How to Test your Lactate Threshold
  • Why Lactate Threshold trumps Max Heart Rate for Endurance Training
  • Golden Rule #5 Extreme Ownership
  • Golden Rule #4 100% Effort
  • Golden Rule #3 Focus on You
  • Race Day Nutrition – A Rough Guide
  • Race Week Nutrition 
  • A feeling or results… which do you want?
  • Post Workout Nutrition
  • Pre Workout Fuelling
  • Golden Rule #2 Find the Positive
  • The Phases of Menopause

    First up – let’s be really clear about what Menopause is. 

    It’s the end of a woman’s fertility and therefore, her menstrual cycle. 

    Menopause is one moment in time which signifies the absence of periods for 1 full year. It happens naturally with age but can also stem from surgery, illness or treatment of a disease. 

    Before this moment, once you start experiencing symptoms, you are perimenopausal and after that moment you are post menopausal.

    The age at which you will hit menopause is mostly determined by your genes. 

    Lets examine the three stages:

    Perimenopause

    This stage begins the you start noticing symptoms. The average age for women to hit this stage is 47 but it can start earlier or later. During this phase you can still get pregnant. 

    Menopause

    That one date in time that signifies the absence of periods for one year. At this point your ovaries are no longer make estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones required for fertility. 

    Postmenopause

    Once you have hit menopause, you are into postmenopause.

    The Symptoms

    When occurring naturally the first sign is usually an irregular menstrual cycle. The average length of time to experience perimenopause is within 4 years from your first symptoms but, as we are now talking more about this major facet of women health we are learning that so many people are affected in different ways. 

    There are cases of teenage girls going through the menopause, women in their 30’s experiencing perimenopausal symptoms that last well in to their 40’s. 

    Whatever your experience knowledge is power so the more you can learn about what is going on, the better. 

    Alongside the irregular cycle there are many common symptoms:

    • Hot flashes
    • Night sweats
    • Mood swings
    • Low mood
    • Low sex drive
    • Painful sex
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Headaches
    • Insomnia
    • Brain Fog / Lack of focus and concentration 

    These symptoms can be so severe that they can massively effect quality of life. Women have believed they were suffering from early onset dementia and some have even felt suicidal. 

    If you are struggling, please speak up and please get help. 

  • Supercompensation – the effective but counterintuitive training methodology.
  • Practical Mental Coping Strategies for Endurance Lows
  • Avoiding the Euphoria-Despair Roller Coaster in Endurance Racing
  • The Importance of Periodisation in Endurance Training
  • Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Endurance Training
  • All About Stress
  • Train your breathing for better race results
  • Does how you breathe really matter?
  • Unlocking Your Athletic Potential: Nature vs. Nurture
  • Recovery: The Unsung Hero of Triumphs
  • Build Consistently, Adapt Relentlessly
  • Minimum effort. Maximum Impact
  • Specificity is KING for Endurance
  • Strength Reigns Supreme in Endurance
  • The 5 Pillars of the DB Training Methodology
  • The Three Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes make…
  • Mastering the SAID Principle for Endurance Training Success
  • Mastering Heart Rate Zones for Peak Endurance Performance
  • Setting your HR Zones & How to Judge Progress
  • How to Test your Lactate Threshold
  • Why Lactate Threshold trumps Max Heart Rate for Endurance Training
  • Golden Rule #5 Extreme Ownership
  • Golden Rule #4 100% Effort
  • Golden Rule #3 Focus on You
  • Race Day Nutrition – A Rough Guide
  • Race Week Nutrition 
  • A feeling or results… which do you want?
  • Post Workout Nutrition
  • Pre Workout Fuelling
  • Golden Rule #2 Find the Positive