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Menopause blog: Why your perimenopause symptoms are worse if you feel the cold!

Updated: 6 days ago


woman in jumper holding coffee


Isn't the menopause all about feeling hot and bothered? Feeling cold can be an early sign of menopause, years before hot flushes may arrive. This was my experience! The roots of your menopause start years if not decades earlier and are deeply rooted in your body actually being too cold... and tired; this is the perimenopause. This is where my menopause journey started, I hadn't had a single hot flush and I didn't think the symptoms I was experiencing had anything to do with menopause. When I started looking into all of this I was around the age of 45 and I thought: there must be a cold menopause as all my symptoms were cold based (this is the Chinese medicine part!). I showed my theory to friends and clients who said: I'm having a cold menopause too! Why then are cold symptoms the start of your menopause journey and how you can turn this around to have a great menopause? Find out in this month's menopause blog: Why your perimenopause symptoms are worse if you feel the cold!


Why your perimenopause symptoms are worse if you feel the cold!


Today's blog has been inspired by a chat that took off on the Perimenopause Hub on facebook about how you can have worse perimenopause symptoms when you feel the cold. The comments show that women are really struggling and that feeling the cold is a major symtom. The key here is that it's perimenopause, the years leading up to the menopause whilst you still have regular periods. Your periods can heighten in regularity and be heavier during this time which can be an indication that your hormones are changing. With the classis PMS (premenstrual syndrome) you can feel warmer in the days leading up to your period which may come as a relief to women who feel cold the rest of the month! Then during your period you can feel really cold and the cycle starts again. Cold flushes are another symptom and can be more noticeable in the evenings when you're sat on the sofa after eating dinner. Your body wants to rest and digest and this means it's less likely to regulate your body temperature leaving you feeling chillier; I've had years of this in the past so I can relate.




What makes you go cold in perimenopause?


Major contributing factors are stress and trauma. Many women don't acknowledge that they are stressed, I was the same! Your head may handle it, your mindset is strong but what none of us are really understanding yet is that stress is mounting in your body; your body is keeping a tally of how much stress you're dealing with. In Chinese medicine stress takes its toll on your Kidney energy and this is best translated to your Adrenals (which sit atop your kidneys). The Adrenals are glands that produce Adrenalin, a hormone you will recognise and Cortisol a hormone you may not know so much about. The first is secreted when you get worked up / excited or work out to get that rush feeling. At the same time, cortisol is released and this is a hormone that should de-stress you, but if you get too much of it and it's not in the right nutritional state to do it's job then your body starts to bow under chronic stress and this manifests as your symptoms.


Life can cause stress like meeting deadlines at work or getting anxious about anything. You may enjoy challenges and thrive on the stress (this was me!) however if you're not giving your body what it needs to combat this accumulating physical stress this is where problems arise.


Trauma happens in life for many; a major shock or incident that can have knock on physical effects to you. The death of someone close and dealing with the whole situation or having a car accident, even if you walk away with visible injuries. These are 2 majors examples but there are smaller stressors /traumas in every day life; currently some of my clients have taken a turn for the worse after doing well for months because of the exam stress they're feeling for their children. When your body is changing hormonally this imbalance, firstly caused by declining progesterone means you can get stressed more easily. The catch 22 of this situation is your body needs the same nutrients to create progesterone and cortisol but your body will choose to make the latter first (i.e. survival) further suppressing progesterone (your calming hormone) and you can spiral down into this stress cycle; this is what makes you feel cold.


Then you add in exercise - but it may not be the right type! Exercise that creates a high i.e. the adrenalin rush also releases more cortisol.... and you're right back in the cortisol/ stress cycle again.



signs of yang deficiency in women


What are the main cold symptoms of perimenopause?


I do suggest resolving your symptoms; I have! Now in my early 50s and still technically perimenopausal I don't have the symptoms that I was putting up with at the age of 45.


Cold symptoms in Chinese medicine align with the perimenopause the time in your life when your progesterone is declining. This can be years before oestrogen ceases in your ovaries; and as previously stated progesterone can also be suppressed if your cortisol levels are high. You're in a state called Oestrogen dominance with excess levels of cortisol and in my terminology you are Kidney Yang Deficient (you've lost some of your fire and it needs to be stoked, health wise!). Here are the type of symptoms you may have which are cold symptoms in Chinese medicine:


Feeling cold especially after eating and throughout the evening around 5 to 8pm


Feeling sleepy / exhausted around 3pm - the classic slump


Waking up without a lot of energy


Tired/heavy limbs - cold hands/feet ie circulation issues


Feel cold easily throughout the day - prefer warmth/sunshine


Heavy blood loss


Cold flushes


Brain fatigued (tired easily as opposed to brain fog - just can't think!)


Fall asleep early/ easily


Waking around 4am worrying


Flat lined emotions /lost your mojo


Crying easily

Anxious


Dizziness /tinnitus - this is a big one!


Muscle tension i.e cramp easily when cold


Lower back pain


Migraines where your neck muscles are cold (but your forehead can be hot)


More severe - osteoporosis/ breaking bones easily


Nervous breakdowns



You can see these symptoms are a mixture of physical and emotional. When you're physically exhausted you are less mentally/ emotionally resilient and so you become more emotional. It's less the meno-rage / irritable/ ranty and more the crying, melancholy, sadness and loss of joy. You may like to read further on crying in my blog: Why do I cry at everything

When these symptoms start to build physically within you they become conditions but as their onset is slow they can arise seemingly out of nowhere; but the cause IS chronic stress. This type of stress leads to inflammation in the body, an imbalance of hormones, and an increased need for more nutrition as well as lifestyle changes to combat the root causes. Dealing with and reducing chronic stress can turn around how you feel; you will start to feel warmer again and happier as your moods change. It's not a quick fix though! You've spent many years with your body declining into this state so expect to spend a couple of years healing yourself.






How to start feeling warmer in perimenopause


Now you know that feeling cold indicates your body has chronic stress you may even be able to see how far back in your life this goes? If you've always felt the cold you may have been an anxious child; these 2 symptoms go hand in hand. By the nature of the word Chronic (def. long term) it can easily have been going on within your body for decades or it may have been triggered later in life by an incident. Giving birth later in life can trigger or it just started with your peri symptoms as you hit your 40s. The later it's started the shorter time span you've had chronic stress so I would expect you to see positive changes sooner. Chronic stress affects your kidneys and adrenals and this is where Chinese medicine steps in to give solutions.


In Chinese medicine we learn that to help your Kidney energy (adrenals) work well you have to keep the kidneys in homeostatis; this means keeping the body balanced. This can come from diet and electrolytes but also from physically keeping your kidneys warm enough. Let's look at some of the solutions. It's just a top line on each because I could write an essay on them or so I'll point you to articles that are already written for further reading:



Up your Nutrition


Cortisol the stress hormone wants to be fed! It loves vitamins and minerals and the more it has the more efficiently it does it's job and dissipates; this in turn reduces your symptoms. Food wise you have a spectrum to choose from as anything fresh and natural replenishes your body. This means that man-made processed foods have a detrimental effect. All your go to's in times of stress are quick fixes and in the longterm deplete your energy levels. Foods that fortify you are packed with nutrients - vegetables, fruit, wholefoods, meat (organic if possible; less processed), plant-based proteins and healthy fats. Eating in perimenopause is the same as eating to combat stress because the symptoms are the same thing. I've created a guide to help with this - find it here!



Eat food warm


This is from Chinese medicine and it's invaluable! Cold/damp food and drink makes you colder as you eat them and your body then has to work harder to warm you up. This puts a strain on your already overstretched kidney function. All food/drink should be at room temperature or warmer. We can take this a step further and create meals based on the energetics of food and if you're interested then there is a great starter book called Recipes for Self Healing by Daverick Leggett. (Link takes you to my sister website).


Drinking ice cold shocks your system and shouldn't be done if you're trying to heal chronic stress and warm yourself up. Most women are already drinking warm drinks if they feel this way but men tend not to put 2 and 2 together. The same goes for your lunch, bring it up to room temperature or reheat it. Salads can have warm elements added to them and also be brought up to room temp. Only on the hottest days can you eat foods that cool you down. The other 300 plus days a year food/drink should be room temperature or warmer!




Haramaki - kidney warmer


Do this if you're feeling cold: tie a big warm scarf around your middle so that your lower rib cage on your back is covered - check back in a few minutes - do you feel warmer?


A Haramaki is a belly or kidney warmer in Japanese. The Japanese know the secret to longevity is to keep your vital organs warm; especially the kidneys. If you keep your midrift warmer you can even reduce hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, lower back ache and generally feel warmer. Too many of your clothes are loose and allow your body heat to escape but the minute you trap your own body warmth around your middle you will start to feel generally warmer!


When I'm doing talks I get women to take scarves from their necks to wrap around their kidneys and see if they feel warmer in minutes.... they do.


A haramaki can be anything. If you're sat at your desk tie a cardy/ hoody/ scarf around. If you're out and about either wear a vest or an actual haramaki (external link).


Always sit with your back to the sun if the option is shade. Even on a summers day keep cooler by warming your kidneys not your face!


More tips on keeping warmer can be found on my sister website blog: Cold hands, cold feet


Are you feeling any warmer?


woman in grey haramaki


Gentle Spices


Spices warm you up - but not chilli strength! More gentle ones like cardamom, cinnamon and low levels of ginger. We want to gently stoke your fire not make it explode. You can add spices to any food or drink but it's about keeping the levels low. I tend to find though if you're a person who feels the cold you like spices in your diet and if you don't you're naturally a more firey person!


Sort out your sleep


If you haven't gotten a good nights sleep this is where you start. You can't hope to combat stress if you're depleted in sleep. Start with this blog! Help me get my sleep back!


If you sleep well but wake up exhausted you're in more of a deficite than someone who isn't sleeping. You'll need a lot more nutrients in your life which brings me on to supplements.



Supplements - why they are needed

our life:


  • Stress & Nutrient Depletion: Modern life is stressful, and depleted soil means food often lacks the nutrients to fully combat stress. Supplements can bridge the gap.

  • Toxic Overload: Environmental toxins and chemicals burden the liver, hindering its ability to detoxify your body and regulate hormones. Supplements can support liver function.



If you have symptoms you don't have enough nutrients in your diet - it's a simple equation:



HIGH CORTISOL > LACK NUTRIENTS = MENOPAUSE / HEALTH SYMPTOMS


HIGH NUTRIENTS > REDUCED CORTISOL = LESS SYMPTOMS


Cold intolerance can signal iodine deficiency. This is concerning during perimenopause because low iodine can lead to an underactive thyroid, often treated with medication.

Here's why:

  • Tap water: Fluoride and chloride can inhibit iodine uptake.

  • Soil quality: Depleted soil means food may be lower in iodine.

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Raw versions may slightly inhibit iodine uptake, but the benefits outweigh the minimal risk.


 Consider a good plant-based multivitamin to ensure daily iodine intake.


Grab my Starter supplements guide here that uses quality plant-based ingredients allowing your body to absorb nutrients as effectively as possible.



let's normalize selfcare list


Self-Care: Small Steps for Big Impact


Feeling overwhelmed by perimenopause? Take a deep breath and start with a holistic self-assessment. Here's how:


  1. Evaluate Your Life: Are you happy with your daily routine? Does it support your well-being?

  2. Quick Wins: Aim for small changes like earlier sleep, pre-bed relaxation, and saying "no" more often.

  3. Stress Reduction: Reduce multitasking, use meditation apps, and swap high-stress media for calming activities.

  4. Nature Connection: Walk in nature, disconnect from technology, and reconnect with yourself.

  5. Movement Matters: Explore gentle exercises like Qi Gong, yoga, or breathwork.



Remember, small changes add up! By slowing down, reducing stress, and prioritizing self-care, you can combat the root cause of many perimenopause symptoms. Combine these steps with better nutrition for even greater results!


self care can create time

So, feeling cold in perimenopause is a sign of chronic stress in my body?


Yes! That's the gist of it. The great news is that you can turn this around and start feeling warmer and more energised; you will LESSEN YOUR SYMPTOMS now and in the future! Sort out how you're feeling now, and how your body is reacting and you may NEVER have a hot flush*!

The irony of a hot flush is that one of the main components that triggers them is being chronically stressed and feeling too cold for too long. 9 out of 10 women that I ask this question too have the same answer:


When you're not flushing do you feel hot or cold generally?


The answer for 9 of them is cold.


We've got it all wrong about menopause meaning you're a hot sweaty mess; this doesn't need to be and in many cases isn't. Address feeling cold for the years leading up to your periods stopping i.e. your oestrogen drop and you remove one important cause of flushing. Hot flushes are a sign of cardio vascular distress in your body and should not be put up with as a right of passage. Nutrition and combatting stress will reduce or eliminate hot flushes (excluding unique medical conditions which would need to be dealt with on an individual basis).


*In Chinese medicine hot flushes and night sweats are not the same thing and have different root causes. You can have night sweats even if you feel cold all day; as the root cause is how well your liver is working.


If you're hot all the time with hot flushes then that would be a whole different blog but you can contact me directly to help you resolve this health imbalance as this is a more complex health scenario.




Don't stress - Follow these simple steps to help you make changes


You maybe feeling a little overwhelmed as to how to get started so I've created an easy to follow book that steps you through making small manageable changes that become habits quickly; helping reduce the symptoms you're experiencing. The quickest way to help your mind, body and emotions combat the stress it's under is to get the right nutrients in your life whilst learning what's going on and what you can do to make it better!




book review Understanding Your Menopause


If you're really struggling then please do get in touch with me, I offer a free no obligation chat and sometimes you just need to be pointed in the right direction; it's just you don't know what that is.... but I do!


Meet Andrea - Holistic Menopause Specialist


Andrea is a shiatsu and Chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles and wisdom of Chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If you live locally you can book in for a wonderfully relaxing Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea does online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow. Andrea is also passionate about doing workplace talks and recently created Gloucestershire's first Menopause Fayre.


KNOWLEDGE . PAUSE . FLOURISH

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Beware Menopause-branded supplements

There is very little scientific backing on most of the supplements that are currently flooding the market at present - you are being sold to; you are being promised that this one pill will solve everything. I look at the ingredients and percentages of all supplements that I'm notified about or come across. Do not believe any menopause expert endorsement; I don't know who these women are.

 

The menopause experts that I trust don't endorse any of the products I've looked at. Some supplements will help with some symptoms; it's better if the supplement is targeted to a small set of symptoms that are linked; it's more likely to be effective.  They can be a good starting place but over time will become less effective; don't be disheartened it's likely that they don't have enough dosage in for what you now need. I have a Starter Supplement Guide that  explains what you need and why you need it i effective levels to help relieve your symptoms naturally.

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