MENOPAUSE – YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Do you think menopause is an old woman’s thing? Come on, be honest? At age 51, I did not consider that I was going through ‘The Change’ even when my doctor told me I was.

It never occurred to me that I was PERI-MENOPAUSAL from age 47. I experienced a vast range of symptoms at different times which I attributed to a stressful work environment. I had migraine, forgetfulness, the weight started creeping up, I lost my confidence, felt tired, and moody, I experienced backache, bloating, leakage, hot flushes and night sweats—all classic symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

Menopause is not an Old Woman Thing!

The average age of a woman going through menopause in the UK is 51, most women will live 30 – years after menopause, so it is NOT an old woman thing. It’s a natural TRANSITION for every woman after her childbearing years. No more pads, tampons and periods. It is a time to rejoice perhaps, yet it is still taboo that women are reluctant to talk about openly even though there are approximately 13 million menopausal women in the UK.

Eight out of ten women experience some symptoms, half will find them challenging to deal with. Twenty-five per cent of women will suffer severe symptoms which can last up to ten years. Many women have early menopause which brings with it perhaps additional challenges. In fact:

1:1000 women have very premature menopause (under the age of 30)

1:100 women have premature menopause (age below 40)

5:100 women have early menopause (between 40 and 45)

 Some of these women could live a post-menopausal life for 50 years.

Midlife – Declining Hormones and Nutrients

Peri-menopause is the time before menopause. Menopause is defined as having no periods for 12 months. If I was more aware of the hormonal upheaval my body was going through, I would have not struggled to cope alone and not speak about what I was feeling physically, emotionally and mentally.

My experiences have led me to be on a mission to educate and help women from as early as their mid 30’s to be aware of hormonal changes and their effects. I tell women how they can recognise changes early and make simple adjustments to diet, exercise and lifestyle to adapt to midlife hormonal changes

Dietary and lifestyle factors play a significant role in the severity of symptoms. Not only are hormones declining, but so are some nutrients. We, as a society, are only just coming to grips with openly talking about menopause. Women suffer in silence and rarely speak about the loss of libido, vaginal dryness and depression. Throw into the mix irritability, breast pain, digestive problems, sleep disorders, anxiety, aching joints and the list goes on.

Adjusting to Menopausal Weight Gain

So are you wondering why you are gaining weight yet eating relatively healthy? As we get older, our bodies metabolism slows down, and we basically do not need as much food as we needed to say in our 20’s. It’s time to make a few adjustments, if you are not already eating whole fresh foods, then it’s time to change and get away from all the processed stuff.

Eat as your grandparents did. Figure out the foods that can cause symptoms such as sugar, wheat, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods and reduce or avoid them. Menopause is not about deprivation; it’s about good wholesome nutrition. Instead of just eliminating or avoiding foods, see what you can add to your diet to make it healthier.

We can’t blame everything on menopause, during midlife from our 40’s onwards our bodies need extra support. We need to eat foods which would benefit us, including:

  • Foods containing protein, e.g. lean meat, fish, eggs, Greek yoghurt, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa, nuts & seeds.
  • Complex carbohydrate foods rich in fibre, e.g. vegetables, pulses and whole grains.
  • Magnesium rich foods – brown rice, oats, avocado, bananas, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, broccoli, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds and cashew.
  • Phytoestrogen-rich foods, e.g. tofu, edamame beans, kidney/mung/aduki beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Foods high in Omega 3 like oily fish, e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts & almonds.
  • Foods containing vitamin D, e.g. oily fish, eggs, organ meats and dairy products. However, sunlight is the main source of vitamin D production which is needed to absorb calcium.
  • Calcium -rich foods, e.g. dairy, cheese, sardines, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, papaya, kiwi fruit, oranges and strawberries.

Tips to help you Sail through the Midlife Menopause 

Keep a symptom diary for a minimum of 7 days.  See your doctor armed with your symptom diary, having a list of symptoms helps you and your doctor connect the dots.

Move more and eat less. Make sure you take some exercise, even if it’s just walking to start. Finds what works for you – dancing, yoga, there are literally millions of free videos on YouTube to get you started. Strength training exercise helps build muscle and lose fat, push-ups, lunges, and squats – from the age of 30, we begin to lose muscle mass if not actively replacing it. It is also useful to track diet and exercise, which will help you lose weight there are some great fitness apps you can get on your phone.

Stress is a huge factor and can affect you physically, mentally and nutritionally. It can lead to weight gain, sleep disruptions, digestive problems and exhausts the immune system. Caring for elderly parents, kids leaving home, career changes, redundancy, and combining the hormonal upheaval no wonder at times us Midlife women are overwhelmed. The key here is to take time out for yourself. Building in a routine 10-15 minutes of me time every day. No distractions, no TV phone or laptops and try some gentle stretching exercise before bed as a start.

I hope this has helped you understand a little bit more about Midlife and Menopause.