How to manage your menopause? The menopause – if the first thing you think of is hot flushes, then think again. It’s a change, but it can be a change for the better…
The menopause is the name for the time in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs. The oestrogen levels in the body also drop, which means that menstruation usually becomes less frequent, before eventually stopping completely.
The downside of this totally natural stage is that it can come with some uncomfortable symptoms, like hot flushes (caused by a malfunction in the body’s normal methods of temperature control), mood swings and a lack of interest in sex. But the good news is that with a positive approach and some simple lifestyle changes, you’ll find you’re not just managing your menopause, you’re mastering it!
Are you fairly active? Then research shows that your menopausal symptoms are likely to be less severe than sedentary women. And better than that – not only does exercise help the short-term symptoms of this stage; it can also strengthen bones to protect against osteoporosis. Add to that the fact that exercise helps prevent heart disease – if you’re not already exercising, what’s stopping you? You don’t need to join a gym, just walk briskly at least three times a week. It’s that easy.
Don’t sweat it
The most common symptoms of the menopause are hot flushes – or night sweats as they are called if they happen when you’re in bed. They can be uncomfortable but a few simple changes to your routine can make life a lot easier. Avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate and spicy foods, especially at night – all of these can trigger hot flushes. Keep the room cool at night, and during the day wear lighter clothing, or layer your clothes so you can cool off without stripping off!
Hormone changes always affect mood, and because oestrogen is a mood boosting hormone as well as the one that prompts egg production, when it stops being produced it’s natural that your happiness can suffer a bit. Don’t get stressed about it before it’s even happened – many women pass through the menopause with few psychological symptoms. If you do feel irritable, anxious or uninspired, look after yourself with rest, exercise and relaxation, or try an alternative therapy like reflexology. And make sure you eat enough protein foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan (found in turkey, cottage cheese, oats and legumes) as it helps makes serotonin, the happy hormone.
A healthy diet will make you stronger and better equipped to face this change in your life. But as well as getting your five a day, check out these tips for eating right for the different symptoms of the menopause:
• Hormone changes can lead to dry skin – so stock up on omega-rich foods such as oily fish and flax seed, and snack on nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower seeds and almonds which contain vitamin E, zinc and calcium.
• It’s a myth that the menopause makes you put on weight – that’s just getting older. Keep an eye on the amount of fat in your diet and cut back on sugar. Stick to carbohydrates, such as brown grains, wholemeal pasta, bread and rice, as they will help balance blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller longer.
• Beat tiredness by avoiding snacking on sugary foods – a sharp rise in your blood sugar level can be followed by a sharp dip, which often leaves you feeling tired and drained. Choose nuts, seeds or fruit instead.
• Take care of your bones by bosting your intake of calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K.
• Look for phyto or plant oestrogen rich foods, which act in a similar way to human oestrogen: they may help in keeping hormones a little more in balance. Choose soya milk and soya flour, linseeds, tofu, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.
Your menopause checklist
There is a range of natural health supplements designed to help ease the symptoms of the menopause: choose Evening Primrose Oil, Starflower Oil, Uva Ursi, Sage Leaf or Red Clover. Or try Soya Plus by Solaray (http://www.solarayuk.co.uk and independent health food stores), a blend of herbs work as that work as phytoestrogens, plus isoflavones to help relieve mild menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.
Lower oestrogen levels can mean that skin changes so look for ranges that nourish and strengthen. Try Stratum C, the first skin care range scientifically formulated just for the menopause. http://www.stratumc.com
Keep active and your body will thank you for it by keeping those menopause symptoms to itself. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes or trainers and just get out there!
• A smile
Try and think of this as the start of a new stage, not the end, and focus on the good things in your life. Keep smiling: smiles are good for you and everyone around you – and they’re infectious!
SEE MORE: Key tips to a longer life for over-50s