Laura Thompson is a local Nutritional Therapist, Acupuncturist and creator of the Healthy Gut Plan, offering advice on a range of health issues
The menopause for many women conjures up a range of mixed emotions. It so often gets a bad reputation and is still a bit taboo. But not every woman going through it will suffer from unpleasant symptoms. So what exactly is happening to our bodies and when does it occur?
Firstly, the average age of the menopause is between 45 and 55 years. Some women may start earlier and a few later. Factors such as smoking, obesity and some chronic health conditions can trigger an earlier menopause.
What happens during the menopause?
In simple terms, the menopause is the time when hormones oestrogen and progesterone begin to decrease. This takes place slowly, over a number of years until eventually your periods stop for good. This cessation of periods marks the end of a woman’s fertility.
Many women will experience symptoms relating to the menopause long before the periods stop. This is called the peri -menopause.
Often the first signs are seen as changes in the cycle. It might get heavier and a lot of women experience flooding at this time.
Changes in mood can occur and some women will experience anxiety and increased stress. Hot flushes and night sweats can be particularly distressing and lead to bouts of insomnia.
Try to decrease the amount of caffeine that you consume and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Some women will also find that eating spicy foods can trigger an attack. Alcohol and sugary foods should all be reduced.
In addition, stress can be a major factor, so simple breathing exercises can help. Wear comfortable loose clothing and learn to relax more.
Weight gain and changes in hormones not only make it difficult to lose weight but can also cause bloatedness.
These changes can cause fat to distribute often around the abdomen. It is really important to nourish the friendly bacteria in your gut at this time. Bacteria in your gut are capable of producing phytoestrogens that are absorbed into your bloodstream acting like your body’s own oestrogen. Eating a healthy diet to feed your good bacteria is essential. Up your intake of wholegrains, vegetables, seeds, nuts and pulses. Try taking a good probiotic and maybe try having some fermented foods such as kefir in your daily diet.
Hair loss and thinning hair is very distressing for women and leads to further anxiety. This can be a symptom of falling oestrogen levels. It can also be down to low iron levels especially if you have had heavy periods prior to the menopause.
It is vital to address any nutritional deficiencies. Make sure that you are eating plenty of foods high in B vitamins or supplement them in your diet. Also try a phytoestrogen supplement like Delima or Soyagen to help with the loss of oestrogen.
Cholesterol can be another issue for menopausal women again due to falling oestrogen. It is important to watch your diet.
Reduce the saturated fats but be sure to up the good fats such as oily fish and flax oils.
Sleep disorders such as insomnia are a huge issue . Taking a supplement like magnesium is a big help. It not only helps you to relax but it also helps control body temperature and helps to keep your blood pressure stable.
Fatigue is often a side effect of the latter. Learning to relax and keep exercising all help.
Loss of libido is another symptom, taking some Gingko Biloba or Matcha can really help to boost your sex drive. Chat to your local health food store for advice.
Finally, remember that the key to a healthy menopause is to maintain overall good health. Start by eating healthy foods, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, kick the sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly.
Remember that the menopause can be a time of liberation and positivity for women. A new beginning and a new sense of freedom, so embrace it!