8 useful things to know about managing menopause (but no-one thought to tell you in advance)
So, maybe you’ve been hit by the perimenopause or menopause sledgehammer?
It’s a menopausal minefield out there. One in four lucky women sail through menopause without suffering any symptoms. Maybe you’re one of the three in four experiencing one or more, of the sometimes-invisible signs and symptoms of menopause that can have a major impact on everyday life. A British Menopause Society survey in 2106 found that the average women can experience a whopping seven symptoms. Take heart, small lifestyle changes and informed choices can help you to deal with some of the physical, psychological and emotional fallout from menopause.
Worth considering, even if you’re one of the lucky one in four not experiencing obvious symptoms, your oestrogen levels are depleting, potentially impacting on your health. You too should take steps to manage your more ‘invisible’ menopause. Risk factors for heart, diabetes 2, osteoporosis increase now. Just because you can’t see it, or feel it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Read on to discover the little lifestyle changes you can make to deal with your menopause.
Food is an important weapon in your menopause armoury. A healthy, varied diet can help with the daily grind of menopause symptoms and more importantly help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. You need to ensure you’re eating a colourful range of fruit and vegetables, omega 3 rich foods, protein, calcium and complex carbohydrates. With one hand, you should give your body the good stuff you need, but with the other you need to take away the not-so-good stuff; out go the processed foods, fatty meats, refined sugars, saturated fats and simple carbohydrates that cause amongst other things, blood sugar dips and weight gain. Time to step away from the biscuit tin and stop unhealthy snacking. If you’re more Deliciously Stella by nature it may be time to take more of a Deliciously Ella approach.
Walking, yoga, swimming, cycling or hula-hooping? If you need a perimenopause or menopause incentive, Edward Morris, Vice President for Clinical Quality for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that exercise can mean women may have fewer symptoms of menopause. Women complain of being tired all the time but exercise releases endorphins, triggering a more positive outlook, so try to make the time and find something you can fit in around your lifestyle. For some of us, exercise may be a habit that needs developing but find something you like and stick with it. It’s a win-win, good for the body and mind whilst giving you that stress-busting time for yourself. Whatever exercise you choose, make sure you do it regularly, around 5 times per week & for around 30 minutes at a time.
Deal with stress
Stress is the menopausal woman’s nemesis. Shifting levels of oestrogen and progesterone make us feel anxious, moods swing, hot-flushes strike and sleepless nights can become the norm. Adrenal glands usually manage our body’s response to stress by producing cortisol and adrenaline but as oestrogen declines these essential little glands struggle to cope as they now have to work extra hard producing the body’s small amounts of the depleting oestrogen and progesterone to help with the hormone crisis. Unable to multi-task, the glands respond to any stress by flooding the body with cortisol, resulting in the more disturbing menopausal symptoms of fatigue, weight gin, depression, anxiety and foggy thinking.
To prevent adrenal fatigue, take steps to deal with stress through diet, lifestyle, exercise or relaxation techniques. Take time out and time away from your stresses. Even a few snatched minutes, sitting on your own, focusing on your breathing may have a positive impact on helping to lower your stress levels.
Cut down on Alcohol & Caffeine
If you drink alcohol make sure you’re sticking to the recommended weekly drinking levels, currently 14 units per week. That’s less than a bottle and a half a week. You’ll know how close or wide of the mark you are. Alcohol can make menopause symptoms worse, effecting sleep, body temperature, bone-health, cardiovascular health, mood and hydration levels resulting in hot-flushes, mood swings and anxiety. If you do drink alcohol, follow the British Liver Trust recommendation to have 3 consecutive alcohol-free days letting your liver cells recover and repair themselves.
There’s not much comfort for coffee drinkers and fizzy drink lovers either as caffeine can have the same negative consequences on menopause symptoms but for different reasons. Try herbal teas, add fizzy water to fruit drinks or have caffeine-free fizzy drinks.
There’s a glut of menopause supplements to part a fool and their money. It’s easy to walk into a chemist or down a supermarket aisle picking up supplements without knowing what they do, what the side effects may be and how long they need to be taken for before you’ll see a difference. The costs can add up quickly with average prices of £6-10 per bottle of 30 capsules. Buying two or three supplements in one go, may mean spending upwards of £30 for products where there’s no evidence that they’ll actually work for your specific symptoms. For more information about claims made about supplements and the ones which may help, see ‘Be Savvy about Supplements’.
Needles, massage and essential oils are all offered as a treatment for menopause. There’s been little research carried out to prove the value of acupuncture, reflexology and aromatherapy on symptoms of menopause. At best, the limited research studies have found that alternative therapies have a placebo effect. We say it’s worth trying these therapies if it relieves any of your pesky symptoms.
80’s ex-Go-Goes singer, Belinda Carlisle, suffered debilitating hot flushes until she tried placing a small magnet in her knickers. Now, Heaven is a Place on Earth, where she feels cooler! The manufacturers, Ladycare, claim that the magnet balances the central nervous system which deals with anxiety and sweating, doing away with hot flushes. Women report that it works but this could be the placebo effect. Costing around £28.99, if you give it a go and it works for you, let us know.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Up until the early noughties, women were happily taking HRT to top-up their naturally depleting oestrogen levels when alarming, headline-grabbing studies linked HRT with an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots. Unsurprisingly, women stopped taking it overnight. A generation of women suffered needlessly and our peers have been suspicious of HRT as it lingered on the mysterious fringes of menopause. Guess what? HRT has had somewhat of a resurgence, due to further research showing that the risks of HRT are outweighed by the benefits in helping to relieve menopause symptoms and prevent osteoporosis. A study looking at HRT pills published in September 2017 found they don’t shorten life as has been previously reported. Within the Hot Flush circle, we see a number of women who prior to menopause thought they wouldn’t take HRT but who now feel confident to do so after weighing up the risks and how they apply to them. See our posts HRT, to take, or not to take? & FAQs about HRT.