Menopause madness with YourGP's Anne Cross
The Menopause is a natural process for a woman, a time she is entering into a new phase of her life. Although believe it or not, this can be a time for change, freedom, new directions and celebration – many women find this transition difficult – as hormones can start to fluctuate wildly then fall (mainly oestrogen and progesterone) and these hormones are vital for the function of many cells in the body.
Some women experience very little in the way of symptoms but for others there may be many such as missed, late, lighter or heavier periods; mental and physical symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, breast tenderness, poor sleep (oestrogen promotes deep REM sleep), anxiety, less tolerance to stress, low mood, irritability, reduced confidence, less skin elasticity, fatigue, palpitations, headaches, muscle and joint aches, poor memory and concentration and loss of libido to name a few! There is also the emotional aspects of other life changes such as children leaving home, divorce or feelings of low self worth that may happen around this time.
Although menopause is a natural process, we don’t really live a natural life any more – women have more demands than ever, busyness is the norm, our food choices can often be poor, our environment is more polluted and most women feel stressed in day to day life. Our Adrenal Glands (stress glands) and fat tissue take over the role of hormone production from the ovaries during the menopausal years, so if we have been continually stressed our adrenals find it harder to take over this function of hormone production.
I read an article recently about how the bubbly, lovely Lorraine Kelly struggled with the menopause. Many women prefer to avoid HRT due to potential side effects but if you experience difficult or extreme symptoms please see your GP for advice.
Whether you want to help prepare your body before you enter the peri-menopause – which I am now in (by the way this can last for many years) or during this time until menopause (the last period) there are many lifestyle factors we can start to implement into our daily lives. Here are some simple tips for a healthier, happier menopause:
Increase water, reduce alcohol and caffeine and balance your blood sugar levels by eating regularly, having a little protein at each meal and try to avoid skipping meals. Foods which support hormones are nuts, seeds, green leafy veg such as kale, broccoli, flax and chai seeds, beans such as chickpeas, lentils, parsley, brown rice, fermented soya products, oily fish.
Minimise sugar, sugary foods and refined carbs as much as possible such as white pasta and bread, cakes, biscuits, pastries etc. Excess sugary foods leads to excess blood sugar and insulin – overtime this leads to insulin resistance which leads to sugar being stored as fat and sugary foods upset hormonal balance making symptoms worse.
Get exercise and fresh air to support bones and boost happy chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. Try walking, jogging, swimming, rebounding on a mini trampoline or a few weights whilst watching your favourite soap! Relaxation and stress reduction such as meditation, yoga, breathing, music, writing down worries, speaking to someone, calming teas such as lemon balm, lavender and chamomile.
Many supplements and herbs can support this time of hormonal change such as a good quality multi vitamin and mineral, Vitamin E (can help support hot flushes and circulation), magnesium (nature`s calming mineral) probiotics, soya isoflavones, sage (for night sweats and hot flushes), Gingko (for memory) St Johns Wort (for mood), Arnica Gel for aching muscles, valerian and lemon balm (to aid relaxation). Always check with your GP or herbalist / nutritionist if you are on any medication. I use a small dose of Bio-identical hormone cream but the choice is up to you what you want to do or choose to take.
Be kind and compassionate to your self, take pressure off yourself, value you for you. Symptoms can pass, try to look at this as a positive phase, help can be sought, a positive new beginning could be around the corner – more freedom, a new business, a new relationship, a new hobby, a new group of friends…
Again a few positive food and lifestyle changes can make all the difference to how you feel mentally and physically.
YourGP, Waterside House, 19 Hawthornbank Lane, Edinburgh EH4 3BH, Tel: 0131 225 5656, your-gp.com