The menopause without medicine
Updated: Jun 29
Some tools to help you on your menopausal journey
In the UK almost half of the work force are women. 45%. of those employed are aged over 50. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 and this is the age that for many the menopause has already started and will continue for several years- that's a lot of menopausal women who still have so much to contribute to business and to society. Don't write us off just yet!!!
I have and continue to go through my own menopausal journey so can absolutely empathise with those of you who are there and those who are yet to get there as well as those who travel with us- partners and children. Friends and Family. Work colleagues.
The menopause is defined as "The day when a woman has not had a menstrual period for over 1 year" .However, the symptoms related to the menopause which are all to do with the reduction of Oestrogen can last for up to 10 years both pre and post menopausal. -Referred to as perimenopause. These massive hormonal fluctuations can and do play havoc with our bodies. I view my menopause as a hormonal Rollercoaster in the sunset of my life rather than an affliction. She does come with some physiological and psychological issues but like many things in life, being prepared and aware and can help reduce some of the problems. Understanding the amazing machine called your human body and providing it with the right fuel we call food both before, during and after the menopause can and does reap rewards.
Menopausal symptoms come in many guises!
Hot flushes, night sweats, day sweats, afternoon sweats! sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, irritated skin, UTI, Urinary incontinence, reduced libido, low mood, mood swings, anxiety, skin changes, brain fog, loss of bone density, memory loss, increased link with Cardiovascular disease, reduced muscle mass, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, dry skin, anger, skin breakouts, acne rosacea, lethargy, fluid retention. I could go on. but I want to try to make this as positive as possible.
There seems to be a misconception that the menopause is a disorder that needs to be cured. My take on this is it’s a natural transition, I am lucky enough to have got to this stage in my life and so I'm going to embrace it as best as I can.
So who is this mysterious Oestrogen?
3 hormones -Oestradiol, oestrone, oestriol make up oestrogen.
which is then responsible for female sexual characteristics and ovulation,
As we age, these hormones reduce gradually. This is known as the perimenopause which can last from 4-10 yrs
Its interesting to look at the experiences of women around the globe linked to the menopause.
In The west hot flushes seem to be listed as one of the key problems. In Japan women have very few symptoms which is thought to be associated with high soy diet. Soy isoflavones can in some instances "mimic" oestrogen.
In the West we tend to view menopause negatively with our youth focussed image is everything culture.. In India for example, menopause is viewed more positively. This could be due to celebrating living a long life if life expectancy is poor, as well as older women been looked upon as wiser with greater knowledge of life.
Here the Menopause is viewed as the time when women become free. It is not a disease rather a transformative life experience that all women will go through if they are lucky enough to live to be a certain age.
For many women and I am one of those, the freedom of not been afflicted with monthly hormonal issues that others can not feel or even see is empowering. I spent the majority of my menstruating years with cluster migraines every month that were sometimes so debilitating people around me thought I was having a stroke!
What can you do to embrace your menopause?
Self care is non negotiable at this time. Start to put yourself First. no one will do it for you! Ensure you achieve adequate sleep and optimal nutrition.
1) Think of your bones and muscles and support them the best you can
One of the major issues we face as we journey through the Menopause is a reduction in bone density. Peak bone density is at about 30 yrs of age, and starts to slowly decline. It is important to help optimise bone density at a young age- eating disorders and disordered eating have a massive impact on bone density in older women. Embarking on weight baring exercise - walking, running, bouncing, and ensuring optimal amounts of vitamin D, Calcium & Magnesium are included in the diet- plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and oily fish and sunshine.. Plus taking good quality nutritional supplements may be of benefit to you. Ditching yo yo dieting and eating a well balanced healthy nutritionally dense diet will not only help you achieve optimal wellbeing, maintain bone density but weight management will also be so much easier. Diets don't work any any age let alone at the menopause.
After 50 yrs of age, muscles reduce in strength and muscular fatigue increases. This includes the heart muscle. If you can begin a healthier outlook before 50 this can be beneficial. Increased muscle mass also helps with metabolism. Muscles are more energy efficient than fat. After the age of 30 and every decade after, it is thought that between 3-8% of lean muscle is lost. This can have an impact on how calories are burned by the body as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. The more muscle you can retain the more calories you will burn. That’s why many women experience weight gain as they age because they have not retained muscle mass.
So trying to add in some exercise that maintains muscle tone can be very beneficial. Body weight exercises,- walking, running (if its your thing) yoga as well as using kettlebells and stability balls are just some ideas to help with both muscular tone and bone density, But you have to find something you like and fits in with your lifestyle.
Movement and exercise may also help with dementia which makes sense as the brain needs glucose to survive and exercise keeps the heart pumping ensuring nutrients and oxygen get to vital organs.- including the brain.
Functional fitness - gardening, walking, dancing while you mop!! Can you bend down to tie your shoes? Reach up for something without excessive strain, run in an emergency?
2) Work on reducing physical and psychological stress
Physical stress ( including excessive exercise!) and Psychological stress can and does play havoc with hormonal metabolism and the hormones cortisol, and insulin have a huge impact on carbohydrate metabolism and the laying down of fat. - especially abdominal fat. If you are perimenopausal and you are stressed but you are not providing your body with the nutrition she requires then you may well find that you are gaining weight around your abdomen despite numerous attempts to cut calories! Take a read of this link- all about stress and nutrition.
3) Use the nutritional tools available to support you
Foods that are more difficult to digest take longer for the body to break down can puts more pressure on organs such as the digestive system and liver, both of which are vital to hormonal health. For example, fatty and high-sugar foods make both the liver and pancreas work harder. If you have a poor nutritional status the chances are these organs are over worked and under paid! Therefore try to eat as natural a diet as possible. Include lots of fruit and vegetables which can help increase soluble fibre and reduce constipation. They also provide lots of antioxidants which have been shown to reduce the process of ageing as well as supporting the body's fight against cancers and cardiovascular disease. Supporting your digestion with digestive enzymes can often be very helpful.
Eat a rainbow and it will give you an alphabet. All the different vitamins and minerals. Beige is great for interior design but no good on your plate!
Cruciferous vegetables- sprouts, broccoli kale are great for helping the liver (be mindful if you have a low functioning thyroid) – Oestrogen is detoxified via the liver and if you can support your liver then the detoxification process will be more refined. Herbs for liver support can also be taken. Milk thistle is good. Plus plenty of B vitamins as they help in the metabolic process of detoxification - They are easily destroyed as they are water soluble and so supplementation is often advised.
The allium family- garlic, onions, chives, leeks – all great for supporting the liver which helps detoxify oestrogen. Plan your nutrition around plant-based whole-foods: women who follow a plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Recent evidence suggests that they may also suffer fewer menopausal symptoms.
Diversity is key to a healthy gut microbiome (and good hormonal & emotional health). Leafy greens and dark-coloured berries are particularly beneficial.
Try to Include some beans, lentils, hummus in your diet regularly – a fantastic source of soluble fibre, protein and micronutrients. If you do not already regularly consume these and suffer with bloating, build up intake slowly and consider short-term digestive enzymes.
4) Look at Your daily routine- Eat regular meals to reduce getting too hungry and then eating anything you can get your hands on!!! As this can lead to then spikes in blood sugars which can cause issues with your pancreas can lead to afternoon lethargy, insulin resistance and eventually type II diabetes.
Ensure that you don't skip meals and try to have small protein based snacks during the day- nuts, seeds, oat cakes with peanut butter, hummus and carrot sticks. are just some examples.
5) Weight maintenance -Not dieting
Weight gain in the menopause has been linked to a fall in oestrogen, in conjunction with a decrease in physical activity and also metabolism. Recent statistics suggest 62% of women are classed as overweight and 37% of women aged between 45 and 54 are classed as obese. Visceral adipose tissue – that behind the abdomen and surrounding organs is linked with other health related conditions- diabetes, cardiovascular disease, abnormal cholesterol, increased Blood pressure, plus other issues linked with a phenomenon called metabolic syndrome.
So ,how do we manage our weight when we have everything against us? As well as utilizing the ideas I have mentioned above, look at reducing your portions.
The fuel we call food can have a profound effect on the amazing machine called the human body
Think vegetable carbs, and natural fats not “low-carb and low fat!" Complex carbohydrates (e.g. root vegetables, beans, oats, wholegrains) and plant-based fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocado, good quality olive oil) are essential for good hormonal health.
Consider the addition of flax seeds which are excellent source of omega 3 as well as phytoestrogens (plant based oestrogens) which, where there is a reduction in oestrogen may in some individuals help to maintain some stimulus of the oestrogen receptors. Omega 3 is essential for cognitive function and helps reduce inflammation. Oily fish, hemp and avocado are also great sources of omega 3.
Use herbs & spices to flavour your food (rich in polyphenols – plant-based micronutrients). Ginger is excellent for the digestion and Turmeric is a fantastic anti-inflammatory.
Minimise refined and processed carbohydrates and junk food (e.g. refined sugar, white bread, baked goods, takeaways) and over processed animal products. When we were cave women we had so much less choice and in 2021 our physiology has not changed a great deal for millions of years but the food industry keeps topping us up with all sorts of interesting ingredients!
I have attempted here to provide some general advice and ideas on this fascinating and complex subject. However, everyone is a unique and fascinating miracle in their own right and so if you do need more bespoke advice and would like a complimentary 121 nutrition discovery call then please follow the link to book an appointment with me.