Menopause changes many aspects of our lives from our appearance to our health, but these common symptoms do have solutions.
Throughout our hormonal life we get so many symptoms and changes that it can be hard to tell just what is the menopause and what might be something else. If in doubt consult your doctor, but this handy checklist could be useful.
1 HOT FLUSHES AND/OR SWEATS
If you are unlucky enough to have both then take evasive action when you feel one coming on and sometimes a dab of progesterone cream can be enough to halt it. If they are severe and continuing then you may be better with a combination cream of both progesterone and oestrogen.
* Start with your wardrobe and always wear loose clothes and night wear of natural fabrics and investigate cooling pads for your pillow or mattress or an electric fan for your bedroom, but choose a quiet one or it won’t help your sleep!
* What you eat and drink can also make a huge difference to whether you are gong to experience a hot flush. Some are obvious, like avoiding spicy, hot food – however much you love Indian or Thai food – but others are not always so clear.
* Alcohol certainly affects many women and brings on a flush as does caffeine so avoiding coffee is not difficult, but there are many other sources such as chocolate and colas, many of which are very high in caffeine.
2 WEIGHT GAIN
You can really pile on the pounds at menopause as your body shifts its oestrogen production into the fat cells of the abdomen and stomach and so tackling oestrogen dominance is a good place to start. However healthy your diet, and how much exercise you do, it is that hormonal factor that will make the difference.
* Worrying about your weight won’t help, as stress raises levels of cortisol, which encourages fat deposits around the abdomen as well so keep calm and take a deep breath.
* Eat little and often as your body can cope better with several small meals throughout the day, not a couple of large ones. This is the best way of keeping your blood sugar levels stable and studies show that people who eat 4-5 meals or snacks a day are better able to control their appetite and weight. Stick to a Mediterranean style diet for healthy weight loss with fresh wholefoods, vegetables, fruit, salads, nuts, and seeds.
* Reduce your alcohol intake as it can be a major obstacle when trying to lose weight. Although there are certain drinks, such as red wine, that have been some health benefits generally it is a good idea to really cut down. Alcohol upsets blood sugar levels, depletes nutrients, causes liver problems, aggravates the gut, lowers immunity and, if you’re trying to lose weight, it is not good news as it increases hunger and cravings for junk foods.
* Understanding why you eat is crucial, as menopause certainly can be an absolute rollercoaster in terms of your emotions. If it is emotion, rather than physical hunger, that triggers your eating then it will really help you to tackle this in order to lose weight. The simplest method is to keep a food diary; noting down what you eat and why you are are eating it, for instance are you angry, sad, upset? You may find it simpler to talk this through with someone like a counsellor or a therapist who specialises in this area.
Bloating during the menopause is a common side effect and can really get you down as your clothes get stretched to the limit and your wrists and ankles look puffy and swollen. As hormone levels begin to change, you tend to store more water and that is what makes you look and feel bloated.
* Drink plenty of water because your body needs fluid to perform many of its functions, but strangely enough if you drink too little you can actually end up with fluid retention as your body is holding on to whatever it can get to work efficiently. Your body does not need fluids that actually make it work harder, such as fizzy sugar laden drinks and alcohol, so stick to plain water wherever you can.
* Progesterone promotes the elimination of excess oestrogen from tissues and acts as a diuretic to also help get rid of the water the body is storing so if you are oestrogen dominant look at supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone.
4 ANXIETY AND MOOD SWINGS
Many women who have never previously been anxious can find that they start to stress and worry more when in menopause. There are so many changes going on in the body and dealing with them can increase your heart rate and may bring on palpitations and dizziness.
* All forms of bodywork will help reduce anxiety levels so treat yourself to a massage. Shiatsu, reflexology and practices such as yoga, tai chi and chi gong are widely used to diminish muscle tension.
* Mind/body breathing exercises such as meditation are well established as being helpful for reducing stress and increasing calmness. If severe then you could try hypnotherapy with a qualified practitioner as that can help get to the root of the cause of the anxiety.
* Simple dietary measures to cut the anxiety rate include cutting out coffee and caffeine drinks such as cola as they are highly stimulating, and ensuring your blood sugar levels stay constant throughout the day. This means a protein rich breakfast, and avoiding too many carbohydrates, biscuits, cakes, pasta and potatoes in order to control your energy levels and keep them stable. Ensure you have a good supply of oily fish in your diet as fish oils do help mood.
* Supplements have also proved useful; vitamins C, D and B complex are often suggested for stress and anxiety.
5 SLEEP ISSUES
Your pattern may change, sometimes due to the hot flushes and sweats, or just difficulty getting to sleep or waking through the night. Sleep problems can be triggered by night sweats, or waking in the night more frequently to go to the bathroom.
* Poor sleep is linked to lower progesterone levels and is the vital hormone for falling and staying asleep.
* Magnesium also helps muscles relax, allowing us to fall asleep more easily.
* Oats and a particular type of cherry, called Montmorency, are natural sources of the hormone melatonin which is derived from serotonin. Magnesium helps convert serotonin to melatonin in the body and as well as being the hormone that aids sleep it is also a powerful antioxidant.
6 BRAIN FOG
Now where did I put my keys/purse/dog? This is a very frustrating aspect of menopause as we forget things and find difficulty concentrating. This is due again to those fluctuating hormone levels and progesterone has a calming effect so can make it easier to focus.
* This is where organisation and list making really come into their own so always leave keys in the same place and carry a small notebook – it really will help.
* Give up tobacco as smoking impairs the blood supply to your brain, leading to memory lapses. Studies also show that smokers have a more rapid decline in brain function, including memory, than non-smokers, while smoking leads to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in your brain that interfere with processing and relaying information.
Hormones help regulate how our cells use energy, so when levels drop, so too do energy levels. Stress can be a major problem, as can lack of sleep, and this can lead to adrenal fatigue and a feeling of being worn out most of the time.
* If your tiredness persists, it is worth checking that you do not have an under-active thyroid. Fatigue is a symptom of this so ask your GP for a check.*
* What can help is regular, enjoyable, exercise also helps as does more calming pursuits such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.
* Supplements that are helpful include DHEA, magnesium, a high dosage B complex and a gram a day of vitamin C.