Menopause Symptoms: Reveal, React, Reduce!
“Don't mind me, I’m just having a hot flush...” Cue a vigorous fanning of the face.
It’s not glamorous or fun, the menopause – but there are ways to make it more manageable. Our gut is our second brain, responsible for many of our bodily functions, fluctuations and reactions. The health of our gut has a huge impact on our hormonal health – and our hormonal health is what dictates our experience of the menopause, periods and female health in general.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I specialist in female hormonal health, most specifically, the menopause. Through my studies and my clients, I have learnt about the processes behind menopausal symptoms – and how we can help to manage them.
Menopause symptoms and how to manage them...
Hot flushes & night sweats
After the age of 40, our oestrogen production starts to drop off. This messes with a whole host of bodily functions, including our internal thermostat. Hot flushes, thankfully, are not untreatable. A recent study of 17,000 menopausal women found that those with a diet that was high in vegetables and whole grains experienced fewer hot flushes.
Eat a vegetable-rich diet and switch carbs to the wholegrain variety
Try soy products such as tofu, edamame and soy. These contain plant oestrogen
Add flax-seeds to everything! They have been shown to decrease hot flushes and help to balance hormones
Avoid spicy foods. Chilli contains capsaicin which dilates blood vessels, encouraging the sensation of warmth
Drink less alcohol – boring right? But you knew I was going to say it!
Another pesky side effect of getting older is weight gain. Many of my clients have come to me with ‘unexplained’ weight gain. These healthy and previously slim women can’t understand where the extra 5 or 10 pounds have come from – and rightly so!
One of the reasons is insulin, which is dictated to by our hormones. During the menopause some women suffer from insulin resistance – essentially, our cells become resistant to insulin which means the sugar stays in the blood longer and then gets stored as fat, hence the unexplained weight gain.
Only eat complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates are broken down into sugar during digestion)
Follow a low carb diet
Keep an eye on your sugar consumption
Watch out for added sugars in ‘fat-free’ products. You’re usually better off going with the full-fat version!
Eat more vegetables than fruit.
Brain fog & forgetfulness
One of the menopause’ scarier symptoms, but please try not to worry. As we age, our hormones reduce. As progesterone drops off, we start to get upsetting symptoms such as poor memory, forgetting words and general confusion. There are a few things that can help, especially if you start combatting it before it starts!
Make sure you have a healthy diet and eat plenty of vegetables
Increase the omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and take a supplement if necessary
Up your intake of fish, beans, nuts and olive oil
Skip the caffeine and make sleep a priority
Try to get 30 mins of exercise, 5 times a week
Anxiety & mental health issues
As well as upsetting symptoms, the menopausal hormone drop off can cause us to feel low, depressed and even anxious. This is totally natural – but is barely talked about.
Around the time of menopause, our children may be going through GCSEs or leaving home, we may be looking after elderly relatives and our want to partake in physical activity decreases. It’s a challenging time, but looking after your body is the number one way to prevent these symptoms from getting the best of you.
Get plenty of sleep. Make your bedroom dark and cool before you snuggle down
Exercise, even when you don’t feel like it. A simple walk in the fresh air can boost the happy chemicals in the brain
Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. Keeping the mind flexible and active will help to increase your overall wellbeing.
Of course, we’re pretty passionate about the gut around here. 70% of our immune system is in our gut and it’s the place where our precious oestrogen gets metabolised, alongside the balance of circulating and excretion of hormones.
Your gut bacteria are responsible for your digestion, mood, appetite and hormone balance – including managing your metabolism, sleep hormones and happy hormones. An unhappy gut is a sure-fire way to allow the menopause to wreak havoc.
Try to eat a variety of 30 plant-based foods a week
Avoid processed foods and sugar as much as possible as they increase the growth of non-beneficial bacteria, leaving you feeling unbalanced
Consume fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso etc.) as they are high in probiotics and beneficial bacteria
Drink plenty of water and chew slowly to allow your body to properly digest everything you consume
Consider taking a good quality probiotic
Let’s round it up
The menopause is going to affect all of us, at some point. Whilst it may be unavoidable, it is manageable if you’re willing to put in the effort. As with most lifestyle changes, once you’ve implemented it you’ll never go back!
The main takeaways here are that you need to focus on your diet to start seeing beneficial changes. Swap out your white bread and pasta for wholemeal and introduce as many vegetables as possible. Keep hydrated and stay away from processed foods. Even those minor changes will have you feeling fresh, energised and ready to take on the menopause!