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  • Rachel Fletcher

How to feel better during the menopause

Did you know that in the UK, over 15 million women are menopausal or post-menopausal ?

What exactly is the menopause ?

It's a natural and inevitable stage of a woman's life where hormones in the body fall. The main hormone that changes is oestrogen, which has an impact on a number of physiological functions. Technically, menopause is 12 months after your last period although we also tend to use this term to describe the onset of symptoms, which is defined as the perimenopause.

So when does it happen? This varies greatly but most commonly between the ages of 45-55. It can last from a few months to 10 years, with a range of symptoms and severity.

What are the symptoms ?

The menopause can be a challenging time, as the drop in oestrogen causes symptoms such as;

  • hot flushes

  • night sweats

  • mood swings, stress, anxiety & depression

  • sleep problems, resulting in fatigue

  • changes to hair and skin

  • joint pain

  • problems with memory, 'brain fog'

  • reduction in muscle mass

  • vaginal dryness

  • loss of libido

  • weight gain

It's important to note that some women experience very few symptoms, or to a minimal degree. Everyone is different.

How does menopause impact your health ?

Due to the reduction in oestrogen, even after symptoms have ended, the menopause impacts our health. This is mainly in relation to bone and heart health.

This loss of oestrogen reduces the protection given to the heart. Cholesterol levels and blood pressure may rise and weight gain around the middle can increase blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. All these factors increase the risk of heart disease. The reduction in oestrogen also causes loss of bone strength and increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Whatever your symptoms, menopause is a good time to look at your nutrition and lifestyle and make some positive changes to manage them and to optimise your health during and afterwards.

What can you do ?

I firstly need to stress that nutrition and lifestyle changes can only go so far in helping with the menopause, It's really important to seek medical advice from your GP if you are struggling. As medicines such as HRT can go a lot further than diet, it is definitely case that 'food is not medicine'.

That being said, there are lots of things you can do to improve your health and wellbeing.

Here's an overview:

Heart health - reduce saturated fat intake from foods e.g. red and processed meat, butter, cakes, crisps and coconut oil. Increase plant foods and fibre with fruit, veg, nuts, grains and seeds. Have oily fish such as salmon or mackerel and reduce salty foods. Stopping smoking and doing some physical activity will also help.

Bone health - dietary changes such increasing our calcium, vitamin d and protein intake, as well as weight earing exercise such as running, strength training and yoga.

Sleep - reduce intake of caffeine, especially in the afternoon. cut down on alcohol. Foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan may help, such as milk, oats, bananas, edamame beans, chicken and eggs. Establish a night time routine to relax. Maybe a warm bath, read and stay off mobiles and tablets before bed.

Hot flushes & night sweats - plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens) may help. This can be found in soy products (tofu, soy milks, edamame beans), chickpeas and lentils. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol.

Mood - relaxation such as reading, meditation and yoga. Exercising and getting outdoors, especially into nature. Eating a balanced diet, particularly the 'Mediterranean Diet' has been shown to help with mood. This includes lots of fruit, veg, wholegrains and oily fish. Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Muscle mass - make sure you have protein in every meal. This will also help you feel fuller for longer.

There's lots more detail I could go in to, as everyone is unique in their experiences and dietary requirements. If you'd like to learn more and get tailored advice, get in touch for a free 15 minute discovery call.

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