When Knowledge is Power - Menopause
It's World Menopause Awareness Month, so we wanted to openly discuss all things related to menopause with you.
Although it's a natural part of ageing, many women still worry about going through menopause. There are of course some less desirable symptoms that come with changing hormones – such as the dreaded ‘hot flushes’ - but there are also many things to celebrate.
Firstly, no more periods, no more PMS, and no more worrying about unwanted pregnancies! Then there’s also the freedom that this phase in your life brings - you’ll have more free time to focus on yourself and do what you love, you’ll have a greater sense of confidence and self-assurance, and many women admit to feeling better than ever after menopause. So, as a result of the increased self-confidence, self-awareness, and freedom that menopause brings, treat this October as a time of personal growth and excitement.
Don't try to erase it, embrace it!
The menopause transition is composed of three different stages:
1. Perimenopause - Oestrogen Production Fluctuates
Perimenopause is the transitional period your body goes through when it reaches menopause. This phase can last anywhere between one and seven years. Most women begin seeing signs of perimenopause in their 40s, however, it's not uncommon for women to already enter perimenopause in their 30s.
During perimenopause, oestrogen production fluctuates, disrupting your hormone levels which may cause the following symptoms:
- Hot flushes
- Irregular periods
- Sleep disturbances
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
It’s important to note that every woman experiences perimenopause differently, and while there may be some who experience all of the above, there are also many women who don’t suffer any symptoms whatsoever.
If you are one of the women who struggle with perimenopause, there are many things that can be done to alleviate any discomfort (which we’ll cover later on), so there’s no need to worry about it.
2. Menopause - 12 Consecutive Months Without A Period
Once your body has gone a full 12 months without a menstrual cycle, you've reached menopause. During this time of hormonal change, a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and oestrogen levels remain low.
This explains why some women experience the following:
- Aches & pains
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
3. Postmenopause - Oestrogen Production Levels Out
This is when you finally reach the time of your life where you’re your freest. Not only are you rid of the perimenopausal symptoms, you’re also rid of the postpubescent ones as well.
Due to low oestrogen levels, women should be aware of an increased risk of heart disease, blood clots & osteoporosis - but don’t worry as supporting your general health and wellbeing, following the advice below will ensure you are taking the right steps to reduce these risks.
Each phase of menopause will be different for every woman and presents new questions. Our bodies are always adapting and evolving, just like we are, but what can you do to support your overall health during this time?
1. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – to ease many symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes. Hormone replacement therapy provides the body with the hormones that are no longer being produced. HRT is prescribed to ease symptoms and help prevent osteoporosis. Not every woman needs HRT, but many might find relief from it. Benefits of HRT can include a decrease in hot flushes and sweating, improved vaginal moisture, fewer mood swings, and prevention of bone fractures. Talk to your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy if the symptoms of menopause are too much for you. Together, you can decide if this is the right option.
2. Talk to Your Doctor About Health Risks – the reduced levels of oestrogen may lead to issues with your health, so it is important to talk to your doctor so that you can be prepared. Even if you’ve found ways to manage your menopause symptoms, it’s essential to reach out to your doctor to discuss the health risks associated with loss of oestrogen. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or heart disease, this is particularly important. Your doctor may suggest you take nutritional supplements to prevent the risks associated with menopause. It is crucial that you discuss your options with your doctor to determine the best option for your body.
3. Use Cotton and Linen - lightweight fabrics made from natural fibres help keep your body temperature down. The fabrics used for clothes, socks, sheets, and blankets all come in one of three fabric types: synthetic, natural, or a combination of the two.
Fabric made from synthetic materials like acrylic, polyester, nylon, and spandex are all less breathable than natural fibres, which means they retain more heat. Cotton and linen are among the top choices for keeping your temperature down during menopause, as these fabrics release heat instead of keeping it trapped close to the body.
If you struggle with night sweats, perhaps check your sheets and blanket to see if they are made from a natural material. Switching to cotton bedding could help significantly. The same goes for clothing. Clothing made from breathable fabrics could radically improve your daily comfort.
4. Wear Layers - Layering clothing is one of the best ways you can control your comfort and keep yourself cool when going through menopause. Choose three or more top layers to help regulate your temperature throughout the day. Many women layer a sleeveless shirt or t-shirt with a loose top and a light jacket or cardigan to combat any chills following a hot flush. The more layers you have ready to peel off or pile on, the better.
5. Stay Connected with Friends - mood swings are common during menopause, and it helps to have friends around for support. It can be frustrating dealing with menopausal changes and mood swings, but a simple, friendly natter can ease the transition. You may even find that they’re going through the same changes.
Connecting with friends is one of the best menopause care options for overall wellbeing.
6. Stay Hydrated - drinking cold water will help regulate your body temperature, can help reduce hormonal bloating and replenish dry skin throughout the day. If you haven’t already started carrying a reusable water bottle around, now might be the time! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a great way to cool your body and help it stay at a more balanced temperature. Drink eight to twelve glasses of water per day to stay hydrated, and don’t forget to leave a fresh glass of cool water by your bed every night. Drinking water after waking from night sweats can offer quick symptom relief.
7. Live Well - you may find that during menopause your old lifestyle doesn’t work for you anymore. Menopause impacts the entire body, and lifestyle choices that once seemed inconsequential may now cause issues. Drinking excessive alcohol, smoking, not exercising, and having an unhealthy diet could contribute to a worsening of your symptoms or increased health risks.
A simple change you can make to begin improving your health is to ensure you limit your sugar consumption. Sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and baked goods, can create blood sugar spikes, promote constant cravings, make you irritable, cause weight gain and can even induce hot flushes.
By limiting these foods in your diet and focusing on consuming more protein and healthy fats (such as coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil, avocado, walnuts) you can maintain a healthy weight and help stabilise your hormones. Also consider substituting complex carbs for simple ones, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa which lead to fewer blood sugar spikes. Caffeine and alcohol can also exacerbate hot flushes so during perimenopause and menopause limit the consumption of these as well.
8. Manage stress - managing stress is very important when it comes to easing menopausal symptoms. Stress increases your cortisol levels which can decrease your oestrogen and progesterone levels, accelerating menopause. It can also increase hot flushes, cause weight gain, insomnia and irritability. If you have stress in your life, try and find the root of it and make sure you make yourself a priority.
9. Sleep - You need at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is important for so many aspects of your health, so it is imperative that you make it a priority. During menopause, many women have issues with insomnia due to hot flushes or anxiety.
But worry not as there are several simple things you can do to help ensure you get a goodnight’s sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool and well-ventilated. This may mean investing in air-conditioning or in an electric fan.
- Avoid certain foods and drinks that may cause sweating and sleeplessness, especially just before bed. These include spicy foods and food that are high in caffeine or sugar.
- Maintain a regular bedtime schedule, one which evolves going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding screens for at least an hour before.
- Empty your bladder before bed. Needless to say, being forced to get out of bed because you need to use the toilet disrupts your sleep and may make it harder to fall back asleep.
10. Exercise Regularly – regardless of what stage in your life you’re at, exercise is important for your health. Exercise can contribute to improved energy and metabolism, healthier joints and bones, decreased stress and better sleep. Regular exercise is also associated with better health protection against diseases and conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
So, as you can see, menopause isn’t something to dread, it’s a natural stage in life that should be embraced!
Not all the physical changes are negative, and for the ones that are less desirable, there are simple solutions to help you go through menopause breezily. Some of the more positive physical changes you will experience include:
•No more periods
•No more PMS
•Sex without pregnancy worries
•The end of hormonal headaches
•Uterine fibroids – which cause discomfort - shrink
•The ability to focus on self-care
To name but a few.
You may be surprised to find that menopause can bring so many positive changes to your life. Embrace what this change means for you and continue looking forward to all that this new phase of life has to offer…