Let's be honest with ourselves. Menopause, and the lesser discussed peri-menopause, are still often discussed in hushed tones or referred to by pseudo terms such as 'the change'. Considering 1 in 2 people will experience symptoms of menopause it's crazy we're not more comfortable talking about it.
In my experience it's because of two reasons; one being women's health used to be a private affair only discussed with a doctor, and two, that women feel it's a part of life and that nothing can be done.
Thankfully, times are changing, and healthcare workers and women alike are more confident to talk about their experiences and ways to help all women go through a phase of their life that is normal and natural.
Firstly, though, symptoms. Like puberty, periods and pregnancy, everyone experiences these things differently, and the same goes for menopause. However common symptoms to look out for include:
Periods become irregular or only start to have a few cycles a year. In menopause they cease altogether
Feeling more emotional or irritable than usual
New feelings of anxiety, loss of confidence or depression
Loss of libido, or painful intercourse
Weight gain around stomach
Dry and brittle hair, skin and nails
New digestive issues including bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea
Headaches or migraines
The main culprit behind these symptoms is the decrease in oestrogen. From around the age of 40, the level of oestrogen a woman produces starts to decline, and each decade sees about a 25% drop.
Oestrogen, apart from being central to the menstrual cycle, is also what gives women firm skin, thick hair, assists in sun protection, strong bones and is involved in regulating sleep cycles.
So when oestrogen declines, alongside many other sex hormones, the effect can feel enormous and an attack on womanhood.
But there is good news!
Every year we know more and more about women's health including menopause, and if you suffer terribly from menopause there are medical solutions available such as Hormone Replacement Therapy that can help. But, we also know more about how oestrogen and the other sex hormones interact during this phase, so through nutritional therapy we can alleviate symptoms and avoid some of the less desirable ones such as increased weight gain or insomnia.
Nutritional Support can help!
Alongside diet and lifestyle support, nutritional therapy can help minimise symptoms of the menopause by supporting your body throughout the hormonal changes.
At The Natural Balance we would look at nourishing foods that work in harmony with hormones, whilst also advising to eliminate foods such as processed sugar or refined carbs that cause inflammation and insulin resistance.
What's key to nutrition during menopause is balancing blood sugars, reducing inflammatory foods and creating calm and stress-free routines. We can also look at specific hormone testing, to understand the current balance of your hormones make sure your nutrition plan is tailored specifically for you.
Often we see patients who are chronically dehydrated. This means all bodily functions are reduced, but for hormones, it means that the liver is less able to excrete excess hormones efficiently. By ensuring you're drinking a minimum of 1.5L of water per day, you're helping your body function at its best. Dehydration also contributes to dull skin, exacerbating a common menopausal symptoms.
Think you're entering peri-menopause or menopause and not sure what to do?
The good news is there is a lot you can do.
1. Start by focussing on you. This can be a challenge with work, family, kids, caring for elderly parents etc, but carving out a small bit of time for you each day to do something for you will become important. This can be time for a quick walk, or even simply sitting in a dark, quiet room. Alternatively you can use this time to start researching menopause and what treatment if any, may be right for you.
2. Tell your partner/household/best friend. Communication is vital, especially if your symptoms are more severe. Like pregnancy, this is a time for greater support.
3. Know your rights at work. Many workplaces are developing Menopause policies to assist women in their roles. If yours doesn't, ACAS has some useful resources for discussing your concerns at work.
4. Treat yourself! Our lovely friends over at Kate Kerr Advanced Skin Therapy London have put together a guide on supporting skin health during all stages of the menopause. Kate has also developed a new facial tailored specifically for menopausal skin - The Clinical Menopause & Peri-menopause Facial. It might be just what you need after a busy week!
If you want further guidance why not speak to Gail, our hormone specialist today.
In one of your free 20 minute discovery calls, you can explain your symptoms and concerns and find out more about how we can help you.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.