Menopause is a time of transition. For many women, it can be an examination of the life they are leaving behind and a time of freedom as family responsibilities start to decrease. Ideally, it can also be a time for a woman to focus on herself and what she wants to do and achieve in the years to come
During Perimenopause a woman will begin to notice changes in her monthly cycle. This is the transition phase on the way to menopause. The two hormones, progesterone and oestrogen start to decrease during this phase of life.
Once a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months she is no longer fertile and she has reached menopause which occurs around the average age of 51-52 years. Past this occurrence, she is then considered to be in postmenopause where she will remain for the rest of her life.
Most women will have some menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, low libido, anxiety, “brain fog” and low mood. These are linked to hormonal imbalances, especially around oestrogen and progesterone.
Let’s look at three common symptoms and what you can do about them.
A. Hot flushes/flashes:
If you’re going through menopause, you’ll no doubt know all about hot flushes/flashes. They often come on suddenly and can include symptoms such as warm skin, tingling in the fingers, faster heartbeat, flushed or red face, and of course, sweating – sometimes profuse. For some women, it just happens now and again but for others, it can happen often and can be uncomfortable and highly embarrassing. Hot flushes often start during perimenopause and can continue into postmenopause. This can mean that they’re one of the menopause symptoms that last the longest.
Experts can’t say for sure what causes hot flushes but it’s thought to be linked to lower oestrogen levels, which affects your ability to control your body temperature.
It can be very helpful to notice your triggers and avoid them! Some foods and drinks are known to be triggers for hot flushes so you’ll definitely want to stay clear of these such as hot drinks, spicy foods and alcohol.
What can you do?
- Reduce anxiety and stress as stress can act as a trigger.
- Keep rooms cool and carry a water spray that you can spritz on your face when you feel a hot flush coming on which can help you to keep your body temperature under control.
- Eating soy-based products and flaxseeds can potentially help to boost your body’s oestrogen levels. This is due to the natural phytoestrogens that they contain. Choose organic where possible so you don’t end up ingesting pesticides.
- Deep breathing cuts hot flushes by 44 percent. Not too shabby. Breathe in for three seconds and out for five seconds when you feel a flush coming on.
- Acupuncture has been shown to reduce hot flushes and night sweats.
B. Mood swings:
Oestrogen fills your tank with serotonin (a feel-good hormone) so it’s not surprising that when oestrogen levels start to fade in perimenopause, serotonin levels drop. A lot of women find themselves struggling with their mood due to the hormone changes that occur during menopause and this can sometimes go hand in hand with anxiety and depression. Low mood linked to menopause can be devastating, especially if you were previously a positive, happy personality until your hormones changed.
What can you do?
- Exercise (preferably not too close to bedtime though) has been linked to protective effects against lower oestrogen levels and encourages the release of feel-good endorphins too. According to studies, doing 50 minutes of aerobic exercise four times per week can contribute towards keeping your mood in better balance.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get a wide range of nutrients in your diet that can boost your mood.
- Reduce your stress levels as elevated cortisol levels (your fight or flight hormone), constrict blood flow to your brain which affects your brain function.
- Lack of sleep can exaggerate mood swings, especially if you’re having night sweats that keep you awake so aim for seven-nine hours sleep per night.
C. Memory issues:
This may be the most difficult symptom. There is a link between oestrogen receptors in the brain and memory issues. Many women feel like their brain is foggy and their focus and concentration is not what it once was.
What can you do?
- Keeping your brain active and stimulated is important for keeping your mind sharp as you get older. Brain training activities such as puzzles and sudoku can be smart choices.
- Exercising a few times a week can help to boost your BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which is a miracle growth factor for your brain particularly the parts of the brain associated with learning and long term memory.
- Sleep is linked to short term memory so it’s definitely worth trying to improve your bedtime routine if you’re struggling with short term memory during menopause. The number of hours necessary for a good sleep varies from person to person, but seven-nine hours per night is usually recommended for adults.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as the variety of nutrients are beneficial for your brain health.
- Stay well hydrated as even mild dehydration can make brain fog more of an issue.
Many women have mixed emotions when it comes to this stage of their life. Yes, your body has gone through some changes, life does that, but that does not change your value to the world.
If anything, menopause may be the time that you accomplish the most because of the new freedoms you have. You have experience and a depth of knowledge that is superior to what you had when you were younger and this can translate into amazing things. It does not matter what you decide to do, as long as you treat this as a time of joy and adventure, embracing it as the wonderful time of life that it is.
The Hormone Cure, Sara Gottfried, MD, Scribner 2013
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.