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.
If you’re unsure about what to expect from your body during this phase of your life it can be a confusing and distressing time.
To get a clearer understanding of the change your body is going through let’s discuss some of the basics of menopause.
What is happening to my hormones?
Oestrogen is one of the main hormones involved in both reproduction and the menstrual cycle, along with progesterone. Women are born with eggs in their ovaries, which are released every month as part of the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also produce oestrogen and progesterone. During perimenopause (the stage before menopause) the levels of both oestrogen and progesterone decrease.
Once menopause is reached, the ovaries no longer need to release eggs and menstruation isn’t required either. This signals that the childbearing years of a woman’s life have come to an end. The ovaries ultimately stop producing these hormones completely during menopause although fat cells (mainly belly fat) and the adrenal glands still produce a small amount of oestrogen.
There are three different stages of menopause:
Stage one: Perimenopause – This is the transitional phase on the way to menopause. This stage can last between 1-10 years. It is the time when you may notice changes in your menstrual cycle. Due to the fluctuation of hormones during perimenopause, women often find their menopause symptoms to be the most intense. Some women may have severe menopause symptoms, while other women will barely have any.
During perimenopause, there are about 40 symptoms that a woman can experience but the most common ones are:
hot flushes/night sweats, weight gain, breast tenderness, irregular periods, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, mood swings and fatigue.
Stage two: Menopause – Once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a period, she has officially entered menopause. The average age of menopause for women in Australia is 51-52 years.
Stage three: Postmenopause – The day after menopause, a woman is declared to be in postmenopause. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms experienced during perimenopause can linger into postmenopause.
On average, postmenopause symptoms can last for four to five years. The good news is that regardless of how long they last, they’re not usually as intense as they were during perimenopause so they’re less likely to have an impact on your life.
During postmenopause, you can be at a greater risk of developing:
- Heart disease. This makes it even more important to follow a heart-healthy diet filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats as well as to exercise regularly. Being more likely to store fat around your abdomen can also increase your risk factor for heart disease as well as conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
- Bone density. Oestrogen is heavily linked to stronger bones so once oestrogen levels drop, your bone density can become weaker. Getting plenty of calcium in your diet is a necessity for helping to keep your bones strong and healthy during postmenopause. Vitamin D is also needed for healthy bones and supplements may be needed if you don’t get much from your diet (fatty fish or eggs) or from natural sunlight.
Here are a few tips to manage menopause well:
- Balance your blood sugar by balancing macronutrients at every meal, e.g. protein, fats, and starchy carbohydrates.
- Eat Omega 3 fatty acids – fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds (freshly ground) and chia seeds are great sources.
- Cut back on or eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
- Find a form of movement you enjoy and practice it at least five times per week, try to include two sessions a week of weight-bearing exercises.
- Aim to sleep seven to nine hours a night.
- Educate yourself about toxic chemicals in skincare, cosmetics and household cleaners.
- Practice stress management via mindfulness or meditation.
I created a FREE eBook called ‘What to expect during your perimenopause and postmenopause years’ so that you can learn the basics about menopause, what it is, what some of the symptoms are and what you can do about them.
Click on the link to get your FREE eBook so that you can be enlightened about this stage of your life. https://mailchi.mp/enlightenmyhealth/menopause-ebook
The Wisdom of Menopause, Christiane Northrup, M.D.(Bantam Books,2012)
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. In all circumstances, it is always wise to consult your physician before changing your diet, taking supplements or starting any exercise or health program.