If you’re experiencing it, you’ll know only too well that perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can have a major impact on quality of life and wellbeing, as well as productivity. Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms, and these can go on for several years. Others include heavy sweating, emotional vulnerability and depression, sleep disturbances, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, night sweats, vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive. This World Menopause Day, find out how to navigate what is probably the toughest phase in a woman’s life …
Find out exactly what is going on in your body – by researching yourself, asking your doctor, or anyone who is well-informed. Swerve the badly-informed, the old wives’ tale-tellers and the woman who believes her experience of menopause to be universal. Menopause is different for every woman. But start with the facts.
Eat good foods
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis so eat foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. The risk of heart disease also increases after menopause: a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can help to reduce this risk and help to maintain a healthy weight.
Eat foods high in phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and help to balance hormones. They include soybeans and soy products, tofu, tempeh, flaxseeds, linseeds, sesame seeds and beans. Irregular eating may also trigger or exacerbate mood swings so try to avoid skipping meals or eating too late at night.
Avoid trigger foods
Certain foods trigger or exacerbate hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Try weaning yourself off or cutting down on caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.
Reduce refined sugar and processed foods
Reducing sugar prevents sharp rises and dips in blood sugar. Processed food, with its high salt content, it to be avoided. A diet high in refined carbs may increase the risk of depression in menopausal women, so switch from white bread and white flour to a wholegrain alternative.
Self-care is an important part of menopause. Apart from looking after yourself in terms of diet and adequate exercise, the power of boosting your mood and feelings of femininity by treating yourself to a massage, facial, getting your hair done, or having a pedicure or a manicure is not to be overlooked. Maintain a good hair and skin regime at home. Certain skincare ranges are better than others at looking after menopausal skin. We have seen the benefits of Vichy’s Neovadiol skincare range, formulated specifically for perimenopause, during and post menopause. Vichy’s new Menopause Hub is based on 15 years of research and is a mine of free information, with expert-led lifestyle and scientific content on everything from skin and beauty to nutrition, wellness and intimacy. It’s a brilliant way to access dermatologists’ advice on managing changes in your skin through to practical, easy to follow suggestions on diet from nutritionists.
Drink plenty of water
Water flushes out toxins, keeps cells hydrated, keeps your digestion working, and has an important role in maintaining a healthy weight.
Improved energy and metabolism, healthier joints and bones, decreased stress and better sleep: exercise is proven to improve mental and physical health. If you are returning to exercise after some time, a low-impact exercise like Pilates can improve flexibility, strengthen the core, and stretch the spine, preventing or easing back, neck and shoulder pain. Walking or hiking gives a therapeutic double dose of exercise and fresh air.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Discuss your options with your doctor – whether HRT – many doctors believe the benefits outweigh the risks unless there is a family history of breast cancer – or antidepressants, which many women find helpful.
A brief course of acupuncture may help to ease menopausal symptoms. Acupuncture is associated with reduction in hot flushes, excess sweating, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and skin and hair problems.
Supplements and alternative treatments
From vitamin D and calcium to prevent bone density loss, to magnesium supplements to aid sleep, sage tea and black cohosh for hot flushes, flaxseed for night sweats, and sea buckthorn to boost sex drive … All supplements have potential side effects or may interact with some medicines you take. They could boost or negate a medicine’s effect. Some herbs can cause allergic reactions.
Share the pain
Every woman’s experience of menopause is different – from “I barely noticed it” to “I thought I was going completely bonkers” and can last from six months to six years or more. Sharing with friends can really help. You may need even professional help to traverse this time, which may be tricky emotionally.
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