GOING through the menopause can be traumatic for many women.
In fact, recent research has revealed that a quarter of women aged over 50 find their menopausal symptoms so debilitating that they’ve had to consider reducing their office hours.
And for one in four women, those pesky side-effects can last up to 15 years.
But there are things you can do to make “the change” less challenging.
Medical nutritionist and GP Dr Sarah Brewer told the Mail that there are eight things every woman needs to know about managing the menopause.
1. Sex doesn’t have to hurt
The menopause can cause vaginal dryness, due to hormonal changes and skin becoming thinner.
And that can make sex painful and less enjoyable.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Dr Brewer says that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help restore vaginal health, while vaginal estrogen pills or cream can help restore some of the moisture.
“Natural moisturizers are also available,” says Dr Brewer.
“The most effective vaginal moisturizers are those that contain an ingredient called hyaluronate, such as Healthspan Silk Intimate Gel, which also includes aloe vera.”
She also recommends a supplement called sea buckthorn oil which is rich in omega 7 – a mineral that builds healthy skin and mucous membranes.
It can also help relieve dry eyes and hair, as well as vaginal dryness.
2. Yoga and cannabis oil can help anxiety
The menopause can result in anxiety, which can be managed via cannabis oil (CBD) and yoga.
CBD might not suit everyone (you can get it in Holland & Barrett) but yoga is great for relieving anxiety and bloating.
Five studies looking at 582 menopausal women who did yoga and other forms of exercise found that yoga improved their mental health considerably.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that yoga is meditation. The two are intrinsically linked,” Simon explained.
“We are so obsessed with the physical practice that it’s important to realised that the yogis of 5,000 years ago used the physical poses simply to bring the mind to stillness and would then spend several hours a day meditating.”
And he also said that practicing yoga has inadvertently encouraged his students to lead healthier lifestyles – which again, can help ease symptoms.
“Most of my students who practise yoga on a regular basis often tell me that they have a greater self-respect towards their own bodies which in turn encourages them to lead a more healthy lifestyle.”
3. Eat more sweet potato fries
Apparently, Japanese women report having fewer troublesome menopausal symptoms, and that’s all down to their diet.
In fact, when they switch from a traditional diet to a more Western one, their hot flushes increase.
And that’s thanks, Dr Brewer claims, to their high intake of plant hormones found in soy products, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli and sweet potatoes.
They’re not only a great source of fibre which not only means that you’re less likely to feel hungry after but also are packed full of plant estrogens, which can also help manage symptoms.
4. Fill up on berries every day
Vitamin C is crucial for managing fatigue and tiredness, as well as physical signs of aging like wrinkles and lines.
Dr Brewer previously told The Sun: “Citrus fruits contain antioxidant polyphenols and vitamin C which protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
“Vitamin C helps to lower cholesterol levels by promoting the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. Antioxidants in general also lower cholesterol by protecting circulating LDL (bad cholesterol) particles from oxidation so they return to the liver for recycling rather than contributing to furring up of the arteries.”
In their book, “Eat Better, Live Longer: Understand What Your Body Needs to Stay Healthy”, Dr Brewer and Juliette Kellow recommend eating at least one orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime a day.
5. Cut down on the coffee and wine
This might be a hard one for many but caffeine and alcohol can have a “huge impact” on someone’s symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found that postmenopausal women who regularly drank caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — experienced more bothersome vasomotor symptoms (like hot flushes) than did postmenopausal women who didn’t use caffeine.
So if you do tend to start your day with an Americano and you are struggling with night sweats, you might want to try switching to something like mint tea or a turmeric latte.
6. Look after your gut
Gut health is massively important at any time of life, but it plays a massive role in hormonal health.
Making sure that you have a healthy balance of bacteria can help to minimise the severity of hot flushes and night sweats.
It can also improve mood by helping us produce the “happy hormone”, serotonin.
Last month, scientists discovered that there was a link between gut health and mental health therapy – suggesting that the link between our brains and our bellies is far stronger than many of us give it credit for.
CBD and yoga may calm you down more immediately but making sure that you’ve got a diverse gut microbiome and that you’re feeding it with lots of gut-loving grub may help you feel more in control in the long run.
Dr Brewer’s tips for a healthy gut
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet providing plenty of fruit, veg, pulses and some fish (especially oily fish)
- Increase your intake of soy-based foods, plus foods such as flaxseed and sweet potatoes
- Aim to eat fermented foods such as live bio yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh or kefir on most days – or take a probiotic supplement
- Limit your intake of foods containing added sugar and salt
- Avoid convenience and processed foods containing artificial additives
7. Treat yourself
Understandably, confidence can take a sharp nosedive when you’re going through something like the menopause, and Dr Brewer cites a study which found that women who feel better about their appearance tend to report fewer symptoms.
So the emphasis should really be on doing things to make you feel good about yourself.
Self-care is hugely important at a time like this so make sure that you make time to do little things like having your hair done or investing in nice smellies.
Anything to add a little spring in your step.
8. Try HRT
Dr Brewer says that HRT can quickly resolve symptoms.
“Guidance from the UK drug watchdog NICE states that for every 1,000 women taking combined HRT (estrogen and progesterone) for 7.5 years after the age of 50, there may be around five extra cases of breast cancer.
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“Overall, taking HRT does not appear to increase the risk of dying from breast cancer due to the availability of screening and early treatment with effective therapies.”
So if you are struggling with symptoms and you want them to be quickly resolved, don’t rule HRT out.
Chat to your doctor about your concerns and they’ll be able to help you work out a coping strategy that’s right for you.
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