The M Word: Menopause by Claudia Brown

The M Word: Menopause by Claudia Brown

What do you envisage when you hear the word menopause?  Up until recently, it was widely unspoken about unless you were a woman of a certain age, and even then, it would only be mentioned in hushed tones.

But in the last few years, thanks to campaigners such as Dr Louise Newson, Diane Danzebrink, Liz Earle and Meg Mathews, as well as editor of Women’s Health magazine Claire Sanderson, the often debilitating symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are becoming more widely recognised, written about and discussed. National media outlets mention the menopause on a weekly if not daily basis and no longer is the word silently mouthed, it is being spoken aloud.

Menopause is part of the natural ageing process for women, and the majority of things we can do to age in a healthy way also can ease some of us through ‘the change!’. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 years, but often earlier for some women with perimenopause symptoms often starting around the mid 40’s and being ignored, put down to stress, general fatigue or coping with the rigours of day to day life.

Here are a few hints and tips on approaching this time of your life in a holistic way….

All the foods!

You need a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D from fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon as well as dairy products to keep your bones strong and healthy as women are prone to Osteoporosis, a condition when your bones lose their strength and are more likely to break or fracture.

Keep sugar to a minimum as it can contribute to that ‘middle age spread’ and high blood sugar can increase the hot flushes.  Heart disease is another huge problem for ageing women so reduce saturated fats and processed foods (which can also be loaded with hidden sugars) Eat plenty healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and olive oil (a good rule of thumb is plant fats not animal fats), and plenty fibre from fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains (brown rice, quinoa, rye etc) beans and pulses.

Phytoestrogens (alongside HRT not instead of) such as soy, flaxseeds, lentils, oats and chickpeas (all hail the hummous!) are also linked to a reduction in hot flushes for some women.

Limit Booze!

Most health guidelines suggest keeping our drinking habits to a minimum. Alcohol can worsen symptoms such as hot flushes and also tends to be full of sugar (see above) and will also have a negative effect on your sleep quality.

Get moving!

NHS guidelines state that we should get moving for 30 minutes about 5 times a week.  It is important for heart and bone health and can also help to alleviate or lessen stress and anxiety symptoms.

The NHS website states yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance and there’s some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress. Yoga is weight bearing so also helps to improve bone density as well as general strength building and improved muscle tone. Yoga, breathwork and meditation can all help to reduce stress by switching your nervous system into the parasympathetic mode of ‘rest and digest’ which amongst other things, promotes cell renewal for skin, nails and hair. They can also help to ease you off to sleep, and if sleep is not happening, it can be deeply relaxing. Many women, myself included, suffer from aching joints and stiff muscles so a regular yoga practice can help to manage and sometimes reduce these symptoms. Pelvic floor muscles often weaken as we age, and yoga is excellent for strengthening pelvic floor muscles. I’m biased as I am a yoga teacher, but these benefits of yoga can truly help with promoting a healthy mind and managing symptoms of the menopause.

Check your boobs!

The risk of breath cancer rises with age, and also rises more if you are overweight, drink and smoke  – make this check at least a monthly habit.

No to Cigarettes!

Give them up.  No good comes of them. Spend the money on something really amazing instead.

Get the right medical advice!

This can be a bit patchy!  Do your research and if necessary, go armed with a copy of NICE guidelines and factsheets from the websites listed here.

Getting your zzzzzzzz’s!

Disrupted sleeping patterns can be a huge problem for women during menopause.  In fact for me, it was one of the first symptoms of my perimenopause. General sleep ‘hygiene’ – if you are suffering from night sweats, try sleepwear formulated to keep your body cool, chose sheets that wick moisture away from skin, and invest in a cooling gel pad to put under your pillowcase. Try also taking a warm bath before bedtime using the Urban Veda Soothing range which contains Sandalwood, Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Clove essential oils or some Epsom bath salts can also help sooth stiff joints and muscles.

Don’t read using your screen as the blue light affects melatonin levels and keeps your brain active. Go old school and read a book! CBD oil is a new discovery of mine (www.grassandco.co.uk) and is a natural muscle relaxant, can help to ease stiff muscles, joint pain and improve quality of sleep.

Skin changes

‘Mature skin’ – what does that mean?  It’s the polite way of saying you are going to wrinkle up like a prune!  Again it’s part of the general ageing process, but it’s also linked to changes in hormones. Oestrogen helps to boost moisture production, build and maintain collagen and elastin so as this declines so does the moisture in our skin.

The Urban Veda Reviving range is dedicated to those with mature and tired skin, featuring Rose to cool inflammation and reset hydration levels, with the uplifting and energising formula of omega-rich bio-oils, bring life back into mature skin. Alongside evening primrose, the Tri-doshic range also heavily features an exotic Indian ingredient called Arjuna which has strong anti-ageing properties as it causes the skin to naturally plump up, aiding in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The Soothing range for normal and sensitive skin could also be used, as it features Sandalwood which has extremely healing and anti-inflammatory properties, perfect for delicate and sensitive skin types, and the fragrance of Sandalwood is also especially relaxing and soothing. The earthy fragrance which is also due to Clove, Ylang Ylang and Lavender which all help to relax the mind and calm an out-of-balance body and mind.

The Radiance range is all about increasing hydration levels so is aimed at those with dry, dehydrated and dull skin, drawing on the powerful properties of Turmeric which is not only highly anti-inflammatory, but also brightens the skin.  This range does everything someone with dry and dehydrated skin would want: boosts hydration levels, improves the skins elasticity and restores a glowing complexion.

Research:

There is a wealth of evidence based advice and guidance available online at www.menopausedoctor.co.uk

www.menopausesupport.co.uk

www.megsmenopause.com

www.ommagazine.com/PREVIEWS%20AND%20SPECIALS/OM102SPECIALMP/OM102SPECIALMP.html

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

www.lizearlewellbeing.com/category/live-well/the-menopause/

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Guidance

www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs143/resources/menopause-pdf-75545477829061

www.thebms.org.uk   The British Menopause Society

International Federation of Professional Aromatherapistswww.ifparoma.org

National Institute of Medical Herbalists
www.nimh.org.uk

Society of Homeopaths www.homeopathy-soh.org