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Andrea Bayles Nutritional Therapist
ND, Dip Nutr, Dip Herb, MBANT, MURHP, MCNHC

7 Things You Should Know About Menopause

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Menopause is a time of change, a time when a woman enters a new phase of her life, a time when physical changes occur in a woman's body but it is not a disease nor should it be regarded as a negative experience.

Here are some facts about menopause that may help to highlight what you are about to experience.

The first of these is:

  1. It's a natural event!

Menopause is a naturally occurring event in the lives of all menstruating women. It is a time when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and menstruation ends for good. A woman has officially entered menopause on the 365th day from the date of her last menstrual period.

This is usually gradual and many women report changes in periods, mood, skin and libido!

  1. Each woman's experience of menopause is unique. Symptoms of menopause vary from woman to woman, age of onset varies widely and perceptions of menopause can alter a woman's experience of menopause. Genetics, diet and lifestyle, cultural factors and social factors all have an impact of the experience felt by a woman going through the menopause.
  2. Oestrogen is made up of not one but three hormones.Your ovaries produce oestrogen, progesterone and androgens. Oestrogen is made up of oestradiol, oeastrone and oestriol all have beneficial effects on the skin and vagaina and protect the heart and bones. The hormones known as Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Lutenizing Hormone (LH) send signals from the brain to the ovaries to produce them. When you reach menopause, ovarian hormone production decreases and sex hormones are secreted by body fat and other organs such as the adrenals kick into play. High levels of FSH are a sure indicator that you are going through the menopause. This is when you may start to experience symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats.
  3. Carry a few extra pounds of body fat! It is hugely important at this stage to keep your body fat percentage in the healthy range using good nutrition and regular activity as you age. Being too thin at this time will have a negative effect on your hormone balance; it is actually beneficial to carry a few extra pounds as body fat acts as a manufacturer of oestrogen. Following a low GI diet is the best way to keep control of blood sugar highs and lows and keep your energy levels in check.
  4. Eating plant-oestrogens (Phytoestrogens) will improve your menopausal symptoms.Eating well and changing your diet to accommodate the changes you are going through right now will ultimately minimize the negative experiences of menopausal symptoms. As well as supporting your symptoms, a healthy diet will enhance your quality of life and slow down the ageing process, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, prevent degenerative diseases and control your weight.
  5. Stress makes your menopausal symptoms worse.Think about how you feel when you are stressed and wired your body releases adrenaline to cope with the experiences (whether daily or periodically) which is a highly effective hormone. It is used for our 'fight or light' response to danger but more and more these days, we are over using our adrenal glands which can lead to exhaustion. This can take a toll on your general health but especially around the time of menopause when you need to be able to rely on your adrenal glands for extra support. The adrenals produce the hormone oestrone, which takes over from oestrogen once production ahs stopped so this is why stress can make your menopause worse!
  6. Is it the end of your sex-life?The changes that occur to women such as dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls may be the first noticeable experience for some women at menopause. But this should be a time for greater sexual enjoyment, a time when children are no longer a tie and you don't have to worry about contraception anymore. Some women experience an increased sexual drive due to the increase in testosterone it has been known for some post-menopausal women to have up to 20 times the amount of testosterone as pre-menopausal women call it "post-menopausal zest!" A good sex life is about both partners making adjustments with open communication being key. Dryness and thinning vaginal walls are all helped easily with supplements and exercises.
  7. Exercise is essential! Exercise during the menopause can help your emotions, your symptoms, your weight, your heart health, your bones, your hormones, your mental health, your digestion and your sex-life! Activity in any form will have benefits to your body. we are designed to move, we have limbs that were designed for running, but I am not suggesting you take to the treadmill and run 10K, just get up and go out and walk or swim or do something enjoyable that makes you move your body. After all, your body will love you more for it!
    [caption id="attachment_634" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Vitality"][/caption]

To summarise:-

  • Physical, intellectual, and emotional changes in midlife are normal for men and women. Remember men experience changes too.
  • Each woman's experience of menopause is unique. You can significantly affect your menopause symptoms with good nutrition and regular activity.
  • Symptoms are complex and inter-related. For instance, changes in digestion or the hormonal environment can affect fat loss. Insomnia can add to your stress, worsen your mood, and make you want to reach for that caffeine.
  • Build a strong support network that includes health and nutritional practitioners, counsellors, other women, family and friends, etc. Ask for help. Don't go it alone.
  • Do your homework and learn about your experiences, as well as those of other women. Chances are, you're not "abnormal".
  • If menopausal symptoms are manageable, exploring natural options may be a good option. Become empowered and make choices ask for help from different sources.

Natural Solutions Jan 2012


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