If you’re in your 40s or 50s and struggling with perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms such as poor sleep and daytime tiredness, hot flushes, weight gain or mood swings, there are 4 key steps you can take to help you feel revitalised and confident about this stage of your life.
First of all, I think it’s important to say that the menopause is not an illness! It is just a natural stage that all women go through. However, 8 out of 10 women do experience some menopausal symptoms. And so given the changes that take place in our bodies, it’s the perfect opportunity to really take stock of your diet and lifestyle so that you don’t just survive but thrive during the perimenopause, menopause and beyond.
I like to focus on 4 key areas.
Perhaps not surprisingly as a nutritionist I believe that making changes to your diet can make a big difference. Sad to say, but middle-aged spread is not a myth and while fat tends to accumulate around the middle in both men and women during midlife, the declining levels of oestrogen can make this more of a problem for women. A couple of tips that can help:
- Aim to include half a plate of vegetables (mainly non-starchy vegetables and not including potatoes) as part of your lunch and dinner. This sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised at how it really nudges you to add in a few extra broccoli florets to your plate. Eating a wide variety of different coloured vegetables will provide a range of nourishing vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.
- Switching from white rice, pasta and bread to the brown/ wholemeal varieties helps to slow down the release of glucose into the blood and keeps your blood sugar levels balanced. This will help you to avoid a rollercoaster ride of energy peaks and troughs throughout the day.
Addressing sources of stress is such an important part of having a healthy menopause. High levels of stress can affect your sleep and also reduce your motivation to eat healthily and keep active and so it can be a vicious cycle. The best ways of managing stress varies from individual to individual, but here are 2 things you might like to try:
- Adding a cup of Epsom salts for a soothing bath. The magnesium in these salts has a relaxing effect on muscles and this is a lovely way to wind down before bed.
- Consider reducing caffeine. Drinking large amounts of caffeinated tea and coffee can cause irritability and may also worsen tension and anxiety as well as hot flushes. Try drinking more water as well as herbal teas or red bush tea. Sage tea has traditionally been recommended to help reduce hot flushes and night sweats.
There are so many reasons to keep active during the menopause! Exercising may help you reduce the number of hot flushes you’re experiencing, it helps with weight management and it can help to boost your mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Two tips to bear in mind:
- If you’re feeling very stressed and you’ve not previously been doing a lot of physical activity, high intensity exercise may not be the best option for you. Instead, it’s worth starting gently and for example going for a regular short walk, with the emphasis being on regular!
- Strength training is probably something most midlife women should consider. You can lose up to 20% of bone density during the 5-7 years after the menopause and strengthening exercises can help to slow or even halt this process. Joining a gym class is a great way to learn how best to use weights, but if this doesn’t appeal to you, cycling, yoga or some strenuous digging in the garden can all help.
Up to 40-60% of women experience disturbed sleep during the menopause and it’s considered one of the most troublesome symptoms in terms of affecting your daily life and your ability to do your work. It’s thought that the drop in oestrogen makes it more difficult to both fall asleep and then stay asleep and there are impacts of other hormones, which I’ll cover in a future post. So what can help?
- It’s important to get outdoors during the day, especially during the morning, and soak up some natural light to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. If you’re working from home, it’s well worth a quick walk round the block before settling down in front of your computer.
- Studies have shown that regular exercise can have a positive effect on sleep quality, while low intensity stretching and yoga may also be beneficial.
For more tips on living healthily through the menopause, please check out my Facebook page.
And if you need any help in managing your perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, please do get in touch.