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Menopause and me

Updated: Jun 6



It may seem surprising that a condition that will affect half of the human population during part of their lives remained unnamed for so long. Yet the word ‘menopause’ was invented as recently as 1821, by French doctor Charles-Pierre-Louis de Gardanne. Medical interest in menopause increased considerably in mid 19th century. In 1930s people started describing it as a deficiency disease and proscribing a bizarre list of treatments.

Menopausal symptoms were and still are ascribed to estrogen deficiency, and estrogen (hormone) replacement therapy was exhorted as the ultimate liberation of middle aged women.


What Is Menopause?

We can break the menopause phase of a woman's life into three areas: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause1

Perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. Women start perimenopause at different ages, starting as early as their 30s and this phase can last from eight to 10 years. Women typically experience many menopausal symptoms, but can still have their period and can still get pregnant.

Menopause is defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period, and marks the end of menstrual cycles. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s.

Postmenopause typically sees a decrease in some symptoms, like hot flashes, but can also present additional health concerns, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, due to the decreased production of estrogen in the body.


Symptoms

If you are female aged between 35 and 55 years old and experiencing any of the following symptoms, you are likely to be menopausal:

  • Irregular periods

  • Stress incontinence or urinary incontinence

  • Depression

  • Loss of libido

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Hot flashes

  • Sleep problems (from insomnia to utter fatigue)

  • Mood changes (like absolutely mental batshit mood changes)

  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism

  • Thinning hair and dry skin

  • Loss of breast fullness

  • Short term memory loss

  • Night sweats

  • Migraines

  • Fatigue

And many more I'm sure....

It can feel different for everyone. You may have a number of symptoms or none at all (lucky you).


Treatments

HRT ......yep that's it really!


What works for me may work for you too

Am currently not taking HRT but trying to maintain hormonal balance through eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly – maintaining a healthy weight and staying fit and strong can improve some menopausal symptoms. Its not perfect because sometimes life gets in the way, but for the majority of the time this alternative works for me.

By concentrating on the following areas I generally do not experience the full roller coaster of the menopause:

  • Exercise

  • Diet ( esp protein levels)

  • Sleep

  • Water intake

  • Sunshine (Vit D levels)

Exercise

150mins min/week - ok, ok I know this is almost a given for myself but it's still important for all, and I am perhaps a little biased but plse bear with me here. Several symptoms of menopause can be addressed by regular exercise now here's a kicker:

Controlling testosterone levels for females is important to maintain; the state of being active, high energy levels and overall sense of wellbeing. Testosterone is commonly known as a male hormone however females produce testosterone and can get just as many benefits. This can be achieved naturally by performing resistance exercise to prevent low levels of testosterone.

Lower testosterone levels are also believed to be the reason sex drive goes down after menopause.


Benefits for females:

  • Increase in lean mass and strength

  • Bone density

  • Brain function

  • General sense of well being

  • Energy levels

  • Increased libido

Diet

3 meals a day and 5 Fruit Veg a day if possible, following the NHS eat well guide. I try to avoid processed foods where possible and cut down on alcohol intake.

Try not to 'skip' breakfast, some people skip breakfast because they think it'll help them lose weight but in my experience this then leads to poor food choices throughout the day in order to make up for it. A healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

I also find these days that concentrating a little more on protein intake helps as well, as a guide I try for 1g protein / kg of bodyweight per day. This I achieve by supplementing my diet with protein shakes, yoghurts, yoghurt drinks and protein bars.


Sleep

8 hrs - some of us will need more or less, I generally average 7.

Getting enough sleep has many benefits. It can help you:

  • Get sick less often

  • Stay at a healthy weight

  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease

  • Reduce stress and improve your mood

  • Allow the body to heal

Water

You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you getting dehydrated. Recommended is drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day or 1-2 litres. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat.

All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices.

Although coffee and tea count plse be aware that if you are suffering from urinary incontinence then reducing caffeine intake can help.


Sunshine

Do you ever wonder why you feel better for spending the day at the beach or out for a walk?

Improve your mood & get outside. Modern living means we spend an increasing amount of our days inside, which can lead to SAD or just a feeling of lethargy.

Gardening, walk on the beach, bike ride through the forest, outdoor fitness which ever you choose get at one with nature and help your body absorb the rays for Vit D levels.

Oh yeah, as a bonus also great for overall fitness too.



I really hope this helps those who have decided to avoid HRT due to either personal or medical reasons and provides a viable alternative.

Debs x


Further reading? - click on the links


The British Menopause Society (BMS)


National Health Service


Johns Hopkins


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