It starts out with periods, pap smears and pregnancy, then labour, breastfeeding and breast screenings – then comes menopause, the last item on the laundry list of things ‘special lady things’ we get to look forward to as we go through life.
If you’re not yet at ‘that age,’ the idea of menopause can be a scary thing. It’s all hot flashes and hormones, like puberty in reverse – but at a time in your life when you have actual responsibilities. Oh, joy.
But the thing is, menopause doesn’t have to be scary. With a bit of knowledge and some open conversation with the ladies in your life, you just might find that menopause can be kind of wonderful.
Here are the top five expert tips to get you through it.
You are what you eat
Like many of the things that go on within our bodies, a healthy diet can greatly benefit you as you go through menopause. What should your menopause diet look like, though? Experts suggest eating a lot of fruit and veg (of course) but also focusing on calcium as hormone changes may cause your bones to weaken. It’s also a good idea to get plenty of Vitamin D and try your best to maintain a healthy weight. You may also want to avoid trigger foods that could lead to hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings – we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but these include coffee, alcohol and foods that are sugary and spicy. We’ll let you take a few moments to mourn.
Keep a symptom diary
Menopause effects everyone differently, and you can’t tackle yours without first understanding it. What circumstances usually surround your mood swings, and which foods or activities trigger your hot flashes? It can be hard to keep track, which is where your symptom diary comes in. This could mean keeping a physical diary to record your diet, exercise, daily routine and more, or downloading one of the many menopause apps available and keeping the information at your fingertips. Some of these apps include Balance, Caria and Menolife, so you can try a few before you find your perfect fit.
While there isn’t yet evidence to prove that exercise helps reduce the likelihood of hot flashes and night sweats, experts do believe that it can offer a wealth of other health benefits for those experiencing menopause. From improved mobility and energy to healthier joints and bones, not to mention a faster metabolism (helping you maintain a healthy weight) and better sleep, there are so many reasons to keep up a consistent exercise routine during menopause. No one type of exercise is recommended over another – whatever gets you moving in a safe and consistent way is perfect.
Seek out phytoestrogens
Do you know what phytoestrogens are? These naturally-occurring plant compounds mimic the effects of estrogen, potentially balancing hormones in the process. They can be found in soy-based foods like tofu and tempeh, as well as flax seed, beans, linseed and sesame seed, which are particularly popular in Asian counties – countries where, like Japan, menopausal women don’t typically experience hot flashes. Scientists believe this could be because diets high in soy are associated with reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, though note that the pros and cons of soy products are still unknown.
A decrease in estrogen levels can lead to overall dryness, a common symptom of menopause. It makes sense, then, that you should up your water intake when you start to experience menopause – experts recommend drinking between eight and 12 glasses a day. With menopausal dryness often comes bloating, and focusing on your hydration can help to ease this side effect, too. Invest in a large water bottle to carry around with you day-to-day, and make a habit of enjoying every meal with a glass of water – this could even help you consume fewer calories when you eat, scientists believe.
Books to read
- ‘The M Word: How to Thrive in Menopause’ by Dr Ginni Mansberg
- ‘The Feel Good Guide to Menopause’ by Dr Nicola Gates
- ‘The Menopause Makeover: The Ultimate Guide to Taking Control’ by Staness Jonekos