For some women menopause, can mean a fear of the unknown. Questions such as what age and symptoms should I look out for and how do I know if I am already going through menopause are common.
When it comes to menopause and what to expect it is best that we know what menopause is. Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. It occurs when there has been a change in a woman’s reproductive hormones and the ovaries no longer release any eggs. Menopause can occur naturally and at the expected age or prematurely. In Australia, the average age of menopause is at around the age of 50, however it can occur at any time between the ages of 45 and 55.
Perimenopause is a term used to describe symptoms caused by normal hormonal fluctuations that occur in women as they move closer to menopause. It is at this phase where the ovaries stop producing eggs and the body produces less oestrogen which regulates menstruation and progesterone.
Symptoms of Perimenopause can include the following
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Head aches
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Mood changes
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal dryness
The management and treatment of menopausal symptoms are dependable on the individual women. Lifestyle tips such as the following can help in the management of menopausal symptoms:
During perimenopause, your body is going through many changes which can contribute to your body needing a little bit more of certain nutrients such as the following:
- Protein - During perimenopause your muscle mass starts to decrease so you need to increase your protein intake to assist in maintaining muscle mass. Protein can also assist in regulating appetite which can vary due to hormonal fluctuations. Great sources of protein would be eggs, beef, chicken and turkey breast, lentils, green beans and nuts.
- Omega-3 fatty acids - Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked with decreased inflammation, as well as improved moods. Fluctuations in mood is something women experience often during perimenopause so Omega 3 fatty acids would be highly recommended to include in your diet. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon, anchovies, seafood, soybeans, and spinach.
- Calcium - After the age of 50, women need at least 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium. This is due to the decline in oestrogen contributing to a decrease of calcium to the bones which in the long term may contribute to osteoporosis. Foods high in calcium include dark leafy greens, cheese, low-fat milk and yoghurt, broccoli, green beans, almonds, and fish.
Try and reduce the amount of alcohol, sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and caffeine you have in your diet. Not only can they contribute to unwanted weight gain but they can also play a role in contributing to mood changes.
For some women weight gain, specifically around the abdominal area during perimenopause can occur. It is particularly frustrating, as excess weight may be retained and the scales refuse to budge. This is often associated with fluctuating oestrogen levels.
Exercise will not only help reduce unwanted weight gain it will also aid in improving mood. Exercise can increase the amount of endorphins or “feel good hormone” the body produces. So why not kill two birds with one stone and walk, jog or swim your way to feeling and looking better during menopause.
Mood changes is listed as the number one most common problem associated with perimenopause. Stress is often unavoidable so try and include activities during the day which helps to reduce stress. For some cooking, reading or watching TV can be just what is needed to unwind and relax. Consciously breathing through the diaphragm and abdominals can regulate stress responses and encourage the body to relax.
Easing night sweats
Night sweats and hot flushes are very common with women going through menopause. It can be frustrating for women for it may contribute to restlessness and sleeplessness. To help overcome night sweats, try wearing lighter clothing to bed. Cotton would be best. Add a small fan in your bedroom to help cool you down. A good night sleep is key to good health.
Wherever you are on your journey, through perimenopause or have been through menopause, remember that you are not alone and there are holistic options to help you get through the changing stage of life.