Tips to help the transition of menopause
Let’s look at the stages of menopause
What happens during menopause?
Menopause signifies the end of menstruation. Most women become menopausal between the ages of 45 and 54 years. A woman is officially in menopause when she hasn’t had her period for 12 months. It can happen in your 40s or 50s. At this point, oestrogen and progesterone production has drastically decreased, and your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs, which means you no longer have periods. (1) (2)
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Peri-menopause is 2-12 years before menopause, and this is the time when you are most likely to experience symptoms. Symptoms include changes in your period (irregular, shorter cycle, longer bleeding, heavier bleeding), hot flushes, mood swings, and sleep issues. (3) You might wonder, is this early menopause? Not necessarily. It could be peri-menopause, the period leading up to menopause. Naturopathic Doctor Lara Briden explains in her book (Period repair manual) that peri-menopause and menopause are not the same! We know menopause comes with low oestrogen; conversely, peri-menopause is the time for the oestrogen “roller-coaster”. You might even have more oestrogen in peri-menopause than ever in your whole life. At the same time, while your oestrogen bounces up and down, your progesterone quietly goes down. So, you have low progesterone and oestrogen on a roller-coaster. (4) It’s a shame because progesterone would have made dealing with this oestrogen roller-coaster easier.
Peri-menopause and menopause symptoms:
- Weigh gain without changes in diet or exercise
- Increased mood swings
- Increased menstrual cramps
- New or increased migraines and headaches
- Swollen or lumpy breasts
- Shorter menstrual cycle
- New onset of the heavy period and longer flow
- New onset of sleep problems
- Night sweats, hot flushes
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Low sex drive, vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse
As the name implies, post-menopause is the period after menopause. This is the time when many symptoms will settle down. (6)
What can we do to make this transition as easy as possible?
Working with your GP and Nutritional therapist to determine your imbalances to get you on the right track. Checking your female hormones, adrenals, thyroid, blood sugar, and nutrient deficiencies greatly helps to support you in this transition.
Simple things you can do with your diet to help your symptoms:
1. Eat the following foods
· Good quality animal and plant proteins (chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, legumes -lentils, beans, quinoa and nuts/ seeds). Proteins are essential for hormone health; they provide amino acids necessary to repair and maintain our body tissue. (9) (10)
· Fatty fish (SMASH-sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring). Healthy plant fats (avocado, olive oil, chia seeds) Healthy fats are essential for our brains and hormones. (11)
· Phytoestrogens have beneficial effects in alleviating hot flushes and other menopausal discomforts. E.g., non-genetically modified soy products such as organic tofu, legumes, beans, chickpeas and flax seeds. (12)
· Add leafy greens (kale, spring greens, spinach, rocket, cavolo Nero) to your meals.
· Choose colourful fruits and vegetables (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, peppers, sweet potato, carrots, squash and tomatoes).
· Swap to whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat and quinoa.
· Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can impair the liver`s ability to metabolise oestrogen. Alcohol can also lower your progesterone. (13)
- Reduce refined sugar and carbohydrates. This will cause your body to have a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar and will cause an excessive release of insulin. This will negatively affect your moods and energy levels, make you feel irritated and anxious and predispose you to extra weight, particularly around the middle.
Avoid trans-fats. These are found in fast foods, ready meals, processed foods and spreads like margarine. These foods are highly processed. They create inflammation in the body, can make you resistant to insulin, and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. (14)
2. Try to avoid environmental toxins
Environmental toxins can act as endocrine disruptors (EDCs). They can interfere with our hormones. Most concerning EDCs are bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, arsenic, mercury, and dioxins found in plastic bottles, containers, foods, cosmetics, etc.
3. Support your progesterone production by
· Self-care, take time for yourself. Have time with friends, book a massage, perhaps reduce your hours at work or step back and re-evaluate how you can reduce your stress in your daily routine. Stress can increase cortisol, and cortisol decreases progesterone. (15)
· Get enough quality sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene. Try to avoid being on your phone 1 hour before going to bed. Take a relaxing bath in the evening. Read a book instead of watching TV in bed. Use earplugs and blackout curtains if you are a light sleeper.
· Take B6, Magnesium. These two nutrients are excellent for supporting the formation of progesterone. Also, very good for lowering inflammation. Magnesium is also a powerful stress reliever and promotes restful sleep. (16)
· Strengthen the bones. Unfortunately, there is a direct relationship between declining oestrogen levels and the development of osteoporosis after menopause. Therefore weight-bearing or weightlifting exercises are beneficial for bones and muscles.
· Swimming, jogging, aerobics, walking, and cycling are perfect exercises for maintaining a healthy weight. Weight gain is one of the common symptoms of menopause due to hormonal imbalance.
Deep breathing, yoga-balance, and stretching exercises can also help manage the stress of life and some menopause-related symptoms. It also strengthens the core, improving posture and stability and reducing shoulder, neck and back pain.
However, women with osteoporosis should not include high-impact aerobics or similar activities in which a fall is likely. (17)
Konenki is a Japanese word referring to, but not identical to, “menopause”. It means “renewal of life” or “energy”. How beautiful and positive.
In Japan, Konenki is not viewed negatively (not necessarily associated with the symptoms). (18) It is regarded as the natural stage and part of growing old. Recognise that this is a time of transition where self-care is non-negotiable. By giving your body (both nutrition and lifestyle) what it needs, your body will thank you and make this transition as easy as possible with less or no symptoms.
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- Nelson HD. Menopause. Lancet. 2008 Mar 1;371(9614):760-70. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60346-3. PMID: 18313505.
- NHS Inform “Menopause”
- NHS Inform “Menopause”
- Dr Lara Briden – period repair manual – book
- NHS Inform “ Menopause”
- NHS Inform “ After Menopause”
- Fowke JH, Longcope C, Hebert JR. Brassica vegetable consumption shifts estrogen metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000 Aug;9(8):773-9. PMID: 10952093.
- MICHAEL A. ZELIGS.Diet and Estrogen Status: The Cruciferous Connection.Journal of Medicinal Food.Jan 1998.67-82.http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.1998.1.67 Published in Volume: 1 Issue 2: March 12, 2009
- Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1251-65. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01530h. PMID: 26797090.
- British Nutrition Foundation – Protein
- Decandia D, Landolfo E, Sacchetti S, Gelfo F, Petrosini L, Cutuli D. n-3 PUFA Improve Emotion and Cognition during Menopause: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2022 May 9;14(9):1982. doi: 10.3390/nu14091982. PMID: 35565948; PMCID: PMC9100978.
- Hairi HA, Shuid AN, Ibrahim N’, Jamal JA, Mohamed N, Mohamed IN. The Effects and Action Mechanisms of Phytoestrogens on Vasomotor Symptoms During Menopausal Transition: Thermoregulatory Mechanism. Curr Drug Targets. 2019;20(2):192-200. doi: 10.2174/1389450118666170816123740. PMID: 28814228.
- Gill J. The effects of moderate alcohol consumption on female hormone levels and reproductive function. Alcohol Alcohol. 2000 Sep-Oct;35(5):417-23. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/35.5.417. PMID: 11022013.
- Angelieri CT, Barros CR, Siqueira-Catania A, Ferreira SR. Trans fatty acid intake is associated with insulin sensitivity but independently of inflammation. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012 Jul;45(7):625-31. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879×2012007500071. Epub 2012 May 10. PMID: 22570091; PMCID: PMC3854275.
- Kalantaridou SN, Makrigiannakis A, Zoumakis E, Chrousos GP. Stress and the female reproductive system. J Reprod Immunol. 2004 Jun;62(1-2):61-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2003.09.004. PMID: 15288182.
- Abraham GE. Nutritional factors in the etiology of the premenstrual tension syndromes. J Reprod Med. 1983 Jul;28(7):446-64. PMID: 6684167.
- Mishra N, Mishra VN, Devanshi. Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and Don’ts. J Midlife Health. 2011 Jul;2(2):51-6. doi: 10.4103/0976-7800.92524. PMID: 22408332; PMCID: PMC3296386.
- Bella online, the voice of women konenki menopause in Japan