Every woman's menopause experience is totally unique. Although all women travelling through the menopause experience a range of common symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, fatigue, vaginal dryness and low mood, it's the severity and frequency of these symptoms and the number of years that these symptoms are experienced for that shapes each individual menopause. Why the variation in experiences? Well, there are many factors that influence the hormonal changes associated with the menopause - diet, lifestyle, stress, exercise, caffeine intake and genetics are all have a part to play, and if you want an indication of when your menopause will start, how long it will last and what your typical symptoms will be then it's worth asking your mother what her menopause was like as there is a strong familial influence. Factors such as smoking, stress and drinking too much caffeine and alcohol are all triggers for a more intense and prolonged menopause. As with most things in life the menopause is kept under control by a healthy diet, regular exercise and a manageable work-life balance!
Yes! If you are a smoker then it's time to quit, if you drink lots of tea and/or coffee it's time to switch caffeine free drinks like herbal tea and if you are under considerable emotional, mental or psychological stress then now is the time to 'off-load' and press pause or find support for those work, relationship of family issues. Cutting back on alcohol can certainly help with menopausal mood swings and weight management. From a dietary point of view, it's time to start including phyto-oestrogens such as isoflavones into your diet. These natural plant nutrients have the same structure as the oestrogen your body produces and help to support hormone balance during the menopause. Food containing phyto-oestrogens included chickpeas, fennel, cucumber, lentils, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and isoflavones are found in soya such as soy sauce, soya yoghurts, miso and tempeh. Alternatively, you could always choose a supplement that contains soy isoflavones.
As you approach the menopause you might start to notice changes in your skin condition and the visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles start to become more pronounced. Your youthful skin has been kept well-nourished and well hydrated by healthy levels of oestrogen BUT as you creep towards the menopause oestrogen levels start to decline and this is reflected in a loss of elasticity and collagen within the skin. Omega-3 fats are phenomenally important for skin cell health and along with vitamin C help to preserve your youthful good looks. Omega-3 fats are also important for a healthy mood, hormone balance, energy levels and metabolism all of which become challenged by the onset of the menopause.
The best food source of omega-3 is oily fish (think salmon, mackerel, herrings, sardines, trout and fresh tuna) but of course not everyone likes the taste of fish and there is the obvious fact that fish pose a problem for vegetarians who need to focus on the vegetarian forms of omega-3 including walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. You need to be eating 3-4 portions of fish as week, preferably not farmed fish but wild or line caught to top up on your omega-3's. But if tucking into a healthy salmon quinoa and kale salad seems like a stretch too far then your other option is to take a fish or krill oil supplement.
When it comes to the menopause krill oil has been shown to produce the same results as fish oil but at much lower doses, so you don't need to take as much. The other plus points for krill oil is that it seems to have a smoother and quicker route into the body when compared to fish oil and is efficiently incorporated into body cells where it can exert its effects and there is no unpleasant fishy repeat!
It's a clever idea to look for a clean and sustainable source and if you as looking to support your body through the ups and downs of the menopause then it's worth getting a krill oil that also contains B-vitamins, vitamin D and soy isoflavones so that you have all bases covered!
Well, vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and as you travel through the menopause your risk of bone loss and osteoporosis greatly increases, making vitamin D a bone hero during this phase of life. Many women experience days of extreme and unwarranted fatigue and low mood which is often not restored by rest and sleep. B-vitamin such as B1 and B6 contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism and contribute to normal psychological functioning contributing to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Keep an eye out for vitamin B2 which contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and EPA and DHA, the omaga-3 fats, contribute to the normal functioning of the heart and heart health also becomes a risk factor for menopausal and post-menopausal women.