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Support a healthy menopause

The menopause is not a disease, but is a natural part of life. It is defined as the absence of periods for 1 year, and usually happens anytime between the ages of 40 and 58. The period leading up to this is called perimenopause, which may be accompanied by many symptoms due to changes in hormone levels, as the ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen and progesterone.

The female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone play a huge role in our physiology helping to protect bones and heart health, but they also contribute hugely to in how we feel and function as women. When the production of these hormones start to naturally fall as we age, it is inevitable that some symptoms can be experienced.

Common symptoms can include: hot flushes and night sweats, heavier than normal periods, memory, concentration and sleep problems, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence or urgency, mood changes including irritability, depression and anxiety.

The menopause doesn’t have to be a time of misery though! Good nutrition and small lifestyle changes can help to maintain a healthy menopause, and make a real difference to how you feel.

Quit smoking – women who smoke are more likely to go through the menopause earlier and to have hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.

Eat wholefoods – avoid processed foods and build your diet around fresh whole foods including whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, lentils and pulses, lean grass-fed meats, organic chicken, wild fish.

Eat a rainbow every day – choosing seasonal and local colourful fruit and vegetables high in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Also include lots of fresh herbs and spices such as turmeric, an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory food, that can help to achieve this rainbow.

Eat green leafy vegetables – as well as being an excellent source of minerals such as magnesium, dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of dietary fibre which helps to support a healthy. Steaming them helps to maintain nutrients, and adding them to soups and smoothies is an easy way to increase your intake.

Increasing your intake of phytoeostrogens, plant based compounds that act similarly to oestrogens in the body, can help alleviate menopausal symptoms for some women. Food sources include linseed. Try adding to soups and cereals. Soy based products are also rich sources of phytoestrogens. Fermented soy foods such as natto, tempeh and miso are preferable to processed soy based products such as soy milk, yoghurt and tofu.

Get active – aerobic exercise may decrease the likelihood of hot flushes, as well as support maintaining a healthy weight. Aerobic exercise is also good for your heart, which is especially important as oestrogen’s protective effects diminish during the menopause.

Weight bearing exercises such as brisk walking, yoga, running, tennis, stair climbing, TRX help to maintain bone density. This is particularly important during the menopause and beyond when falling oestrogen levels can lead to a lower bone density.

Learn to relax and develop a self-care routine that includes stress management techniques such as regular walks in nature, connecting with loved ones, meditation and yoga.

Sleep in a cool room to help with night sweats, and dress in layers during the day for easier temperature control.