Menopause: The Last Taboo
You're not alone
You know what, ladies? We got a seriously raw deal out of evolution. Not only do we go through menstruation and then (possibly) pregnancy, but we ALSO have to deal with menopause - yet another big, hormonal rollercoaster.
While discussing topics for Strong Words, several of my clients suggested I tackle Menopause. For some reason, this is still a bit of a taboo topic.
Women aren’t comfortable talking about it and suffer through it in silence. We (women) will all go through it, more or less, and we don't need to do it alone. We can support each other and our partners need to know about it so that they can support us too.
Shall we have an open dialogue and continue the conversation? Let's do it.
First things first: what is menopause?
Put simply, it is when the ovaries stop functioning. This happens gradually and the experience, the symptoms and the length of time it takes varies like crazy from person to person. The average age is 51, but in extreme cases, it could happen as early as your 30's or well into your 60's.
What are the symptoms?
Unfortunately, the list is long. As the levels of oestrogen and other hormones reduce it can cause hot flushes and night sweats, psychological changes like mood swings, depression or not being able to focus, insomnia, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, skin changes and plenty more. Later in life, it can also lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures and cardiovascular disease. Check out the further reading below for more details.
Of course, there is no way of knowing which ones you get or how severe they are. Luckily, these days, there is more and more research available about things that can be done to reduce the severity of some of the symptoms.
What can you do about it?
I am sure that it is no surprise to you that overall health and fitness can help your body cope with these changes. To kick things off, here are my 4 top tips:
A well-balanced diet goes a long way. It's not about cutting out lots of stuff or particular food groups, it's about making sure you are getting all of the right nutrients and minerals and not so much of the refined, processed and sugary things.
"Clean" is a good start. Concentrate on things that are un- or minimally processed. Plenty of veggies, try to make your plate as colourful as possible with lots of different types. Keep up the protein and good fats - fish is a great source. It's not really about cutting out carbs.
This should be the same for everyone, regardless of age, allergies and intolerances notwithstanding.
Calcium is also a good one to keep in mind for bone health as part of your balanced diet in the form of calcium rich foods like green leafy vegetables.
When your body is getting all the right inputs, it will help fortify your system for shocks like hormonal changes - it will help you with your gut health, your skin and hair and your immune system.
Don't forget to drink plenty of water too.
At least 30 minutes, 3 times per week of slightly higher intensity exercise is prescribed by the NHS. This might be in the form of walks if you are not usually active. Yoga, swimming, any movement is great. The important thing is to get active and make it part of your routine, your daily life.
In my clients, I see the biggest benefits when resistance or weight training is part of their routine. This type of training increases your bone density and helps you fight osteoporosis. It also gives you more stability, mobility and balance which is crucial as you age and will reduce the risk of falls.
But it's not just for your bones. Resistance and weight training can also help you balance out your hormone levels, reduce cortisol, improve your mood, give you more energy.
It’s also about feeling strong. Standing taller. Having a sense of achievement. I hear these "side" benefits from my over-40-clients all the time. Often these positive effects from training end up being bigger motivators than things like fat loss.
Check out my article on resistance for details.
It's pretty obvious that smoking, excessive alcohol intake and stress can make it harder for your body to deal with hormonal changes.
The NHS is a great resource for help to stop smoking and, while many of us enjoy a couple of drinks every now and then (see my next point on joy), don't overdo it. Stress is a major factor and something I will continue to discuss at length on Strong Words. Keep an eye on the Stress topic page for articles.
In addition, your general quality life is important: taking the time to enjoy life, be social, find joy, laugh. Do things that scare you. Never underestimate how crucial this is to your overall health. Check out my article on joy for more info.
Many of my clients that incorporate Vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil and Vitamin D into their routine feel that these have made a difference to their symptoms. Check out the articles in the further reading section for in-depth discussions on supplementation.
When should I start?
Today. Right now. No matter what age you are or what life-stage. The earlier the better, of course, to get you as ready as possible to deal with these changes, but it’s never too late to start.
These tips could help you as you deal with symptoms and/or prepare your body for change - a healthy body and a healthy mindset are the building blocks of life - but it is important to speak to your doctor and discuss your symptoms or concerns with them.
While menopause and menstruation are pretty sucky, being a woman is still pretty damn fantastic.
Cheers to you, my fellow females.
What is your experience with menopause? What has helped you? What are you worried about?
If you would like to contribute to this discussion or suggest a topic or question of your own, tap the button to let us know!
References and Further Reading
A fantastic resource recommended by a client is Menopause Matters. Check it out!
UCLA Obstetrics and Gynaecology Health article on Menopause
Medicine Net article on Menopause