If you suffer with hot flushes, bloating, brain fog, lack of sleep or any of the many other side effects of menopause - there are some simple healthy habits which could help. Let's explore.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is the stage in every woman’s life when they stop menstruating. This transition usually begins a few years before they have their final period, known as the peri-menopause, and lasts until some time after - known as post-menopause.
The average age of a female entering menopause is 51 and it most often occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. However, it can also begin before and after these ages.
Here is a summary of each of the three stages of the menopause.
- Peri-menopause - For the first few years during peri-menopause the menstrual cycle will typically become irregular, with some people suffering heavier periods than normal. In time, menstrual cycles shorten and become less regular.
- Menopause - Occurs when the body stops producing the hormones which cause periods altogether, and so it is no longer possible to fall pregnant. A person is menopausal when they have gone a full year with no periods.
- Post-menopause - Any time after menopause - where periods have ended and the body is no longer ovulating (producing eggs). During this phase, women can often still experience menopausal symptoms - but they tend to get better over time.
What is going on inside?
You may be wondering what exactly is going on to create so many symptoms which are impacting your daily life!
The menopause can start suddenly and last for some time, so it helps to understand exactly what is going on in the body to make peace with it.
Much of the menopause can be explained by fluctuating hormones...
Progesterone levels fall rapidly as you stop ovulating as regularly. Although oestrogen levels are likely decreasing too, they're falling at a slower rate. This means that you can become oestrogen dominant - which is often the culprit of many menopausal symptoms.
Cortisol, a stress hormone, can also increase (particularly if you’re used to spinning too many plates), making sleep difficult and also contributing to weigh gain.
Lowering oestrogen levels can affect levels of thyroid hormones. Low thyroid hormones can bring mood changes, poor digestion and a sluggish feeling.
A combination of all of the hormonal changes above is usually the underlying root cause of most menopausal symptoms, which includes:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Reduced sex drive
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Poor memory
- Joint pain
What can you do to support your menopause?
If you're thinking that this all sounds a bit negative, don't despair!
Supporting your nutritional and emotional wellbeing during this process can provide a better bodily environment, so that this hormonal ebb and flow can be experienced as a positive transition.
Here are some of the ways you can make the menopausal journey run as smoothly as possible.
Stress can have a significant influence on your experience of the menopause. To help manage stress, set aside regular time to do something that you love which makes you feel good, or try to find a hobby; and don’t feel guilty for spending time on yourself.
Set aside time for stress relieving practices such as walks in nature, breath work, meditation and yoga.
Be mindful of environmental oestrogens that may act as harmful hormone disruptors. To minimise these don’t cook or heat foods in plastic – use glass or crockery instead. Use pots or frying pans made of steel or non-toxic cookware. Minimise the use of chemical based cosmetics and household cleaning products, opting for natural alternatives instead.
We also recommend keeping active with regular exercise, which can help to maintain a healthy weight and also relieve symptoms such as anxiety, low mood and brain fog.
We are what we eat and paying close attention to your diet throughout each stage of the menopause can help to nurture better female health from within.
Here are some of our top tips for eating well to nurture your inner superwoman during the menopause.
Phytoestrogens or ‘plant oestrogens’ have a similar structure to human oestrogen, although their impact in our body is much weaker.
There is some evidence that consuming phytoestrogens a few times per day over the course of a few months may help to ease menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, for some women.
Phytoestrogens occur naturally in some plant-based foods such as soybeans and soya-based foods, chickpeas, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, barley, berries, apricots, grapes, garlic and tea.
- Healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential for many bodily functions and can help with symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flushes.
They are also anti-inflammatory and help to reduce the risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
You’ll find omega-3 fatty acids in avocados, coconut oil, algae & seaweed (and supplements containing these), nuts, seeds and oily fish if you eat it.
- Nutrients to protect your bones
Declining oestrogen levels during the menopause can increase the rate at which bone tissue breaks down.
In fact, it is estimated that one in three postmenopausal women has osteoporosis. This is a condition which weakens the bones, making them more fragile and prone to fracture.
Diet can play a big role in improving bone health and preventing this. Important nutrients for our bones include:
- Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars
Eating well for the menopause is as much about the foods which we should avoid, as it is about those we should get more of. Three things which we should try and limit in general include sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
Excess refined sugar in the diet can lead to blood sugar imbalance, which can throw off hormone imbalance even more, worsening menopausal symptoms. Try to limit your intake of fizzy drinks, processed foods, sweets and pastries to keep your sugar intake down.
Alcohol can be a trigger for hot flushes, and can also have a negative impact on our mental health and sleep quality. Try to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, enjoying alcohol-free alternatives to your favourite tipple instead.
Caffeine can be a trigger for hot flushes for some women, but this varies between individuals so it is best to experiment to see if caffeine impacts your symptoms.
If you’re looking to reduce caffeine intake, we would recommend Shroom Coffee which is made with premium arabica coffee but contains only 50mg caffeine per cup - around half that of a regular cuppa.
Rheal Balance Tonic: Your daily elixir for female balance 🌸
Balance Tonic was formulated to help provide a natural, root-cause solution to help manage stress and promote optimal female health.
It includes three potent adaptogens: Ashwagandha, Shatavari and Maca. They each help to improve a number of menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, low libido, memory issues, hot flushes and more.
Adding a teaspoon of Balance Tonic to healthy meals and drinks, or even just a glass of water, is a great way to help manage every stage of the menopause with a daily healthy habit.
If you'd like to learn more about Balance Tonic, please check out our blog posts below.
- Rietjens et al. (2017) “The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens” [accessed October 2019 via: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429336/]
- Lethaby et al. (2013) “Phytoestrogens for menopausal vasomotor symptoms” [accessed October 2019 via: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001395.pub4/abstract]
- Wilsnack & Wilsnack (2016) “Alcohol use and menopause” [accessed October 2019 via: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27028261]
- Faubion et al. _2015) “Caffeine and menopausal symptoms: what is the association?” [accessed October 2019 via: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25051286]
- Hunter et al. (2013) “The International Menopause Study of Climate, Altitude, Temperature (IMS-CAT) and vasomotor symptoms” [accessed October 2019 via: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22946508]