Seven secrets for wellness in menopause
It is so important to know what to do because knowledge is empowerment!
Most of this might sound easy or even obvious but it’s the implementation that can be difficult, especially when you need to make several changes, not just one or two!!
Avoid high fat and processed foods as they will result in very easy weight gain in menopause when a woman’s metabolism is in change. Also beware of foods with hidden fats like take-away and restaurant food. Taken even once a week they can be the difference between success and failure with weight management.
Try to avoid refined carbs/sugar– We crave these because they give is a short burst of energy as our blood sugar shoots up. However 2 to 5 hours later our blood sugar plummets and we experience something called reactive hypoglycaemia which leads to symptoms of fatigue, headache, brain fogginess and more sugar cravings. A vicious cycle follows and often leads to weight gain.
Fill your diet with super foods including lots of vegetable and fruit, foods that are high in fibre, complex carbs, vitamins and minerals.
Iron out your fatigue…
Iron is essential for oxygen delivery to cells in the body. Iron deficiency is the commonest nutritional deficiency word wide. Women often suffer iron deficiency because of heavy periods especially leading up to menopause. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, lethargy, irritability, poor concentration and muscle fatigue.
Iron rich foods include red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans and pulses, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Shrimp, liver, nuts and seeds, whole grain cereals and bran, dark chocolate/cocoa powder and Tofu.
Take vitamin D at least 1000 IU daily. Most people in the UK are vitamin D deficient most of the year! Vitamin D has many health effects. it has immune boosting power and fantastic bone strengthening effects.
Take a single complete multivitamin with minerals (A to Zinc). Many people suffer from various micronutrient deficiencies even when they have a reasonable diet and these deficiencies can destabilise well-being.
If you think you have symptoms related to your thyroid but your GP says your thyroid is normal you may be deficient in iodine. 70% of the UK population is iodine deficient! The A to zinc supplement will contain a top up of iodine as well as other essential minerals and micronutrients. But caution– do not take supplements containing high doses of iodine as they can can cause an overactive thyroid so care must be taken with supplements such as Sea Kelp. A safe alternative is to use iodised salt.
Enjoy moderate alcohol but not every day and be careful of the calories! Wine is very calorific and is often a forgotten cause of weight gain in people with otherwise healthy diets. Ditto for smoothies, concentrated fruit juices and cappuccino’s.
Keep take away or restaurant food for special occasions only. They invariably contain high quantities of fat, salt and sugar causing weight gain, body swelling and blood sugar surges which can worsen fatigue.
Take regular exercise, not excessive- make it sustainable.
Swimming is excellent as it does not put strain on your tired and aching muscles and joints.
Yoga and pilates strengthen core stability and posture and protect against chronic back pain.
Do the type of exercise you enjoy so that it is sustainable!
3. Weight Management
Sometimes weight loss helps…
Weight gain can cause fatigue, put strain on your joints, cause high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes. Weight gain is frustrating…
Once the decision to lose weight occurs there has often been a legacy of weight gain over a long period of time but we expect to be able to lose the weight by simply starting to eat healthily…This is a myth… weight loss requires significant calorie restriction which lowers our blood sugar and switches on fat release from fat stores. This will only occur when our calorie intake has dropped significantly, sometimes this needs to be as low as 1000 calories per day or less! Brutal…..
So don’t try to diet when you are exhausted and have other things going on in your life as you are more likely to fail, get frustrated, comfort eat and gain more weight!!!
Get your health optimised then focus on weight loss
4. Restful sleep…
Quality sleep is essential for maintaining the infrastructure of our well-being. When our health is good and life is busy it’s easy to neglect sleep routines. But when health issues such as stress, illness or major life events arrive and our sleep patterns are erratic our energy infrastructure collapses like an un-reinforced building in an earthquake zone.
The key to restful sleep is not complicated but it can take a long time to re-establish if poor sleep has been present for a long time.
Start with regular bedtime routine, dim the lights, have a warm shower or bath, use aromatherapy/scented candles, de-clutter the bedroom and remove electronic devices from the zone!.
Don’t call a friend or relative or have an active conversation just before you turn in or your mind will be far too active for sleep. Instead listen to relaxing musing.
Avoid caffeine (in coca cola, coffee or tea, energy drinks) for 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Don’t drink excessive fluids (or alcohol) before bed as you are more likely to need to empty your bladder overnight if you do.
Try to relax and empty your mind in the hour before you turn your lights out.
If you do this for a couple of days and it does not work, keep going…Rome was not built in a day… poor sleep habits can take weeks or months to reverse.
Only allow yourself 8 to 10 hours sleep. Waking unrefreshed is not a free licence to sleep longer. Excessive sleep is toxic. It does not result in less fatigue and often causes rebound insomnia and further sleep disruption in a vicious cycle. It can also result in muscle deconditioning if resting/sleeping/relaxing occurs for more than 12 out of 24 hours on a regular basis.
Don’t rely on sleeping tablets and pain killers. They do not produce restful sleep they just cause dependence, side effects and more problems along the line.
Keep your bedroom cool! It sound simple but those night sweats are so much worse when the room temperature is high.
Use light cotton not nylon bed clothes/sheets
Earplugs if your partner snores and blackout blinds in summer so you don’t wake at 4.30 am with the Dawn Chorus and Sunrise!
5. Stress Management
This is a tricky one but so important. We all have stresses in our life and we cant avoid them. If we don’t establish mechanisms to protect ourselves from stress traps, our health suffers and plummets especially if the stress event coincides with physical illness or even normal physiological phenomenon such as menopause.
This is not easy to teach or explain but using techniques such as meditation/ yoga and learning psychological techniques such as mindfulness can act as an armour for when we are hit with tough phases in our lives.
Try reading “Chimp paradox” by Steve Peters
6. Managing fatigue
A significant component of fatigue symptoms are generated by the mind, and fatigue is often perpetuated by our behavioural responses to our thoughts. There are some logical lifestyle approaches that can help to avoid excessive fatigue and I have already discussed sleep routine. Activity management with spacing out activities and avoiding boom bust activity patterns are important to avoid cycling fatigue. You will find plenty more tips to combat fatigue across this website!
7. Libido (Sex drive)
Well being and feeling in control of your life is hugely important for a healthy libido. Yes estrogen and testosterone in females do help, but many premenopausal women with normal estrogen struggle with reduced libido due to psychosexual issues.
Therefore each of the tips above have a role in helping restore libido for women in menopause. Of course estrogen therapy will also help and that’s an individual decision. Some women also benefit from low dose testosterone replacement to help with sex drive.
Getting in the mood, planning sex when you are relaxed and enjoying the company of your partner are useful in helping with sexual desire.. Vaginal lubrication is very helpful to avoid pain on penetration. If vaginal dryness is problematic, vaginal pain on intercourse can be a big off put for women perpetuating a psycho-sexual downward spiral of sexual function. Vaginal estrogen preparations can be used if vaginal atrophy or thinning is a problem and other non-hormone lubricant treatments like Replens can also be very helpful.
If you mindfully take control of your health and well-being in peri-menopause you will stay ahead of the game, be empowered and avoid unnecessary suffering.
There are many factors that contribute to our well-being and the more factors you address and improve the more robust your health and well-being will be.
Don’t wait until symptoms have reached a crescendo to take evasive action, its too late!
Menopause should not and does not mean an end to, well-being, fun or youth!
Consider a short course of HRT to prevent destabilisation of symptoms in early menopause, but remember treatment needs to be tailored to your individual needs.
Optimising psychological well-being, reducing stress, improving physical fitness, optimising nutrition, establishing a sleep routine, will all contribute to improvement in well being during menopause.
Fatiguewise & Hormonewise with Dr Annice Mukherjee