There are many factors that contribute to how someone might experience the menopause. This menopause awareness month, we’re taking a look at how you can support your body through this life stage
The menopause is a natural stage in life for women and people who have had periods where their hormone levels lower and their reproductive organs stop working. This typically happens between the age of 45 and 55, though it can happen earlier or later for some. You reach menopause when your periods have stopped for 12 months.
Menopause and perimenopause can be an extremely difficult time for those going through it. It often comes with hard-to-manage symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot and cold flushes and sleep problems. These symptoms can not only affect your physical health but can also take a toll on your mental health and wellbeing, your energy, work and your relationships.
Everyone will experience menopause differently and may have other symptoms, which can make it a tricky thing to manage. Often, HRT is given to treat the symptoms of the menopause. There are, however, some other remedies that you can try to support your body and mind during this time.
Menopause and sleep
According to the UK Parliament Survey, eight in 10 women report having trouble sleeping during the menopause. The constant fluctuating of body temperature can play havoc with getting a good night’s sleep. To sleep well, we ideally need our body temperature to be around 18 degrees or slightly lower. Hot flushes and night sweats caused by changing oestrogen levels disturb this, so the key to getting some shut-eye and wake feeling rested is to try and manage your temperature at night.
Tips for keeping cool:
- Have a cold water bottle or ice pack wrapped in a cloth and keep this close to you in bed.
- Try sleeping with a fan on. To optimise cooling even more, try placing a bucket of ice in front of it for the fan to circulate the cold air.
- Sleep with a window open to avoid a stuffy bedroom and improve air circulation.
- Take a cool shower or bath right before you go to bed.
- Wear cotton pyjamas to absorb night sweats and help cool you down faster.
What you consume can also support healthy sleep:
- Foods rich in phytoestrogens such as soy, oats, berries, flaxseeds, apples, lentils and rice can help mimic oestrogen which may help minimise your sleep disturbance.
- Try consuming “cooling foods” like carrots, watermelon and cucumber. These will all help to cool down your internal body temperature.
- It’s true what they say about a glass of warm milk right before bed. Whether you go for a soy or dairy option, warm milky drinks can support deeper sleep.
- To reduce night sweats, try consuming more foods that are rich in omega 3, such as fish and avocado.
- Drinking a cup of camomile tea has also been known to support relaxation for a better night’s sleep.
- Things to avoid eating and drinking include alcohol, caffeine, sugary and spicy foods. All these can inhibit sleep.
Menopause and exercise
Although exercising won’t alleviate your symptoms altogether, it can help you to better cope.
Yoga is a great way to work with your chakras (your energy centres) to help reset your energies and find any blockages and imbalances from your nervous system to your mind. At the same time, yoga supports bone health, preventing osteoporosis, and breathing, preventing headaches and reducing anxiety.
Similarly, Pilates is a great form of low-impact, gentle exercise that works to improve your flexibility, strength and even your focus and mood. Pilates uses movements that work to improve your balance, coordination and control to improve your alignment and posture. It’s a great way to keep physically healthy during menopause and perimenopause whilst also benefiting your mental wellbeing.
Menopause and mental health
The menopause brings with it some worrying symptoms including anxiety and brain fog. This can be difficult for many women to come to terms with. 75% of people going through the menopause say they have experienced memory loss and trouble concentrating which can exacerbate other symptoms, such as stress. A study found that curcumin, found in turmeric tea, saw a 28% improvement in memory retention versus those who had a placebo. In turn, turmeric can ease hot flushes and joint pain during the menopause, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Nealy 70% of women report experiencing levels of anxiety during the menopuase. As well as making time for self-care, whether that’s listening to music or reading, and relaxation techniques, like going for a walk or meditating, what you consume can help to reduce anxiety.
- Try to keep your blood sugar stable by avoiding sugary foods that might cause a sugar spike. Eating little and often will also keep blood sugar stable.
- Eat seratonin-boosting foods like chicken, oats, bananas or cottage cheese. These foods contain tryptophan which supports the production of our feel-good hormones.
The 18th of October is menopause awareness day, designed to raise awareness of the menopause and the options available for people going through it. Recognising that your experience is unique to you is the first step toward managing it.
If you’re struggling with the symptoms of the menopause, know that there is support available and you are not alone. You can find support on the Counselling Directory by reaching out to a qualified professional or taking a look at our articles section.