If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause and you are under 40 years old, consult your health care professional.
If you experience vaginal bleeding after you have finished the menopause, seek medical advice.
In some women the onset of menopause is signalled by symptoms such as:
- Hot flushes and fatigue
- Night sweats
- Increased nervousness, anxiety, or irritability
- Increased need to urinate
- Nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, cold hands and feet, weight gain
- Swollen ankles Headaches
- Painful intercourse (due to changes to the vaginal wall) Loss of sexual drive
The changes in biochemistry after menopause also lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease.
At menopause, a woman stops ovulating, and her ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone.
In addition to its role in reproduction, oestrogen is required to stimulate receptors in the vagina, bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver and brain, and to promote normal function of these organs.
For example, oestrogen is required to keep the skin and vaginal tract moisturised and supple, to keep calcium in the bones, to maintain a balanced body temperature, and to keep the blood vessels unclogged. Cholesterol levels can increase after menopause. Menopause symptoms may also follow a hysterectomy, or be due to an underlying hormonal disorder.
- Dong Quai and Black Cohosh help to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes
- Hypericum can help reduce the symptoms anxiety due to hormonal imbalance
- Phytoestrogens (plant hormones) found in soy products may help to reduce menopausal symptoms and protect the body from symptoms of oestrogen deficiency
- Calcium is essential to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis; make sure you choose a calcium supplement which also contains vitamin D, magnesium and manganese for maximum absorption
Life Style Factors
Ensure your diet contains enough calcium by including low-fat dairy products, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and leafy green vegetables. At the same time, avoid high protein foods such as red meats and most cereal grains which increase calcium excretion and bone loss. Excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided for this reason.
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are similar in structure to human estrogens. Eating a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help to reduce menopausal symptoms. Soy and linseeds (also known as flax seeds) are probably the easiest food sources of phytoestrogens to incorporate into your diet - try to eat breads and cereals enriched with soya and linseed, and add tofu and miso to your stir fries.
Regular exercise is important to reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is best, however if your bones and joints are weak, swimming may be more appropriate for you - ask your health care professional.
After menopause, the risk of developing heart disease is higher. Always maintain a well-balanced low-fat diet, with lots of nuts, seeds and fish. Regular check-ups with your health care professional will help you to keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Eat more soy foods or take a phytoestrogen supplement made from soy to ease your transition through menopause.
- Calcium storage in the bones takes place over the course of your whole life - its never too early to start regular weight bearing exercise and calcium supplementation.