Your Doctor

How to Combat effects of The Menopause

The menopause is the phase in a woman’s life cycle where her periods stop, and she becomes unable to have children. For most people, this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.The average age is 51. However 1;100 have a premature menopause. The menopause can be a difficult time for women due to hormonal changes within the body. The levels of oestrogen in the body begin to decrease, causing symptoms which can have an extensive impact on a woman’s day to day life. According to Women’s Health Concern, around 70% of women going through menopause experience some these symptoms on a daily basis. At the turn of the century a woman could expect to only have a few years of life left after the menopause, now a woman can expect to live a third of their life post menopause.

How can a woman tell she’s going through menopause?

Generally, the menopause officially starts when a woman has not had a period for a year, however, it is always best to get checked out by your GP to confirm that it has started. A blood test is usually only necessary in women who experience the symptoms before the age of 45. You may begin to experience symptoms such as hot flushes, low moods, stress, vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms are all completely normal, but some can cause discomfort. If you are experiencing more than one of these symptoms, it is likely that you have left the perimenopause, and started the actual phase. 

Perimenopause

Also known as premenopause, it is the transition of moving into menopause. The average time this lasts is around four years, but this varies woman to woman. You may begin to experience some of the symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, but you may have extra symptoms such as breast tenderness, irregular periods and trouble controlling your bladder. Again, these are nothing to worry about, but it is best to make sure by seeing your GP. 

Long term health conditions that could follow the menopause?

As we age, we are always more at risk to illness and conditions due to the body weakening slightly. With the menopause, there can be some increased sign of osteoporosis - a condition where bones become more brittle. Due to hormone imbalances in the body some women may gain weight so it is important to remember to maintain a balanced diet, and avoid any unhealthy cravings you may be feeling. 

While these symptoms may seem worrying to some, there are effective ways to combat and reduce them so they do not have such a significant impact. Here are some top tips: 

1. Get active: Although symptoms of the menopause may make you feel sluggish and low, becoming more physically active is one of the best ways to relieve menopausal symptoms including boosting your mood. 

2. Consume oestrogen boosting foods: Certain foods contain phytoestrogens which are plant based forms of oestrogen which mimic the effect that the natural hormone has on the body. Foods such as dried fruit, sesame seeds, cereal containing bran and soy milk are full of this rich goodness. Eating good proteins such as eggs and fish during the menopause is also beneficial as they can boost the immune system. 

3. Consider therapies such as HRT: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the main therapy available for women going through the menopause who are experiencing very strong symptoms. For more information and to find out if you are eligible, consult your GP. HRT is actually protective to your heart if taken under 60 and taken for less than 10 yrs. The risk of taking HRT to your general health is lower than having a glass of wine daily!

4. Keep your stress levels low: When oestrogen levels drop, the body may less efficiently regulate levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone produced in the adrenal gland. To combat stress, try making more time for relaxation whether that means new hobbies, exercising or more times with friends and family. 

5. Avoid common symptom triggers: Cigarettes, caffeine and spicy foods have all been linked to worsening symptoms such as hot flushes so try and give up, or at least cut down. You may see a great deal of improvement. 

Although these symptoms may seem daunting, most women going through the menopause can live their day to day life as normal. Although women may feel some discomfort from symptoms, it is important to remember, it is not an illness, and is something that all women go through at one stage or another. There is an excellent website that may be helpful - www.menopausedoctor.co.uk.