Feeling the effects of the menopause and unsure what to do? There are a lot of lifestyle factors that you can adapt to improve your experience with the menopause. Although everyone with a uterus will go through it at some point in their lifetime, everyone's experience is incredibly unique. Therefore, it is essential to listen to your own body and find a healthy, balanced lifestyle that works for you.
Whatever stage you are at in your menopause journey, these tips may help to ease the experience.
What is the menopause?
First of all, let's look at what the menopause actually is…
When we discuss the menopause, we are usually referring to perimenopause. This is the stage that you may notice some symptoms as hormones start to fluctuate. Think of the menopause as puberty in reverse. But this time, we have a little extra baggage from lifestyle factors, medications and conditions.
Most people don't know this, but the menopause itself is actually only one day long. It is precisely one year after your last period, so it is important to track your cycles even before perimenopause to be aware of these changes. You may also notice your cycles become shorter and periods become heavier before they taper off. This may indicate that you are perimenopausal.
What is perimenopause and what are its symptoms?
So, what might you experience during perimenopause? Some women don't seem to experience any symptoms, and others may need medical interventions to help ease symptoms. It is also wrong to assume all women go through menopause at the average age of 51. Some women go through the menopause in their 30s, and others will go through it much later in their 50s, maybe even 60s. Most of us know about hot flushes and mood swings, but you might experience the following symptoms too.
- Night sweats
- Cold flushes
- Skin irritations
- Changes in libido
- Painful intercourse
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Changes in your pelvic health
So now we know what might suggest that you are perimenopausal; let's discuss what you can do to help. These changes are best made before experiencing any symptoms but can be applied at any time during your menopause journey.
Preparing for the menopause: Where do you begin?
There are three main categories to focus on; exercise, diet and lifestyle.
Exercise for menopause
Exercise is essential during the menopause to help regulate hormones and circadian rhythms, help with weight management, maintain muscle mass, improve mood and boost self-esteem. There are three main areas of exercise to focus on; conditioning, strength and cardio.
Cardio exercises (such as running, dancing, walking, cycling, rowing or swimming) can help improve heart health, increase endorphins and may help alleviate symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes.
Resistance training (such as using dumbbells, barbells, cable machines and gym resistance equipment) can help maintain muscle mass, improve bone health, and help with weight management.
Conditioning exercises (such as pilates or yoga) can help maintain joint health, flexibility and spine mobility, improve posture, strengthen the pelvic floor, and aid with mindfulness.
Ultimately, you should exercise and move your body in a way that you enjoy. If you don't enjoy your exercise, you're less likely to stick to it. If running isn't for you, try a dance class, pilates or find yourself a personal trainer that you click with. One size doesn't fit all, but trying to incorporate these three main aspects of exercise into a routine that you enjoy, you are off to a great start.
Diet for menopausal women
Maintaining a healthy weight can positively affect your experience with the menopause. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, containing lots of fruit and vegetables. Include healthy fats, and reduce refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and sugary foods.
Unrefined forms of soya have also been found to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes and insomnia during the menopause. Try consuming one portion of unsweetened soya milk, tofu, miso, tempeh or edamame beans each day, and see if you notice a difference.
You may also notice a positive improvement from using the Zooki Menopause bundle, which includes Collagen Zooki for skin, joint and bone support and Glutathione Zooki for aiding detoxification and supporting energy levels.
Alcohol and smoking can also exacerbate symptoms, so try to avoid smoking, and cut down on drinking.
Similarly to fitness, it is important you find a diet that you can maintain long term. For example, if completely cutting out alcohol from your diet makes you miserable, maybe stick to one class a week instead.
Lifestyle tips for menopause
Try to reduce your stress levels where possible and find your form of mindfulness. High-stress levels can spike your adrenals, affecting your body's ability to balance your other hormones. Mindfulness can significantly reduce stress levels and improve symptoms such as brain fog, insomnia, hot flushes and anxiety. Mindfulness does not have to take the form of a seated hour meditation session (but if you can and you enjoy it, keep it up because it is an excellent practice). Mindfulness can also take the form of breathwork, walking alone in nature, reiki, acupuncture, massage, sitting in a hot tub, or going to a yoga class. Find something that you enjoy where you can slow down your thoughts and mind.
If you experience insomnia or night sweats due to the menopause, try not to sleep in the next day. If you wake up during the night, get out of bed, move to another room and do something calming to take your mind off sleep. For example, make yourself a herbal tea and read a book. Once you start to feel tired, make your way back to bed.
It is important to always speak to a medical practitioner if you experience any unusual side effects or discomfort during the menopause. In addition, the suggestions in this blog post may not always work for you. It usually takes a game of trial and error before you find your optimal routine, so give these lifestyle adaptations a try, listen to your body and work out what's best for you.