Top Tips to Enjoy Life During and After Menopause
Menopause…that time in a woman’s life that marks the end of her reproductive years and the beginning of the empowerment of maturity. As with all change, it can be a tumultuous time. The hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings and skin that can hark back to our teenage years is no fun at all! So, how does menopause affect us and is it possible to enjoy life as we travel through this significant time? Read on to find out.
The stages of Menopause
Perimenopause: Before a woman’s last period, the body prepares for menopause in what is known as perimenopause. This is a time when the ovaries slowly stop producing oestrogen. As a result, menstrual periods can become irregular, or you may skip one or more periods. Menstrual flow may also be heavier or lighter.
Menopause: Defined as a lack of menstruation for one full year, menopause usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55 but can develop before or after this age range.
Postmenopause: Refers to the years after menopause has occurred – that is, the day after your final period.
The changes that women experience during this time in her life are linked to the ovaries’ lack of oestrogen production. This hormone is vital for reproduction, but it is also essential for many other bodily functions, which is why women can feel so terrible during and after menopause.
In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, oestrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.
With the decline in oestrogen, here are some common symptoms:
- an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to a thinning of the urethra
- irregular or absent periods
- vaginal dryness
- mood swings
- hot flashes
- breast tenderness
- trouble concentrating
There is also a higher risk of osteoporosis due to the decrease in bone density. Oestrogen works alongside calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals to maintain bone strength so when oestrogen declines, so does our bone density, making us vulnerable to fractures.
The decline in oestrogen can have a major impact on insulin resistance. This causes blood sugar levels to increase, which puts you at a high risk of type 2 diabetes.
The skin can also be affected during menopause, with some women reporting they seem to age overnight. As oestrogen levels fall, the protective role it once had on the skin falls along with it. Fibroblasts, the cells responsible for making collagen, have specific receptors for oestrogen. Therefore, the decline in oestrogen production leads to a decrease in collagen production and the degeneration of the elastic fibres in skin tissue. This means the skin loses its firmness, becomes thinner and begins to sag, and wrinkles become more pronounced. In addition, cell turnover decreases and skin becomes drier. Oestrogen also affects sebum production, and skin that was once balanced and calm can suddenly break out in pimples.
Postmenopause, our bodies are exposed to a higher risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, bone, joint problems and breast cancer.
It all sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?! But rest assured, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and by tweaking our lifestyle, we can actually make a significant impact on how we experience menopause.
Top 5 Strategies to Enjoy Life During & After Menopause
Look after Your Gut!
We’ve all heard about the gut microbiome and its importance for overall wellbeing, but have you heard of the Oestrobolome? The oestrobolome is a collection of bacteria in the gut responsible for the elimination of oestrogen. These microbes produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, which metabolises excess oestrogen and returns it into circulation. If your beta-glucuronidase levels become imbalanced, this can cause the symptoms linked to menopause and increase your risk of oestrogen related diseases.
One significant way to balance the oestrobolome is through diet and nutrition.
A mainly plant-based diet, rich in wholefoods and some healthy, well-sourced proteins, lowers the risk of chronic disease as we age. Include oily fish, nuts and seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Lentils and chickpeas contain Phyto-oestrogens, a natural form of oestrogen found in plants, and could be great menopause busting foods!
Evidence suggests that low carbohydrate diets at this stage in life work to reduce blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight.
Reducing caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can also alleviate hot flashes.
Exercise and Menopause
Exercise is essential to keep the skin glowing, the body supple, and the mind balanced. This is true at all stages of life but is even more important as we age. Choosing exercise that doesn’t put excessive strain on the body is important. Brisk walks or swimming are gentle and good, to begin with if you haven’t exercised in a while. Getting your heart rate up will help shed excess weight and keep your heart healthy. Strength training is especially vital to reduce the risk of osteoporosis by helping to increase bone density, promote coordination and balance and build muscle mass.
Menopause can be a confronting time for many women, not to mention that low oestrogen levels play havoc with your mood! You may experience anxiety, irritability and even depression. However, laughing one minute and crying the next is normal during this time!
It’s important to remember that no two women experience menopause in the same way, so your unique symptoms will form your approach to relieving those symptoms. It is known that as oestrogen reduces, cortisol rises making stress and menopause a very real issue. High levels of cortisol impact weight gain, blood pressure and low-grade inflammation. Managing stress is vital during and after menopause to minimise the harm cortisol can do.
For some women practising yoga, deep breathing, or meditation can help calm the nerves and centre your mind.
Finding activities or hobbies that fill you with passion and taking time out for yourself is so important. It could be going for a facial, reading a good book, walking with a friend, painting or craft. Whatever brings you joy is what you need more of, now more than ever.
Skincare Through Menopause
Women going through menopause need to rethink their skincare routine to include mild, creamy-based cleansers and rich, nourishing moisturisers. As mentioned, the skin changes significantly due to the reduced levels of oestrogen. Therefore, it needs to be treated gently, with good quality products and regular skin treatments.
Sun protection is paramount, of course, and lifestyle factors will make a difference to the look and feel of the skin.
If menopause symptoms become severe or stop you from enjoying life, speaking to a menopause health expert is a good next step. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can alleviate many of the symptoms associated with menopause as it replaces the lost oestrogen. While HRT has had some bad press over the years, recent studies have shown any risks to be minimal. However, HRT may not be suitable for everyone, so talking to a Specialist is key.
We had the pleasure of welcoming Chiza Westcarr, expert nutritional medicine practitioner, skincare expert and health coach, to talk to us about her strategies for enjoying life through menopause. Chiza is a font of knowledge, and we highly recommend listening to her recent talk or following her on Instagram for an abundance of extra information.
A Holistic Approach
GERnétic is founded on a holistic approach to skin health. While menopause can be a challenging time, by focussing on a healthy lifestyle, emotional support and quality skincare products, this significant time in a woman’s life can also be a healthy and positive one.