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Mending Midlife – 5 Foundations Of Menopause Mastery

Written by: Hatty McCafferty, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Menopause continues to be a hot topic in the media with shortages of HRT in the UK, celebrities in the US building empires around supplements, books, or skincare, and a general bombardment of fear tactics pushing one hormone ‘fix’ or another.

Cropped view of woman holding blooming flower

This can be confusing – how do you know what is right for you and which solutions will work for your symptoms? There are five basic areas of health to look at, where simple tweaks can make the world of difference.


First of all, you may have heard of Menopause, but what is Perimenopause?


Put simply, it is the run-up to Menopause and can last anything from 4-12 years. The average age for the onset of symptoms is 45, although many of us see and feel smaller changes from about 41 or even in our thirties. For our Black and Asian counterparts this can be, on average, 2-4 years earlier. Symptoms often start with night sweats and irregular periods but it is different for everyone so keeping track of what you experience and when, will stand you in good stead.


Menopause is 365 days after a woman’s period so for most, it can only be recognised retrospectively.


Post Menopause is life from here on in. In the case of ‘natural”, that is to say non-surgical, menopause, symptoms tend to reduce and settle after a year or two. The women I have interviewed all tout this period of life as a place of glory!


How do you make your transition through to Post Menopause as smooth as possible?


I use my Five Foundations for optimal health and well-being which can be implemented with or without the additional support of medication and are a great tool for younger women to use to overall health and preparation as well.


1. Stress


There have been many studies on the impact of stress on our general health so it comes as no surprise that Menopause Symptoms can be exacerbated by stress of all varieties and the North American Menopause Society is as keen to address this as I am.


Solutions:


If you address one thing, stress is going to be your number 1.


I suggest starting with a list of things that are on your mind. You could even just sit, breathe and allow the pen to get all the stress out on to the paper in front of you in a stream of consciousness.


When you break down each thing on your list, see if you can find a way to delegate, remove or lessen that stress. Can you talk to someone about it? (Sometimes this alone can help) Can you share the responsibility? Can you give yourself extra time if there are deadlines to be met.


On a more immediate level, simple breathing exercises, meditation (even for just 2 minutes a day and time it, it is possible), yoga or walking in nature with no distractions can be very calming and finding time for yourself is essential. This may be hard to do at first but the sooner you learn to push yourself higher up your priorities list, the sooner you will reap the benefits.


2. Sleep


Insomnia is one of the most commonly cited symptoms and it has a huge impact at work and at home. Rachel Davies, menopause hypnotherapist, addresses sleep issues all too often. We all know how bad we can feel after a sleepless night and how it impacts our cognitive function, our hunger levels, our energy. After a month or more, the lying awake in the middle of the night is bad enough in itself but I am sure we can all relate to the feeling of needing to be on form the next day and the anxiety that can bring. Gradually loss of confidence and anxiety increase as sleep decreases. Solutions:

Start with the basics and work your way up. Finish eating at least two hours before bedtime, although if you get hungry at night, a small snack that includes l-tryptophan found in turkey, a glass of milk, eggs, chicken, tofu, pumpkin or sesame seeds, may help. Switch off screens at least an hour before going to bed. Dim the light throughout the evening to support your circadian rhythm and signal to your body that it is time to wind down. If you wish to supplement with Magnesium Bisglycinate or Magnesium Oxide, this can be extremely calming and help sleep. Keep the room cool. You can bundle up underneath the covers but a cooler room temperature is important. Reduce or eliminate alcohol. Alcohol disrupts blood sugar and sleep as well as sleep quality. Start by eliminating it completely for a week or two and see how you go. When you wake up, get sunlight on you as soon as you can. Go for a walk and get some fresh air to signal wake-up time to your body. Limit caffeine to the early am and keep quantities small. Try to wake up and go to bed at a similar time each day. It may seem like a lot to take on from scratch so start with one thing and add accordingly. Note the difference each good habit makes to the way you feel.

3. Sustenance


Taking care of what you put in your body can sometimes feel like a mammoth task. The convenience of some food, especially when you’re tired, pressed for time and have so many other things to accomplish, making smart decisions can be challenging. Mindset plays a significant role too here and it is vital that you look at food and your choices here, not as a diet and not as a restrictive exercise but as a tool to fuel you and nourish you and as a source of pleasure to make you feel good.


Solutions:


This is a huge subject so I’ll keep it simple. The aim is to keep your blood sugar relatively stable throughout the day and to keep your hormones as balanced as possible. Here are the easiest ways to do this:


Every meal needs a portion (20-30g) of protein included in it. Examples are a 3 egg omelette, a chicken breast, a portion of black beans or other legumes, a fillet of fish, half a block of tofu. How you prepare them is up to you but I encourage the use of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados for your healthy fats. If you eat fish, oily fish at least twice a week will benefit your skin, digestion and overall well-being.


Add in as many dark green leafy vegetables as you can. Seaweed, kale, cavolo nero, cabbage, spring greens are all excellent.


Keep your whole carbohydrates in such as rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes for energy.


Focus on foods that your grandmother would recognise as food, enjoy mealtimes and throw in some dark chocolate and fruit here and there. 80-90% whole foods and the rest as what we may call ‘treats’ is usually a good balance.


Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This is probably more than you think so aim for 2 large bottles of water.


4. Strength


Many of us have been brought up with the idea that cardio (and the more the better) is going to keep us fit and healthy and in good shape. Cardio certainly has its place, heart health is vital at this stage of life and if it makes you happy, carry on! If it feels more like a punishment and drains your energy, I have good news: there is another way.


Solutions:


As we age, our muscle mass declines, especially with lack of use. To keep our metabolism stoked and to maintain strength and shape, training our muscles is of great benefit and can keep testosterone levels healthy which aids cognitive function, libido and energy. Some form of strength or resistance training is a must. Personally, the heavier the weights, the better but I know some people experience resistance to this. However, weight training helps with weight management, healthy bones, maintenance of muscle mass and it is a great way to reduce stress.


5. Sex


Some of the more personal and less spoken about symptoms of Perimenopause need much more attention. UTIs become more common, libido can sometimes drop off a cliff and the overall skin dryness that many of us experience also applies to the vagina. Vaginal dryness and atrophy can mean that sex becomes painful which is not good for anyone.


Solutions:


Finding a way to talk to your partner about this will take the pressure off which is often where problems begin – feeling obliged to have sex even when we don’t want to or it causes us pain. If we’re not enjoying it, the chances are, your partner isn’t either. So please talk. Lubrication is a game changer and there are plenty on the market these days that have clean ingredients. Vaginal moisturiser is almost as important as facial moisturiser for some and can restore comfort on a daily basis. Strength training increases testosterone levels which help restore a flagging libido and it makes you feel good about yourself too which feeds into many additional symptoms.


So you see how taking care of each area can feed into another. The aim here is to feel good. If the list seems overwhelming initially, start with one thing. You have plenty of time to build your habits up. If you are already practicing much of the above, see what can be tweaked. The number one thing I find people have skipped is actually communication. Talking about it can be half the battle as you can discover on my podcast, Real Menopause Talk where women share their stories and resources. It’s always comforting to know you are not the only one.


Of course, there is so much more to say! To find out more, visit my website, follow me on Instagram and remember, this needn’t be a time of struggle. As Dr Louanne Brizendine says, it’s a Transition to the Upgrade. So let’s embrace it.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, and visit my website for more info!


 

Hatty McCafferty, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Originally a TV Producer, Hatty entered the realm of Wellbeing when she became a mother, later teaching globally. As her clients shared their Menopause stories, she felt the need to serve them better and became a Certified Menopause Consultant. Having interviewed more than 100 people for her podcast, Real Menopause Talk, she continues speaking at events educating and supporting both women and men through the Perimenopause transition. She consults for companies globally enabling them to retain their valuable Peri to Post Menopausal staff. Hatty makes the workplace Menopause Attractive: “By 2030, there will be 1.2 billion of us, so let’s start talking.”

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