All women, at one point of their life, will experience the menopause.

For most women this will take place in their late 40s and mid 50s, others, due to medical conditions, may make that transition much earlier.

Menopause is when a woman’s ovaries lose their reproductive function, therefore the menstruation cycle stops and the production of oestrogen significantly decreases. During this period, women experience a number of changes in their body – changes that affect them both physically and psychologically, mainly due to hormones. Some are temporary, others are longer-term.

Hot flushes

One of the most common symptoms (and most talked about!) are hot flushes, these are usually a feature of early menopause, fading away later on. For some women they can be embarrassing and distressing since they occur frequently and unexpectedly. Black cohosh is a popular herbal remedy for hot flushes, although is not recommended for those who suffer from liver problems. Also, avoiding coffee, spicy foods and alcohol may help as they tend to make hot flushes worse.

Your Experience – It’s just rubbish. Started 6 yrs ago at 49 with the flushes & sweats. Sleeping for on average 90 mins then waking up soaking. Memory loss, couldn’t remember the conversation never mind the detail. Constant feeling of wanting to run away & lack of confidence. ‘Va va voom’ has gone, just tired all the time.

Weight

Hormonal imbalance due to menopause may cause weight gain, even in women who have always been naturally thin. The key to maintaining some control is properly balancing your diet by avoiding foods too rich in calories (e.g. alcohol and sugar) and focusing on fresh foods such as plenty of rainbow coloured vegetables. Eating legumes like soy, chickpeas and kidney beans will help to, as they contain phytoestrogens, which are plants oestrogens believed to have oestrogen-like effects on the body.

Regular exercise, yoga and anything that can help you stay active (even long walks) are welcome, and will affect your body and mood positively.

Your Experience – I ended up having to go on HRT, although it’s the lowest dose possible. I struggled for several years with ever increasing symptoms of exhaustion, stress and anxiety. I gained weight, lost all my confidence and enjoyment of life and could barely get through my day. The slightest thing would have me stressed out and upset, and I would have these anxiety attacks that would come out of nowhere and for no reason but made my life hell. I had been determined to ride my menopause out and just ‘deal with it’ but it wasn’t until I started taking the HRT that I realised just how awful I had been feeling. I have lost all the weight I had gained and found my confidence. I am loving life again and I am able to cope and get through my day. If you can deal with your menopause with natural remedies then that is fantastic but there is also no shame in taking HRT if it all becomes unbearable. I never ever want to go back to the person I became. I have ‘me’ back again and life is good.

Skin

Another unpleasant symptom of menopause is dry skin. The decreased production of oestrogen influences the skin’s thickness and elasticity. Supplements and foods containing Vitamin E – as well as products containing tocopherol – can help keep your skin stay nourished and supple. Hemp oil, which is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, is a valid help in fighting dry skin.

Bones

A lack of oestregen can affect bones since the female skeleton depends on oestrogen to maintain its strength and resistance to fracture. Women should pay special attention to their bones during menopause as bone density changes and they become thinner, a serious issue that can lead to osteoporosis. Ensuring your daily intake of vitamin D3 is in line with recommendation and doing exercises involving weight bearing can improve bone density and help protect against osteoporosis.

Emotions

Because of the hormonal imbalance, the emotional well-being can be highly compromised, with severe mood swings causing anxiety and instability. One good natural remedy is St John’s Wort, a traditional herbal medicine which helps boost levels of serotonin, the so called “happiness hormone”. Regular exercise also improves emotional well-being as it helps get rid stress and low mood!

Your Experience – The feelings of anxiety really took me by surprise as no one talks about that. I cannot take HRT due to being diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2010. So I have struggled, I am not going to lie. The feelings of doom, and anxiety is the worst for me and I desperately want to feel myself again. I eat well, cannot tolerate a lot of wheat or dairy. I drink a load of water. I go to an acupuncturist every fortnight which really helps with the anxiety. I go outside as much as possible with my headphones & just walk. My skin has become so sensitive and I have red spotty blotches. God Menopause is bloody great eh!

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