With the onset of Menopause can come some significant life changes and adjustments of our self-image and self care skills come to the forefront. Here are some ways to manage the symptoms and support yourself. Of course, seek help from a health professional to aid the transitional time as required.
Signs & symptoms:
- Average age of onset is 48-53 years old
- Irregular Menstruation/Changes in regularity of cycle (length, frequency, flow)
- Hot flushes &/Night sweats
- Dry skin
- Dry vagina
- Mood changes (Depression, Feelings of low self esteem/self worth, Re-evaluation of life, Uncertainty, Lowered confidence, Emotional)
- Poor memory & concentration
- Weight gain (sugar cravings – some women)
- Decreased sex drive
Diet & Lifestyle:
1. Phyto-estrogen Foods: Phyto-oestrogens decrease the frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms. These foods should be added to the diet daily, choose 3 per day. The dietary intake of phyto-oestrogens improves many of the menopausal symptoms.
Soy milk, Soya beans, Sprouted soya beans, Tofu, Alfalfa sprouts, Ground Linseed, Sesame & Sunflower seeds (unroasted), Tahini, Peas & Beans, Chickpeas (ie. hummus), Kidney beans (ie. 3 bean mix), Mung beans, Legumes, Oats (porridge/muesli), Barley, Rye, Whole grains.
2. Bulk of diet should be of raw and unprocessed foods. Include one fresh vegetable salad daily, preparing it from a variety of fresh vegetables eg. lettuce, cucumber, celery, capsicum, cabbage (coleslaw), tomato, carrot, beetroot (not canned) onion, shallot, fresh corn, asparagus, broccoli, beans, brussel sprouts cauliflower, marrows, bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts. Don't overcook vegetables, green vegetables in particular should be steamed until just tender while still retaining their bright green colour.
3. Avoid all processed, canned, packaged and frozen foods where possible. Canned fruits are to be particularly avoided, since they contain large amounts of white sugar. Canned tuna and salmon are permitted.
4.Weight bearing exercise to be taken 4-5 times per week eg. Walking, Trampoline, Bicycle riding, Aerobics, Light Weights (not swimming alone).
5. Ensure that all fresh fruits are ripe before eating. Some dried fruits may be used moderately (raisins, apricots, dates etc.). Remember that these are quite concentrated as a source of natural sugar. Individuals with yeast related disorders should avoid dried fruits.
6. Seeds, nuts and whole grains should be used liberally. Do not use white flour or any white flour products. Brown rice is particularly recommended.
7. Acquire a taste for foods without sweetening. Do NOT use white sugar. Instead, use honey in moderate amounts.
8. DO NOT use prepared salad dressings. Prepare your own from cold pressed oils, apple cide vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and herbs.
9. Coffee, spicy foods and alcohol seem to aggravate hot flushes and should be avoided. A number of coffee substitutes and herbal teas are available. Eat sparingly of all hot spices, curry, mustard, chill etc. Herbs, nutmeg, cinnamon are permitted. Use table salt sparingly. Vanilla essence is permitted. A little ground black pepper is permitted.
10. Potatoes are an excellent source of minerals and thus form an important part of the diet. The small ones contain very little starch and are therefore not regarded as a problem for those patients who may be a little overweight. Cook potatoes in their jackets as it is just beneath the skin that the highest concentration of nutrients is found.
11. Delicious cakes, biscuits and puddings can be prepared from wholegrain flour, nuts, dried fruits, honey, treacle, cinnamon, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, butter and eggs.
12. Fresh fish (or tinned) should be eaten often. Red meat should be consumed no more than 3 times per week. Organ meats such as liver, kidney, brains are valuable nutritionally. Vary red meat with other protein foods such as seafood, poultry, egg and cheese dishes, lentil or other vegetarian dishes.
13. Dairy products cause allergic reactions in some individuals: if there is known sensitivity to dairy or other foods, they should be consumed only under the direction of your Therapist and in the manner specified.
14. Avoid frying foods as far as possible: if necessary (eg in stir-fried vegetables, rissoles) use a small quantity of cold pressed safflower, olive or canola oil. The cold-pressed oils (while more expensive) are nutritionally very valuable.
15. Margarine, like oils are heat-treated, rendering their nutritional value uncertain. Use moderate quantities of butter in preference: buy butter with safflower oil or canola oil. This makes it more "spreadable" and assists its nutritive value.
Checklist for the Mid-Life Woman
- Breast self-examination monthly. Most doctors also recommend a mammogram every 2 years for women between 50-70, especially for women with significant risk of breast cancer.
- Internal gynaecological examination yearly.
- Pap smear at least every second year, at the same time as internal examination.
- Weight bearing exercise for 30 minutes at least every second day.
- Calcium intake: 1500 mg daily.
- Magnesium intake: 800 mg daily.
- Body weight maintained at middle to upper level of ideal weight.
- Blood pressure check annually, more frequently if high BP.
- Bone density check if there is a family history of osteoporosis – every 2-5years.
- Cholesterol check – repeat if there is a family history of heart disease.