What can you do to stay happy, healthy and fit during the menopause? Most importantly, you need to restore your hormonal balance. During the menopause, our sex hormones reduce, and we lose that ability to keep the perfect trio of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone in balance. This can massively affect our wellbeing and cause the symptoms many women deal with.
“To keep hormones in check, we need to keep blood sugars balanced and stable, embrace rainbows of fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of filtered water and load up on complex carbs, lean proteins, and good fats, such as avocado and oily fish, nut, seeds and olive oil,” says Angelique Panagos, a nutritional therapist and hormonal health expert. “These good fats help to synthesize hormones, and can reduce inflammation, too.”
Even though some symptoms will resolve themselves, long term oestrogen deficiency can be associated with vaginal and bladder problems as well as increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Making diet and lifestyle changes will improve your later bone and heart health. This includes stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing exercise and reducing alcohol.
Bones need to be used to keep them strong and healthy. Weight-bearing exercise, the type that involves putting force through your bones, includes activities such as walking, jogging, running, tennis and aerobics. Try and find an activity that you enjoy, and make simple changes to your daily routine, such as walking to the shops, taking the stairs, or join an exercise class.
Eat a well-balanced diet, with plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the main nutrient required for strong bones, so incorporating foods which are rich in calcium is essential. Aim for around 700mg calcium daily, which is the equivalent of a pint of semi-skimmed milk per day. Other sources are: oily fish, green leafy vegetables, bread, cereals, dried fruit, pulses, beans and seeds. With a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to supplement calcium.
Avoid excess caffeine, by limiting tea, coffee and fizzy drinks, as caffeine affects the absorption of calcium. Excessive alcohol is detrimental to bones; you shouldn’t exceed the government’s recommended limits, which is less than 14 units per week for women. One unit is the equivalent of a small glass of wine, one pub measure of spirit or half a pint of normal strength beer, lager or cider.
Smoking can also hasten bone loss, as well as cause an earlier menopause.
It’s also beneficial to eliminate certain inflammatory foods from the diet. Foods which spike our blood sugars, including pastries, cakes, white bread and white pasta, should be reduced.
Rest, relaxation and meditation are all key to keeping our hormones in tip-top condition, and in preventing the spike of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can lead to extra weight gain.