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It's Menopause Awareness Month...

Menopause occurs due to changes in hormone production, mainly oestrogen which is reduced causing menstruation to stop. This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years, but for some, it can occur earlier (premature menopause). Around 1% of women experience premature menopause.

Perimenopause is the time leading up to your final period and can last for a few months or several years. Periods can become irregular during this time as oestrogen levels decrease.

Postmenopause is the time after menopause starting from the time after 12 consecutive months of no periods.

The symptoms of menopause can be difficult for many women. These may include:

· Irregular periods

· Sleep disruption

· Weight gain

· Changes with hair

· Dry skin

· Mood changes (e.g., anxiety and depression)

· Vaginal dryness

· Hot flashes and night sweats

· Urinary problems

· Joint and muscle stiffness or pain

· ‘Brain fog’

Hormone replacement therapy can be used to treat the vasomotor symptoms such as the night sweats and hot flashes, however by making some dietary changes, many of these symptoms can be reduced.

· Limit caffeine to help reduce hot flushes and help promote good sleep hygiene

· Alcohol can trigger hot flushes, night sweats and headaches. Increased alcohol intake can increase your risk of osteoporosis and increase the risk of heart disease

· There has been a particular interest in soy and isoflavones in soya products or as supplements for relieving menopausal symptoms. This interest may have come from the lower rate of symptoms like hot flushes reported in women in Southeast Asian countries where soy consumption is high, compared to women in Western countries. However, it is unclear whether this is because of soy or other factors.

Soy is also a source of plant compounds called phytoestrogens (also called plant oestrogens). Phytoestrogens have a similar structure to the human hormone oestrogen, but they are different from oestrogen and have much weaker effects.

The two main types of phytoestrogens are isoflavones and lignans.

Sources of isoflavones in our diet include soybeans and soya products such as texturized vegetable protein, tofu and soya drinks or yogurts, beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

Sources of lignans in our diet include wholegrains, linseeds, fruit and vegetables

· Herbal supplements such as black cohosh, St John’s wort, sage and other Chinese herbs are believed to help relieve menopausal symptoms, although more research is needed to confirm effectiveness

· Nutritional supplements have a number of benefits:

o Vitamin B6 - Supports the regulation of hormonal activity

o Calcium and vitamin D - Helps reduce the loss of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Low bone mineral density is a risk factor for osteoporotic bone fractures

o Magnesium - Contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue

o Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) - Contributes to normal mental performance

o Zinc - Helps contribute to the maintenance of skin, hair and nails

o Thiamine (vitamin B1) - Contributes to normal heart function

Lifestyle changes can also have a positive effect such as giving up smoking, and taking up regular physical activity for at least 150 minutes over the space of a week. Muscle-strengthening activity such as yoga and exercising with weights is important for supporting your bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis.

If you are struggling with symptoms such as those mentioned here, contact me today to arrange a consultation appointment.

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