Menopause is a time of great change. It’s been described as ‘being like an adolescent again, but with confidence and experience’. Really?
The time of life we call the menopause usually creeps up on women aged between 45 and 55, the time when the number of eggs in your ovaries drops below a critical level. And in this world where being youthful and fruitful are so vitally important, the general view of the menopause and its associated challenges and ‘old crone’ image is often unkind.
Many women fear that middle-age milestone. They worry about losing their sex appeal and drive, their sparkle, their memory and their femininity. From here on, they dread the years that lie ahead, with little to look forward to but aching bones, physical infirmities and an assured place in ‘the waiting room’.
If that’s what you believe, that’s exactly what you may experience. In fact, the menopause could be the best thing that has ever happened to you. It’s a rite of passage, a passing into a period when the stresses and demands of younger life become diluted, allowing you more time for introspection and reflection. It’s a time for you
Recognising the menopause
As your levels of oestrogen – female sex hormones – fluctuate, you may suffer with hot flushes, forgetfulness, fatigue, headaches and loss of sex drive. Some women experience few, if any, hormonal changes, but many are stricken with puberty-like symptoms that can, frankly, be a pain. The puce-faced woman at the boardroom table is not having fun!
Because oestrogen is used by so many parts of the body, your first signs of menopause may range from a loss or increase in sex drive to vaginal dryness, hot flushes, trouble sleeping, weight gain, headaches or thinning hair. All these symptoms are quite normal, but if you’re not able to handle the discomfort you should visit your medical practitioner.
What you can do to ease the symptoms
Changes in diet, exercise and your point of view can ease the transition into the next chapter of your life:
*This is not the time to pig out on takeaways. Instead, a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will definitely give you more energy.
- Reduced oestrogen increases your chances of developing osteoporosis, so make sure you eat calcium-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish packed with calcium. Salmon, broccoli, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa, the recommended daily calcium intake for post-menopausal women is 1000–1500 milligrams per day. If you aren’t getting enough, take a good-quality calcium and other mineral supplement such as Flora Force DensiMax™.
- Plant oestrogens may replace lost human oestrogen. Called phyto-oestrogens, plant oestrogens are converted by the body into a substance similar to oestrogen. For example, fruits, vegetables and grains containing the chemical compounds can reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Try flaxseed and soy for optimal amounts of lignans, chemical compounds that regulate human hormone levels.
- Magnesium is important during menopause because it allows your bones to absorb calcium. Magnesium also reduces irritability, insomnia, anxiety and mood swings. You’ll find magnesium in almonds, cashews, kale, kelp and wheat bran.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and trout, as well as nuts, leafy green vegetables and olive oil – help counteract mood swings.
- Take supplements such as Dong Quai, Mexican Wild Yam and Phyto-Mone™. Vitamin B, C and E are also useful.
A Spanish study at the University of Granada revealed that three hours of exercise a week could significantly reduce the intensity of hot flushes ad other menopausal symptoms. Try walking briskly for 25 minutes a day or enrol for a twice-a-week yoga class; you’ll feel good, it’s a promise!
Watch your thoughts
Menopause is a period of transition – and transitions of any kind can be inherently difficult. However, your attitude towards it can have a tremendous impact on your experience. For example, if you dread having hot flushes and depression, the chances are you’ll experience them intensely.
So your best bet is to change those negative thoughts. As a menopausal friend H. told me, ‘I see my hot flushes as power surges. I always feel alive and vital afterwards.’ And she, like many other positive women, is experiencing a newfound sense of freedom and personal growth. ‘I’m taking stock and appreciating what I am, what I’ve achieved and and what I have in my life,’ she added. ‘Life has become more beautiful and my love ones more precious than ever.’ It’s all in your attitude.
Laugh more – you’ll feel more positive, stimulate your immune system and help you to cope better with the stressful times.
Relax when you can. Even just 15 minutes of ‘you time’ with deep breathing will increase muscle relaxation, calm your mind, promote positive emotions, increase your ability to concentrate and even reduce the severity of hot flushes, insomnia and depression.
According to 57-year-old former lecturer Monica Troughton of the UK, ‘I was convinced that I’d turn into an old crone overnight. In fact, exactly the opposite has happened,’ she told The Daily Mail. ‘I have more energy and more confidence than I’ve ever had before. And I’ve become so much more daring.’ She has turned her talents to the stage and is now a ‘risqué’ comedienne.
‘Years ago, before “the change”, I would never have done anything so exciting. I used to be cautious and shy. Now, I’m daring and liberated – and I’ve got the menopause to thank.’
Viewing the menopause with dread seems to be a Western phenomenon. According to Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, chairperson of the British Menopause Society, women in India ‘have the same symptoms but they regard the menopause as a very positive experience, because getting old gives them more status, not less.’
This is the time of life when you need your good friends, especially those old girlfriends who have shared your life experiences and have experiences of their own to share.
So, menopause is not the start of a grey and shrinking world of old age. Instead, it’s the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in your life. Take the informed choice.