Menopause usually begins somewhere around the age of 50 but can also start much earlier. It is the period before, during and after the last menstruation. The menopause actually takes place on one day: the day of the last menstruation. The menopause complaints will then slowly start to disappear after the last menstruation.
Hormonally, the menopause has two phases. During the first phase, the perimenopause, progesterone levels fall meaning that the oestrogen levels, relatively seen, rise. During this phase we speak of oestrogen dominance. Menstruations become more painful, you gain weight, suffer headaches, retain fluid, experience mood swings and often sleep poorly. During the second phase, the postmenopause, the oestrogen levels drop as the ovaries cease to work. This is often the period around the menopause when the menstruation becomes irregular and finally stops. During this phase moods become intense, you experience hot flushes, night sweats, loss of concentration, incontinence and osteoporosis (decreased bone strength). The last period is often the heaviest but there is a light at the end of the tunnel … most women regard the period after menopause as one of the happiest periods in their life.
During menopause you only require 65% of the calories that you required in your twenties. Falling progesterone levels mean that your metabolism slows down and this process occurs quite rapidly. Also, a falling oestrogen level can result in more stomach fat which means the waist can unfortunately disappear. As well as this you may experience an increased feeling of being hungry. It is, therefore, advisable to adjust your eating habits in time and to learn to deal with that feeling of being hungry. Read the tools Mindful Eating & Emotional Eating.
Belly and strength workouts
Building muscle mass is incredibly important during menopause. Keeping the big muscles in the legs strong will help to stay strong, in shape and active. It also keeps your skeleton strong and helps with keeping your balance.
Falling oestrogen also means a lower activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy. Women in the menopause suffer up to three times as much feelings of depression and feelings of anxiety. Ensure that you get enough daylight and walk/jog regularly. This stimulates the production of serotonin. Meditation can also help to control your mood swings. Read the tool Meditation.
During menopause your body’s heating system is disrupted. The hypothalamus sends a message to the brain saying that the temperature must be lowered. So that you don’t overheat, your body starts to sweat and your blood vessels swell which results in your face going red. Through a peak in your adrenaline you can often experience an ominous feeling just before a hot flush. This is completely normal and passes eventually. Hot flushes take about one to five minutes.
Sleeping poorly and stress
During menopause your cortisol levels drop which means your tolerance to stress lowers and your sleep cycle becomes disrupted. In the first phase of menopause extra progesterone may help and in the second phase extra oestrogen. Magnesium supplements can also help against sleeplessness and feelings of anxiousness. For a good nights rest it is important to go to bed before 23:00. Sleep in a cool, dark bedroom and avoid computers and television before going to sleep. To help yourself fall asleep peacefully it can help to do a bodyscan before going to sleep. You can find many bodyscan meditations on internet as well as some very good meditation apps.
Loss of concentration
During menopause women often experience a dip in their cognitive performances. The lowering levels of oestrogen and testosterone influence the memory and concentration functions. As a result you are less alert and your ability to reason also lowers. Perform tasks one at a time and do everything with your full attention. Tool: mindful living.
As the last eggs present themselves some women experience a peak in their desire for sex. Women in their early and middle 40’s often feel flirty and strongly attracted to genetic material. As menopause starts the testosterone levels remain constant meaning your libido remains good. Later on in menopause, many women experience a lower libido but this can be caused by many things. Exhausting children, a relationship in a dip, a badly functioning thyroid or a magnesium deficiency. Bad circulation and a drop in collagen can result in your vagina drying out. There are many creams available for this which can be purchased from the drugstore (for example coconut oil based). Is your libido very low? Then there is a good chance that your testosterone is too low. Keep having sex in this period as it will help to keep your libido up.
In the first phase the progesterone levels drop which means the oestrogen levels, relatively seen, are higher. We also speak of oestrogen dominance in this phase. Do you have the idea that you are in this phase, then the foundation ‘Be Happy’ would fit you.
Coffee, alcohol and soya products.
Fibre, cinnamon, onion, garlic, leek, bee pollen, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, radishes, rucola and cabbage).
In the second phase the oestrogen levels drop as the ovaries cease to function. Moods become more intense, you experience hot flushes, night sweats, loss of concentration, incontinence and osteoporosis (decreased bone strength). It can help to add vegetable oestrogen to your diet.
Coffee, alcohol and nicotine.
Fresh vegetables and vegetable oestrogen
The following products contain vegetable oestrogen:
- Legumes, such as: soya beans, lentils, peas and kidney beans.
- Seeds, such as: linseed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Grains, such as: oats, barley, rye.
- Fruit, such as: apples, pears, plums, cherries, cranberries, lemons and grapefruits.
- Vegetables, such as: broccoli, carrots and rhubarb.
- Certain herbs, such as: cinnamon, sage, red clover, hops, fennel and parsley.
The amino acid tryptophan can be a natural way to help lessen mood swings. There is plenty of tryptophan to be found in protein rich foods but also in pumpkin seeds, lentils, bananas, dates, grains, unpolished rice, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts.
General nutrition advice
Tip: Add to all the recipes and daily menus the ingredients that fit with the phase you are in. Prepare smoothies from vegetable oestrogen for an extra high concentration. On our website you can find delicious and nutritious recipes.