Menopause

Introduction to the #Menopause

The Menopause is the name given to the time when a woman’s ovaries slowly stop working and periods therefore cease. This is a gradual transition for most women, known as the peri-menopause. The average age when periods finally stop is 51, with most women finding it happens between the ages of 40 and 58 years of age.  The transition into the menopause usually begins with elongation of the cycle length, the term postmenopausal being used after one year with no periods.  The fall in levels of oestrogen is associated in variety of symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability and joint pains.

Roughly 80% of women suffer from some menopausal symptoms which last on average for 2 years, but for some women the symptoms can last for over 5 years. Symptoms vary from woman to woman and for some they are quite mild but for others it can affect quality of life.

The menopause can herald the onset of several conditions:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hot flushes
  • Weight gain
  • Aching joints
  • Calcium loss from the bones which in individuals with lower bone mass can lead to osteoporosis
  • Rising blood pressure

These conditions are mostly caused by falling oestrogen levels and the most common symptoms found in western society are hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbance and the symptoms can start during the peri-menopuse.

The posts under the menopause section will hopefully give some insight into ways diet and lifestyle can reduce the secerity of menopusal symptoms and all findings and advice are based on recent solid research into the area.

Introduction to the Menopause

Introduction to the Menopause

Menopausal symptoms occur when the ovaries start to ‘wind-down’ and slowly cease to produce the hormone oestrogen.  This winding down phase is known as the peri-menopause and can occur for a number of years and may be accompanied by irregular periods and the start of the recognised menopausal symptoms.  The true menopause occurs when periods completely stop as a result of the oestrogen lack.  It occurs at an average age of 51 years, but may happen between the ages of 45 and 55.  Younger women can be affected too, due to a natural premature menopause or a premature menopause brought on by surgery, when both ovaries are removed.

 

Some   menopausal symptomsOsteoporosis, hot flushes, night   sweats, anxiety, depression, declining libido, panic attacks, palpitations,   poor urinary function, ageing skin, lack of energy, joint pains and general   aches and pains, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, headaches and change   in hair quality.

 

 

One of the most effective ways of treating menopausal symptoms is through diet and lifestyle; eating a healthy diet, being the right weight and keeping physically active.  .  These actions will also help overcome many of the other health problems that can develop at this time of life such as joint problems, thinning bones, weight gain and increased blood pressure.

Even if you receive treatment from your GP for difficult menopausal symptoms, a healthy diet will form a firm foundation and help the treatment work more effectively.  It may even help you to need the minimum of medication, whether it be blood pressure tablets, drugs or supplements for osteoporosis, or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  And eating for a healthy menopause does not need to be all soybeans, tofuburgers and mung beans.

 

This website has lots of ideas on what foods are good to eat during the menopause

Introduction to the Menopause

Today’s menopausal generation have many more ‘tools’ at their disposal for getting through the menopause than our grandmothers’ and even mothers’ generation had!  We now know so much more about it and sharing of ideas, reading about it and talking about it is no longer so taboo!.

One of those ‘tools’ we can adopt is to eat a healthy diet, and a diet that can be tailored to overcome or at least reduce those menopausal symptoms.  A healthy diet will also help us to overcome many of the other health problems that can develop at this time of life such as joint problems, thinning bones, weight gain and increased blood pressure.  Even if we receive treatment from your GP for difficult menopausal symptoms, a healthy diet will form a firm foundation and help the treatment work better.  It may even help us to require the minimum of medication, whether it be blood pressure tablets, drugs or supplements for osteoporosis, or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  There is so much nutritional information at our disposal nowadays, but some of it can be inaccurate..

These days there is an enormous variety of foods to choose from, so it is easier than ever to modify our diets to address particular health issues.  Furthermore, this variety of food is easily accessible at our major supermarkets.  Cooking and preparing food, with all the gadgets we have at our fingertips is also less labour intensive than before. 

Remember, eating for a healthy menopause does not need to be all soybeans, tofuburgers and mung beans. 

Menopausal symptoms occur when the ovaries start to ‘wind-down’ and slowly cease to produce the hormone oestrogen.  To be strictly accurate, this winding down phase is known as the peri-menopause and can occur for a number of years and may be accompanied by irregular periods and the start of the recognised menopausal symptoms.  The true menopause occurs when periods completely stop as a result of the oestrogen lack.  It occurs at an average age of 51 years, but may happen between the ages of 45 and 55.  Younger women can be affected too, due to a natural premature menopause or a premature menopause brought on by surgery, when both ovaries are removed.  The most common symptoms of declining oestrogen levels are:

Some menopausal symptomsOsteoporosis, hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, declining libido, panic attacks, palpitations, poor urinary function, ageing skin, lack of energy, joint pains and general aches and pains, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, headaches and change in hair quality.

 

Alternative to HRT?

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring hormones found in plant foods which can weakly mimic the female hormone, oestrogen.  However, they only do this when the females own oestrogen levels fall due to the menopause.  As well as possibly helping to reducing some menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, they may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Although much weaker than HRT, they are believed to not increase the risk of breast or endometrial cancer.

Currently there is much research being done on phytoestrogens and what’s coming out is not always clear cut! If you do want to give them a go, Phytoestrogens seem to work best coming from the diet rather than supplements and they may work more efficiently if eaten with a diet high in fish oils and seeds which contain the omega 3 fatty acids.  So don’t forget to get some oily fish in your diet every week.

Phytoestrogens are found on many fruits, vegetables, seeds and beans, but are found in the highest concentrations in soya products, including tofu and soya milk, chick peas, linseeds and wheat bran.

Bone health

During the menopause, the bone looses calcium at an accelerated rate, so anything that helps to alleviate this is important.  As well as maintaining weight bearing exercise, the diet can play a big part.  Calcium contributes about 1kg to the average woman’s body.  As well as being vital in bone strength, it aids blood in clotting, helps the nerves transmit signals, prevents muscle cramps and skin problems, can help insomnia, depression and cognitive impairment. To provide the body with essential calcium, we must eat a wide range of  calcium rich foods which include, milk, cheese and yogurts, fortified soya milk, beans, tofu, sardines, dried fruit, beans and some peas and seeds.  In order to absorb calcium, we need to eat vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin found in oily fish, eggs and butter or margarine.  Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables has also been shown to protect the bones, and phytoestrogens may be protective too.  To much salt and alcohol in the diet however are detrimental to bone health.

Ticker happy!

Increased risk of heart disease is also a result of the menopause.  Certainly, as women age, they catch up with men in the risk of cardiovascular disease.  There are several ways of decreasing the risk of heart disease and strokes:

  • Increase the use of phytoestrogens, these have been shown to have cardio-protective effects.
  • Don’t eat too much fat and use the right ones- any oils and fats based in rapeseed oil (called canola oil in the USA) or olive oil have been found to be the most heart protective- these are what we have used in our recipes.  Rape seed oil is best because it contains both a high level of monosaturated fats and is rich in heart protecting omega 3 fats.  Olive oil is also an oil rich in monosaturated fats.
  • Other seed/nut oils are also healthy because they tend to be monosaturated and /or rich in omega 3 oil.  These include walnut oil, sesame seed oil, and linseed (flaxseed) oil.  They are especially good if used in salad dressings as they retain their best nutritional benefits if they are not heated.  Sunflower oil, rich in polyunsaturated fats, is also not too bad and may help to lower harmful fats in the blood.  However eating too much polyunsaturated fat may cause oxidative damage to the body.
  • Avoid a diet high saturated fats- these tend to be based on animal fats and are harder at room temperature. This includes lard, butter, cream and dripping.
  • Avoid trans fats- these are artificially hardened fats and oils and are found particularly in cheap pastries, pies and biscuits. 
  • Cut down on your salt- salt increases your blood pressure which is a huge risk for stroke and heart disease.  In our recipes we have used the least salt necessary for flavour
  • Keep your weight down to sensible levels by eating good nutritious food but avoid the junk. 

 

Weight issues

It is important to watch the weight as we get older.  It tends to be harder to lose weight as we age and easier too pile it on.  Excess weight after the menopause can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and other harmful blood fats, raised blood pressure, and increased risk of several cancers, worsening joint problems and diabetes. Eating nutritious food and avoiding the junk will help.

Some oils are better for us than others because of their balance of essential fatty acids (the omega 3 oils and omega 6 oils) and because they have less saturated fat (see above).  However all fats and oils, unless labelled reduces fat have the same number of calories which is roughly 900 calories per 100g or 45 calories per teaspoon!  So it is important to try and keep total fat intake down when watching our weight as fats are so calorie dense, but the fats and oils we do choose should be the healthier variety. Also, don’t forget we need to be active- you will be able to enjoy the recipes in this book even more if you are good and hungry for your next meal! 

However, we should not aim to be too thin: We continue to produce some oestrogen after the menopause, but it is manufactured in the adipose (fat) tissue rather than in the ovaries.  That is why it is not good to be too thin after the menopause as we miss out and producing some of our own natural oestrogen which may help to offset some of the menopausal symptoms.  Being too thin is also another risk factor for osteoporosis.

Menopausal symptoms and foods that can help

 

SYMPTOM                            FOOD

Hot flushes                             All soya foods.  Linseed

                                                Watch spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol

Mood Swings, Anxiety &      Regular eating, try and include a starchy food with each

Irritability                              meal.

                                                Foods high in magnesium such as brown rice, whole wheat, whole rye, beans, lentils and peas and green vegetables

Watch caffeine, sugary foods and alcohol

Insomnia                                Avoid caffeine too late at night

                                                Avoid eating a big meal late in the evening but try a bedtime snack which contains some milk or yogurt and something starchy such as natural yoghurt and a banana or a rye crispbread with cottage cheese or just some hot milk and a couple of low fat biscuits. 

Heavy Bleeding                      Replace the lost iron with an iron rich diet, such as red meat, green vegetables, beans and sardines

Vaginal Dryness                    Soya products such as tofu or soya milk or linseed may help this as it replaces lost oestrogen

Osteoporosis                           Calcium rich foods and foods rich in Vitamin D.  Weight bearing exercise. Phytoestrogens rich foods may also help.

Night Sweats                          Sage taken as a tea at bedtime (3-5 leaves in hot, not boiling water).  Sage leaves in cooking.  Phytoestrogen rich foods as night sweats are also due to lack of oestrogen.

Ageing skin                            An anti-oxidant rich diet containing plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and seeds.  All foods high in Vitamin E such as nuts, avocados, seeds and oily fish.  Essential fatty acids such as those found in vegetable oil, nuts and fish oils.

Depression                             A diet containing plenty of oily fish.  If you drink a lot of alcohol, then make sure you have a diet rich in B vitamins, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese and wholegrain cereals.

Joint pains                              Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, the oil found in oily fish (omega 3 fat) is believed to help alleviate joint pains. Low oestrogen levels can bring on joint pains too, so foods rich in phytoestrogens, see above can also help.

Bloating                                  Reduce the salt in your diet by not adding at the table, cooking with less and avoiding too many processed foods, especially cheaper ‘junky’ ones.  Keep the kidneys working efficiently by drinking plenty of fluid, especially plain water.

 

Constipation and                   Eat plenty of fibre which is derived from wholegrain.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome    cereals, fruit and vegetables.  Make sure you drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol

To summarise

Eat a wide variety of foods. This will ensure our bodies get a mixture of all the nutrients we need.  To maximise flavour and nutritional content, we should also try and eat food which has been made from really fresh ingredients- this will also negate the need to enhance the flavour with salt.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and use ingredients based on wholegrains and foods which have not had their fibre rich outer layers removed.  This ensures we get the maximum nutritional value from the food and the fibre too!

Eat a little starch with every meal, e.g. brown rice, pasta, wholegrain bread or breakfast cereals.  The combination of a good quality starch regulates blood sugar effectively. Each main meal should also contain some protein and lots of vegetables or salad.  A diet containing plenty of phytoestrogens may help to combat many menopausal symptoms.

GLOSSARY

Amino Acids               Building blocks of protein.  There are 22 amino acids, but eight are essential because they must be obtained from food.  Protein is broken down into amino acids and then used to make other body proteins.

Antioxidants               Substances that stop oxidation (when a substance is exposed to oxygen).  When oxidation occurs it creates a chemical reaction which is linked to cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and premature ageing

Betacarotene               The vegetable form of Vitamin A.  A powerful anti-oxidant.  Found in many vegetables and fruits with an orange or green pigment, such as carrots, dark leafy greens and oranges.

Flavonoids                  Substances with antioxidant properties which help neutralise potentially damaging free radicals.  They may also help to increase the effectiveness of vitamin C.  Sources include fruits (especially the skins). Onions, tea and wine.

Essential Fatty Acids  Unsaturated fats, which are a vital component of human cells and necessary to insulate nerve cells.  Keeps skin and arteries supple and may help balances hormones.  Found in nuts, seeds, oily fish and vegetables

Phytoestrogens            Some plants are rich in plant substances called isoflavones that are often referred to as phytoestrogens or plant oestrogens because they have a structure similar to the female oestrogen hormone, which can bind to oestrogen receptors and exert a weak oestrogenic effect when there are low levels of circulating oestrogen in the body.  Soya are particularly high in these isoflavones. Lignans are another form of phytoestrogen which is found particularly in linseed (flaxseed) and wheatbran.

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Being underweight can trigger early menopause

Being underweight can trigger early menopause

A large study of nearly 80,000 women found that being underweight could lead to early menopause.

The women sampled were part of the Nurses’ Health Study II between and, amongst other information gathered, the researchers collected stats on their height, weight, and menopausal status.  Early menopause was defined as occurring before the age of 45.

It was found that women with a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 at any age were 30% more likely to experience early menopause compared with women whose BMI was between 18.5 and 22.4 which is considered normal.  They also discovered that women whose BMI was between 25 and 29.9 were up to 30 % less likely to experience early menopause.

The highest likelihood of having early menopause seemed to be among women who, when they were 18 years old, had a BMI below 18.5 and reported having experienced “severe weight cycling.”  Also, women who had a BMI lower than 17.5 at the age of 18 were 50% more likely to have an early menopause compared with normal-weight women.

An early menopause occurs in about 10% of women and is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions such as cognitive decline, osteoporosis, and premature death.  So being underweight at any time of their fertile years should be avoided

Reference:

https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/4562350

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

The 10 best menopuse blogs

The 10 best menopause blogs from the US

Taken from Medical News today 2/11/17:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319890.php?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly

Note, although these are US based blogs,  they are relevant for UK market!

 

Ellen Dolgen

Ellen Dolgen logo

Ellen Dolgen is a blogger, author, speaker, and health, wellness, and menopause advocate. She has dedicated the past decade to “sharing the keys to the menopause kingdom” with the goal of empowering women to promote their health.

Ellen educates women about perimenopause and menopause in a style that entertains while providing them with a roadmap to help address their menopausal journey.

Her blog Menopausal Mondays is designed as “The Girlfriend’s Guide” to survive and thrive during the menopause years. She includes articles such as the link between osteoporosis and menopauseand how to maintain your bone health, tips for hot flash relief, and myths that are connected with menopause and sex.

Visit Ellen Dolgen’s blog.

Menopause Goddess

Menopause Goddess Blog logo

Lynette Sheppard is the creator of the blog Menopause Goddess. She says that the menopause turned her life upside down and disrupted her life as a writer, artist, consultant, and loving spouse.

Together with her many goddesses, Lynette provides health resources, advice, guides to help women through menopause, and a community for women to share their life changes.

Posts on the Menopause Goddess include details of a hormone that is linked to menopausal weight gain, natural relief for menopause-related insomnia, and how to tackle hormonal mood swings.

Visit the Menopause Goddess blog.

MiddlesexMD

MiddlesexMD logo

Dr. Barb DePree is a gynecologist, and she has been a women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a specialist in the area of menopausal care for the past 10 years.

Dr. DePree started MiddlesexMD to share clinically sound information and guides with women going through menopause. Her mission is for the blog to be a safe and comfortable place where women can learn, understand, and talk about sex at menopause and beyond.

The MiddlesexMD blog explores a range of topics, such as whether or not vitamins will be effectivefor hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, how late menopause is, overall, a good thing, and news of a new drug for painful sex.

Visit the MiddlesexMD blog.

University of Rochester Medical Center

URMC logo

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is one of the top academic medical centers in the U.S. The URMC have a mission to improve the health of the community through transformative approaches to education, research, and compassionate care.

The URMC’s menoPAUSE Blog often reports on the advances in our understanding of the process and management of menopause. The blog discusses all areas of the menopause transition and draws from information generated by experts in the field of menopause.

Recent articles on menoPAUSE Blog include the story of progesterone: from the first occurrence of menstruation to menopause, the window of health opportunity that unfolds during perimenopause, and information on menopause, metabolism, and visceral fat accumulation.

Visit the URMC menoPAUSE Blog.

Red Hot Mamas

Red Hot Mamas logo

Red Hot Mamas is the creation of Karen Giblin. She started the blog after having undergone a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. Although Karen was prepared for her surgery, she was not prepared for the disrupting symptoms of menopause that she would experience after the surgery.

Red Hot Mamas aims to address the confusion that surrounds menopause by providing medically sound and evidence-based information, along with plenty of support, for women who feel frightened, anxious, or embarrassed about their symptoms.

Recent articles on the blog include steps on how to take time for yourself during menopause, how to deal with urinary incontinence as an inevitable side effect of menopause, and solutions for better sleep during menopause.

Visit the Red Hot Mamas blog.

Menopausal Mother

Menopausal Mother logo

Marcia Kester Doyle is the Menopausal Mother. She is a wife, mother to four children, and grandparent to one. Marcia comes from south Florida, “the land of surf and sun, hurricanes and incredible concoctions made with rum.”

Menopausal Mother shares reflections on the good, bad, and ugly sides of the mayhem caused by menopause. She invites you into her world, which she fondly labels as “the nuthouse,” to experience rogue humor at its finest.

Posts by Menopausal Mother include content such as how to be a hipster despite your advanced age, a husband’s perspective on the ways that menopause has changed his wife, and what you need to know about menopause and foot pain.

Visit the Menopausal Mother blog.

Friend For The Ride

Friend For The Ride logo

Barbara Younger writes the blog Friend For The Ride. She began her blog after hitting a wall when looking for information from friends when she started going through menopause. While some of Barbara’s friends remembered some of the symptoms, it appeared as though most had gone onto the next stage of life without remembering the specifics.

Barbara provides encouraging words for women on the menopause roller coaster ride. She blogs about everything related to menopause, from night sweats to food cravings, and other aspects of womanhood.

The Friend For The Ride blog covers subject matter such as reasons that Barbara is happy and sadthat her periods have ended, menopause tips for fairy godmothers, and mindfulness and menopause.

Visit the Friend For The Ride blog.

Menopause Sisters

Menopause Sisters logo

The Menopause Sisters include Laura Dankof, Nancy Munro, Angie Buskhol, and Colleen Otto, who are four sisters from Iowa. They strive to help women who are hit with physical and mental stress during the menopausal stage of their life.

Menopause Sisters provides health information on symptom relief tips, treatment options, and the root causes behind the symptoms. Whether you are experiencing discomfort from the symptoms of menopause or want to reduce your risk of symptoms of hormonal imbalances, the Menopause Sisters are there to give support.

Some recent posts on the blog include why perimenopausal and menopausal women experience stronger body odor and bad breathwhether menopause makes you feel more emotional, and a discussion on relief from hot flashes and night sweats.

Visit the Menopause Sisters blog.

Menopause Taylor

Menopause Taylor logo

Dr. Barbara Taylor is the woman behind the blog Menopause Taylor. She is an obstetrician and gynecologist who retired from practice due to severe arthritis.

Dr. Taylor’s passion is helping women, with a focus on menopause. She feels that educational and support services for women before, during, and after menopause are inadequate, and her ultimate goal is to provide services that empower women to manage their menopause, their way.

Articles on Menopause Taylor include the menopausal window of opportunity, the menopause from a male’s perspective, and how menopause is not about hot flashes; it is about heart attacks.

Visit the Menopause Taylor blog.

The North American Menopause Society

NAMS logo

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting women’s health and quality of life, both during and beyond menopause, and healthy aging.

The NAMS MenoPause Blog strives to deliver the most recent and interesting information about midlife health and menopause.

The latest content posted on the MenoPause Blog includes weight loss strategies in menopause, new information about hot flashes, and the reasons why men do not have menopause.

Visit the NAMS MenoPause Blog.

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Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Menopause and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause

14 September 2017

Menopause is caused by a gradual fall in a woman’s hormone levels, leading to a cessation of periods, while in PCOS periods may be disrupted and excessive androgens and insulin are produced.

PCOS symptoms may continue during and after menopause, which happens at an average age of 51.  So when women go through menopause, they may still experience symptoms of PCOS and the menopause.  However, women with PCOS tend to go through menopause 2 years later than women without the condition.

Women with PCOS produce a higher level of the male sex hormone testosterone than most women do. The increase also affects the way insulin works, affecting the ability to control blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, the reduction in hormones that happens in the lead up to menopause does not redress the imbalance of hormones that causes PCOS; so menopause does not cure PCOS.

Some symptoms of perimenopause (the time leading up to the menopause) are similar to symptoms of PCOS.  So if a woman starts experiencing symptoms of PCOS in her 40s or 50s, when she may also be experiencing perimenopause, it can be hard to tell the two apart.  These symptoms include irregular or missed periods, mood changes, difficulty sleeping, thinning hair on the head and weight gain.  However symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats do not occur in PCOS only but can occur with PCOS symptoms at the time of the menopause.

Research has been conducted into how the hormone levels of women with PCOS change, as they get older.  It seems that over time, testosterone levels in women with PCOS decrease gradually but not to normal levels until 20 years after menopause.  This reduction does help to reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms with age.

There are several ways that women can help manage the shared symptoms of perimenopause and PCOS. These include managing weight, regular exercise and a healthy diet

 

See the following for further help:

PCOS App

 

PCOS book (Dummies guide):

 

Menopause kindle book

  • the #Menopause– how to cope; contains all the recent research on what helps:   http://goo.gl/WrRYY1
  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Gaynor+bussell+Menopause
  • ISBN: 9781909795020

 

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