Ask The Expert: Menopause

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Here at Myvitamins, we know that menopause is an important part of women’s health. We asked expert, Beth Addey, to answer frequently asked questions. Whether you’re struggling with weight-gain, getting a good night’s sleep or hot flashes, we’ve got you covered.

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What is the difference between perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause?

Perimenopause is the first stage in the menopausal process. It can begin eight to ten years before menopause and is considered a transitional phase. This period of time is when the sex hormones fluctuate significantly, and we start to experience symptoms such as erratic menstrual cycles.

Menopause itself lasts approximately seven years, though can last up to fourteen. Over the following, four to five years is the postmenopause stage, where symptoms gradually decline. After 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle, you are considered to be in the postmenopausal stage.  

How do you avoid weight gain?

Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. Reduce intake of ultra-processed foods, such as cakes, crisps and fizzy drinks, and save them for the occasional treat.

Moving more throughout the day and sleeping more at night has also been associated with reduced risk of weight gain. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise spread throughout the week, including 2 sessions of strengthening exercise.

For sleep, 7-9 hours per night helps our bodies rest and repair and reduces cravings throughout the day too. 

Does the menopause magnet work?

Menopause magnets have been suggested to work by ‘rebalancing the autonomic nervous system (ANS)’, which becomes imbalanced during menopause. However, no research has been able to find an association between magnets and reduced menopause symptoms.

Furthermore, while the ANS may play a role in menopause, no relationship has been found. Therefore, there is no evidence that menopause magnets work. 

How do you get a good night’s sleep?

Working on good sleep hygiene is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep quality in general, and throughout menopause. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time on a daily basis to train your body to release waking and sleeping hormones at the same time each day.

You could develop a relaxing bedtime routine, such as having a cup of herbal tea, taking a warm bath and reading a few pages of a book. Use a blue light filter or glasses on your devices after sunset to keep melatonin production stable, and keep your bedroom calm, dark and quiet.

Finally, do your best to expose yourself to natural light throughout the day in order to maintain your circadian rhythm and cycle.  

How will I know when menopause is over?

Menopause is over when your symptoms have declined or disappeared altogether. You will likely be sleeping better at night and feeling more like yourself. Once your period has been absent for a year, you are officially in the postmenopausal phase. 

What are hot flashes? Is there a treatment for them?

A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat or warmth that often starts over the chest and upper body. This feeling can spread to your neck, face and other body areas, and may also occur at night.

Hot flashes are the most common symptom during menopause and vary in length from just a minute or two, to five minutes. The most effective treatment for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, there are some small changes we can make daily to reduce their prevalence and intensity.

Avoiding hot and spicy foods, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, stopping smoking and losing excess body weight are all lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of hot flashes.

What symptoms might I experience as I reach menopause?

The most common physical symptoms during menopause are erratic menstrual cycles, hot flashes, night sweats, loss of libido, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and a change in body shape and composition. Common mental and emotional symptoms include anxiety, depression and brain fog. 

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Can my diet impact menopause?

Research suggests that a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the intensity of menopause symptoms. Loosely following the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower symptom severity.

Particular foods and food groups may also reduce symptom extremity further, and minimise the risk of other conditions associated with menopause. For example, ensuring adequate calcium intake through two to three calcium-rich sources per day, plus supplementing with vitamin D to improve calcium absorption, can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis as our bones lose calcium through ageing.

Phytoestrogens found in plants can also mildly mimic human oestrogen through regular consumption daily. Foods such as flax seeds, soybeans and soybean products such as tofu, sesame seeds and dried fruits all contain phytoestrogens. 

How will menopause affect my sex drive?

Some of the more common symptoms of menopause include reduced libido and sex drive, alongside vaginal dryness. This occurs due to the reduction in both oestrogen and testosterone experienced throughout menopause.

Changes in body shape and composition can also lead to increased anxiety around sex. However, help is available. HRT may reduce these symptoms, and sexual counselling may also prove successful when completed both individually or with a partner.

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Beth Addey

Beth Addey

Writer and expert

Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) Beth is a Registered Associate Nutritionist specialising in vegan nutrition, nutritional psychology and weight management. Beth has a passion for holistic health, viewing overall health as the result of interactions between physical and emotional wellbeing.