Hot flushes and night sweats are the hallmark of the menopause and a common symptom, with up to 75 percent of women suffering with them.
A hot flush is a feeling of intense heat, generally spreading from your face, neck and chest and can last for several minutes. You may have little warning and experience a sudden rush of heat, causing visible signs of facial flushing as the blood flow is redirected to the skin and it is common to begin sweating. Immediately following a hot flush there can be a significant drop in body temperature and a chill may be experienced.
The exact reason for hot flushes and night sweats is still not fully understood and research is on-going, though it is thought they are typically caused by fluctuating hormone levels, which confuses the hypothalamus, the body’s thermostat, into thinking your body is too hot. Other potential triggers are spicy foods, caffeine, stress, smoking and alcohol.
Natural remedies for hot flushes and night sweats include black cohosh, which contains plant hormones that can act as herbal hormone therapy. Sage is effective in cooling the blood, try making a herbal infusion and drink two or three cups a day. Dong Quai may help balance the pituitary gland. Soy products, ginseng and evening primrose oil have also been suggested to help relieve symptoms. At the same time, regular exercise, meditation and breathing exercises may be of some benefit.
If natural remedies are not effective in treating your hot flushes or night sweats, you may want to consider hormone replacement therapy. Discuss it with your doctor who will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment.
Menopause can be responsible for about a ten to fifteen pound weight gain, with up to 90 percent of menopausal women gaining some weight.
Much of this weight, approximately one pound per year, is gained during peri-menopause. As your oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels drop it brings about a change in body shape, and fat starts to accumulate around your middle section rather than your hips and buttocks, making it feel like you have gained more weight as your waist bands start to feel tighter.
As we age our metabolism also slows down and our muscle mass diminishes, causing the composition of the body to shift to more fat and less muscle – and having more fat than muscle means your metabolic system burns less calories.
So if you continue to eat the way you have been doing, you are likely to gain weight. Fat cells also contain oestrogen, and as your oestrogen levels drop your body is keen to hold on to as much oestrogen as it can, making it extra hard for you to lose the weight.
You need to make changes in your lifestyle and commit to an exercise programme. Take a look at your diet and your portion sizes. Most of us eat far more than we need –
eating 250 fewer calories a day could help control your weight.
The Menopause 30 Day Concierge Programme is a great way to kick start your new routine if you’re floundering. Each day you are given a diet plan with easy to follow recipes, all specifically tailored towards your changing body’s requirements. This is complimented by a daily exercise plan and a daily health and beauty routine.
During menopause women often experience mood swings because of their unbalanced hormones, which can have you laughing one minute and crying the next, and these moods can be compounded by other menopausal symptoms such as disturbed sleep due to night sweats, fatigue and weight gain.
Midlife is also a time when there can be other stressful life events going on, such as problems with relationships, work pressure or issues with children, especially if they have reached puberty and have their own hormonal issues.
Mood swings happens to most women, so you’re not alone. Sometimes just knowing why you are feeling like you do can be a relief. You can’t stop the menopause from happening, so it’s better to try and work with it rather than against it.
Take a look at your diet as this may be contributing towards your mood swings. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates and eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fish and fruit. Exercise helps to release serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. You should be doing some form of exercise every day, for least 20 minutes.
Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself; take the time to indulge in things you enjoy and treat yourself at least once a week.
The menopause can be a very emotional journey, the more you understand it the more you will be in control of it.
Some women will experience an influx of headaches when they enter Peri-menopause. Fluctuating hormones cause blood vessels to dilate and constrict, resulting in head pain. There are several types of headaches you may suffer from, ranging from a mild to severe migraine. With symptoms such as a throbbing pain in the head, intense pain in a specific area, nausea, sensitivity to light and pain lasting up to twenty four hours or longer.
Tension headaches are the most common, with the feeling of a tight elastic band being pressed around your head, this may also cause tension and pain in the back of your neck, at the base of your skull.
If you suffered from headaches during your menstrual periods, you will probably suffer during menopause too.
A good diet will help level out hormone imbalances to a certain degree, and non-prescription drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can offer relief.
Try keeping a note on your calendar to see if there is anything specific that triggers your headaches or migraines, cheese and chocolate are quite common culprits – If a pattern does show up, it will make it easier for you to eliminate whatever is causing the problem.
Sometimes dehydration can cause headaches, so try drinking a large glass of water. Alternatively try taking a shower, cascading hot water down your neck and back will relax muscles and may help to alleviate pain.
Apart from hot flushes, fatigue is one of the most frequently experienced symptoms of menopause, which is hardly surprising if your sleep is constantly being disturbed by night sweats, restless legs and sleeping disorders. Even if you do manage to get a full eight hours sleep, fatigue can affect you, as it involves lack of energy rather than drowsiness.
You can help your menopause fatigue by making a few lifestyle changes. Nutrition is very important and you should be eating ‘energy type foods’ to help raise blood glucose levels. Stay away from sugar and refined carbohydrates that will give you a quick sugar rush, but also drop you back down quickly as well. Eat the good carbohydrates that will produce a gradual and sustained release of energy. Fatigue is also one more reason for you to exercise, keeping active gives you more energy – so don’t forget to do your 20 minutes a day.
Take the time to look after yourself and do something self-indulgent on a regular basis. Create a relaxing environment in your home, have fresh flowers, light candles and play soothing music. Make sure you also have some fun, invite friends round for supper or organise some social event, someone has to do it, and most people are happy to rely on others to sort it out.
As we age we do require less sleep, but it seems to be in menopause that we begin losing sleep. Night sweats will obviously be one reason for disturbed sleep and may cause you to waken several times during the night. Some women may also experience restless legs, which is another annoying disorder that may keep you awake – this is where you have the urge to constantly move your legs. There is no known cause for this, but it has been connected to low iron levels and dopamine abnormalities, which is a chemical found in the brain that controls muscle activity.
Constant interruptions in your sleep pattern will have a noticeable effect on your daily life and can cause depression, fatigue, effects on memory and an inability to concentrate on daily tasks.
Try to avoid stimulants before bedtime, such as caffeine and alcohol. Take warms baths, listen to relaxing music and make sure your bedroom is not too hot. Lavender is one of the most calming herbs and can be used in a variety of ways to help induce sleep. Use flowers and essential oils in baths, room sprays, sleep sprays, pot-pourri and sleep pillows.
Check out The Menopause Secret, where you will find much more information on sleep disorders and natural remedies.
Your memory starts to decline from around the age of 20. So by the time you reach the grand old age of menopause you would think you would have adjusted to short term memory loss and fuzzy thinking. Still it seems to come out of nowhere, and these ‘senior moments’ can be very frustrating when names and numbers seem to completely evade you, and you seem to have acquired the inability to focus on everyday tasks as your mind decides to wander off.
You are not going mad and you are not alone. That ‘Spacie’ feeling effects most women at some stage and you have every right to blame it on your hormones. Declining oestrogen levels have a large effect on the functions of the brain, including verbal word fluency (the ability to remember names and words) as well as language skills and moods. This decline also has an effect on your neurotransmitters in the brain, which regulate cognitive functions, including memory and the ability to concentrate.
Exercise will improve your circulation, helping your blood to carry more oxygen and energy to your brain, making you more alert. Meditate to practice your concentrations skills and calm your overloaded mind. You can also try doing some brain exercises to improve your memory and alertness. You will find a whole section on recommended brain exercises in The Menopause Secret.
Irregular periods are one of the earliest symptoms of Peri-menopause and an indication that your hormone levels are beginning to fluctuate. Your periods may become longer and heavier or shorter and lighter.
When your ovaries start running out of eggs, your hormone secretion becomes erratic. Some months you may ovulate and some you may not. Oestrogen levels can rise sharply and then drop, which means you may miss periods or even have them more frequently, with a heavier flow than usual during some months. Your periods are likely to become increasingly irregular and unpredictable before eventually stopping altogether.
Try and keep track of your menstrual cycle and make a note of any significant changes. It is important to know when your last period took place, because once twelve months have gone by without a period, you will have finally reached menopause. It is worth remembering that over ninety percent of women who have not had a period for six months do not ever have another one.
There is still a possibility of becoming pregnant during this stage, so remember to take precautions.
Most women notice a change in their skin during and after menopause, and complain mainly of loss of firmness, elasticity and dryness. Unfortunately, there is no stopping the ageing process. From the moment we are born we start to age and by the time we have spent forty-plus years on planet Earth gravity, sun damage, lifestyle choices and environmental pollution all start to take their toll.
Oestrogen is very involved in the normal function of the skin, and the diminished levels during the menopause transition will contribute to a decline in elastin and collagen fibres, which support the skin, giving it firmness and smoothness. The decline in collagen is greatest in the years just after menopause – about thirty percent is lost during the first five years and about two percent every year after that.
Unfortunately we can’t turn back the clock, but we can take preventative measures to delay the ageing process for as long as possible, and that means working from the inside out. Your diet should include all the vitamins and minerals your skin needs, such as zinc and copper, which keep the skin supple and can be found in turkey and sesame seeds. Vitamin C and E for their anti-oxidants and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. More detailed information on looking after your skin during the menopause can be found in The Menopause Secret.
Don’t forget to:
*Wear a sun screen
*Drink plenty of water
*Practice the facial exercises we have included in The Menopause Secret
*Keep skin well moisturised
What is Osteoporosis?
Our bones are made up of collagen, calcium salts and other minerals. Each bone is made up of a thick outer shell and a strong inner mesh of bone, which looks a little like a honeycomb.
Most people tend to think of their bones as rigid structures, but your bones are alive and constantly changing and regenerating throughout your life. Old worn bone is broken down by cells called ‘osteoclasts’ and replaced by bone building cells called ‘osteoblasts’. In adults it takes approximately seven to ten years for the skeleton to completely renew itself.
Without adequate levels of oestrogen and progesterone, bones aren't able to absorb the proper amounts of calcium to replenish bone mass as cells die off. The body also has trouble in controlling the amount of bone cells that are destroyed, without oestrogen to regulate the function. As oestrogen levels diminish during menopause, the osteoclasts (responsible for the breakdown of bones) seem to live longer than the osteoblasts. This leads to bones being broken down at a rate much greater than they can be rebuilt, causing bones to grown weak and brittle.
There are a few measurers that can be taken to prevent the onset of osteoporosis:
Exercise – Weight bearing exercises use bone and muscle to work against gravity. Working against resistance will increase bone density. Include exercises such as stair climbing, brisk walking, jogging and yoga. If you find exercising too painful, due to osteoporosis or arthritis, then try doing your workout in the water to relieve some of the pressure.
Calcium – Eating foods with high calcium content will be beneficial, but in order for the calcium to be absorbed by the body, magnesium and vitamin D must be present. Broccoli is one of the menopause super foods. Surprisingly, milk isn't, due to its lack of magnesium and vitamin D. Watch out for spinach too, although it is high in calcium the body cannot absorb it due to the oxalic acid content.
If you are concerned about developing osteoporosis talk to your doctor about arranging a bone density scan.