Our nutritionist, Marianna Sulic, replies to some common questions around menopause.
How common is it for women to experience menopausal symptoms?
Although symptoms will vary, most women will experience some degree of symptoms around the menopause, which can range in duration and severity.
On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience symptoms for up to 12 years.
What are the most common symptoms?
As the hormonal balance alters with the drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels many signs associated with ageing can appear. Skin is more likely to wrinkle, there can be an increased growth of facial hair and muscles lose some strength and tone. Many women suffer from hot flushes / night sweats feeling a short, but sudden feeling of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest causing one to sweat. Insomnia is common making you feel tired and irritable during the day. Your joints may begin to ache and bones become more brittle, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Vaginal dryness often results from the change in hormone levels causing painful or uncomfortable intercourse and leading to irritation and increased risk of infection such as cystitis.
When should a woman seek advice from a nutritional therapist?
I would recommend seeking professional advice from a nutritional therapist if you are experiencing menopausal symptoms that are causing you concern and affecting your daily life; if you’re experiencing symptoms of the menopause before 45 years of age and/or a nutritional therapist can give you guidance on the right foods to eat and supplements to naturally support your body during the change.
Dietary wise, what would you recommend in this area?
I would recommend increasing your intake of fresh, and preferably organic fruits and vegetables to avoid chemicals that mimic oestrogens (xenoestrogens) found in pesticides and herbicides.
Fermented soya-based foods, such as miso, soya sauce and tempeh, are rich in isoflavones (phyto-estrogens) that have oestrogen-like effects on the body. Studies show that isoflavones particularly help to manage hot flushes associated with the menopause. Isoflavones are also found in chickpeas, soya beans, lentils, alfalfa, fennel, kidney beans, and sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and flaxseeds. All seeds and their unrefined oils are rich in essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6, which help to reduce joint pain.
Foods from the brassica vegetable family, such as cabbage, watercress, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower help to balance hormones and can greatly alleviate menopausal symptoms.
What nutritional supplements would you recommend, and why?
I would recommend taking 2 capsules per day of Cleanmarine MenoMin, which contains Omega 3 fatty acids and soy isoflavones, as studies show a beneficial effect of a dietary soy supplement containing 40mg of isoflavones/day improved the management of hot flushes associated with the menopause.