Navigating Menopause and Perimenopause Through Healthy Eating and Exercise
Menopause marks a significant phase of change in a woman's life. This natural transition can bring about a range of challenging physical and emotional shifts, but they don't have to be daunting. With the right knowledge and coping strategies, you can embrace this new chapter and ensure you feel your best.
In this blog, we'll delve into the importance of healthy eating, the benefits of exercise and suitable exercise types to help you navigate menopause with confidence.
A quick overview of the menopause
The menopause is a phase all women go through at some point in their lives and for some, it can be a difficult time. Before we discuss how to make this transition as easy as possible, let’s just quickly clarify the difference between perimenopause and menopause*.
Perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause and typically begins in a woman's mid-40s, although it can start earlier,. During this phase, oestrogen levels start to decline, often causing irregular menstrual cycles, changes in mood, and various physical symptoms such as vaginal dryness and hot flushes.
Menopause typically occurs around the age of 50 (again sometimes earlier) and signifies the end of your periods. When you have gone a full 12 months without a period, you have officially reached the menopause. This change happens due to a continual decrease in the production of reproductive hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, which causes symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. There’s no denying that these symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing, which is why we’re here to help with some easy lifestyle strategies that can help you stay on form.
Re-assess your diet to support your body’s changing needs
As you age and enter perimenopause and menopause, everything starts to change, including your body’s nutritional needs. This is because fluctuations in hormones can contribute to weight gain, bone density loss, higher cholesterol and emotional imbalances. Whilst this sounds scary, incorporating certain nutrient-rich foods and eating a well-balanced diet is a simple and effective way to help you manage these changes and ensure you remain healthy. Here are some of the best and worst foods to eat during the menopause*.
Calcium and vitamin D: These nutrients become even more essential during menopause to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis, a bone condition that is common in menopausal women. Include dairy products, leafy greens, fortified foods, and fatty fish like salmon in your diet, as these are high in calcium and vitamin D which help support bone growth.
Fibre-rich foods: Menopause can sometimes bring digestive changes like bloating and constipation. Fibre-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes aid digestion, ease uncomfortable symptoms and help maintain a healthy gut.
Healthy fats: Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts are beneficial for heart health and reducing inflammation. Including these fats in your diet is particularly important for menopausal women whose risk for cardiovascular problems is much higher.
Phytoestrogen-rich foods: Phytoestrogens, found in soy products, flaxseeds, and whole grains, can mimic oestrogen and alleviate some menopausal symptoms* such as hot flushes.
Limit processed foods and added sugars: These can exacerbate mood swings, weight gain, and low energy and contribute to inflammation, which can lead to a whole host of health issues.
Benefits of exercise during menopause and perimenopause
Regular exercise alongside a healthy diet is the most effective way to keep you feeling your best through menopause and beyond. Here are just a few of the remarkable benefits:
Mood lifting: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are happy chemicals in the brain that help alleviate mood swings, anxiety, and depression, which is experienced by some women during the menopause shift.
Weight management: Unfortunately, as you get older, hormonal changes make it easier to gain weight, particularly around the stomach. Regular exercise can help you keep the weight off and reduce the risk of health conditions associated with being overweight.
Bone density: Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, and strength training help maintain bone density because they stimulate bone cells to create new bone tissue. This makes your bones denser, less prone to fractures and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Heart health: A decline in oestrogen can make blood vessels less flexible and increase bad cholesterol levels, both of which contribute to heart disease. Engaging in aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, and brisk walking helps strengthen the heart muscle and maintain healthier cholesterol levels*.
Better sleep: Sleep is often disrupted during menopause which can leave you feeling tired and in a low mood the next day. Regular physical activity can help you get a better night’s sleep, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
Recommended exercise types
Cardiovascular exercises: Cardio improves heart and lung health, boosts your mood and can help you sleep better at night. If possible, it is recommended that women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during menopause. Walking, cycling, dancing, and swimming are excellent choices.
Strength training: Strength exercises help maintain muscle mass and bone density, improve metabolism and ease anxiety and depression. Incorporate resistance exercises like weight lifting or bodyweight exercises such as the plank and squats two or more times a week for best results.
Yoga, pilates and tai chi: These exercises enhance flexibility and balance, which are often reduced during menopause due to a loss of muscle mass. They also involve relaxation, meditation and a mind-body connection, helping ease any stress and anxiety you may feel during this difficult time.
Menopause and perimenopause are natural stages of a woman’s life that come with their own set of challenges. But by looking after yourself and focusing on healthy eating and staying active, you can navigate this transition and enter a new chapter of your life in the best position possible. Remember, every woman's experience is unique, so listen to your body and make adjustments to do what’s right for you.
Perimenopause and Menopause - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/
Some of the best and worse foods to eat during the menopause -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8308420/
Help to alleviate the symptoms of hot flushes - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022316622071905?via%3Dihub
Recommended weekly exercise levels - https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/menopause-exercise
Strengthen heart muscles and maintain healthy cholesterol - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296386/