• Hot flashes
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to sleep
  • Thinning hair

If I listed these symptoms without context, I’m sure most of you can diagnose the health concern (or even relate); these issues are synonymous with menopause. As we turn 40 and throw that one big party (seems to be the new norm), we, as women, start feeling the onset of these symptoms, if not earlier. It’s hard to explain to men, or others who aren’t “at that phase”; it can feel lonely and frustrating, because, not so long ago, you were absolutely fine!

So, what is menopause, why does it happen, and is there anything we can do to make this rite of passage, a smooth one? Let’s begin by stating menopause is not an illness or disease, but a phase every woman transitions through (typically) after 45, however this number is getting younger given the ever-changing lives we all lead.

I want this article to help you move away from fearing this phase of life, to embracing it. However, that can only be achieved when we truly understand the situation. We need to educate ourselves with what is happening inside our body, and only then can we decide how to support it, both mentally and physically.

Menopause is medically marked by the end of your period (you have officially entered menopause once you are period-free for 12 months). During this transition estrogen levels decrease as the ovaries cease to produce this hormone signalling the winding down of the reproductive functions. It’s a marvel of nature’s wisdom, isn’t it? Our body is a wonderfully intelligent machine- the change in hormones is a natural process we need to honour. Our only job is to fuel the body correctly while it does its job 24 hours a day.

We tend to look at menopause as a negative phase; I’ve heard most women say ‘it’s all downhill once you hit menopause’. However, the truth is our body never works against us, it’s constantly doing exactly what you need, when you need, to keep you alive and thriving, and menopause is one of those phases that equips the body better for its years ahead. Maybe it’s ok to slow down a little, maybe you need to focus more on what you want and need, rather than serving everyone around you first. Maybe it’s time we become more aware of the food we are eating too, as we can’t deny it’s significance on our mind and body.

What can we do to support our bodies?

Apart from being aware of the fact that your body is constantly changing, and that it needs compassion, don’t forget that your body is not your friends’, or your sister’s, or your mother’s. While genetics can play a role in your life, it does not determine your destination or journey.

Here are a few tips to support your mind and body naturally and holistically, through this phase:

  • Take pauses through the day: hustling and the ‘I’m too busy’ lifestyle isn’t cool anymore. No, you don’t have to stop anything you’re doing, but make time for more deep breathing, meditation and gentle stretches through the day. A nap wouldn’t hurt either. This gives your body more oxygen and energy, while also taking it out of flight and fight mode.
  • Increase vegetable consumption: this really helps with hot flushes as it provides your body with all the right ‘material’ to support you through this phase. A great idea is to include some vegetable juice daily and a salad with each meal. The benefits are felt quickly as it helps balance our hormones.
  • Maintain brain health: menopause can cause a reduction of glucose in the brain, so all you need to do is include natural sources: FRUITS and dry fruits. No, you won’t put on weight with this- it actually helps shed that excess belly fat.
  • Resistance/weight training: that’s right, build those muslces and bones. Apart from it being imperative for bone health, which can deteriorate drastically at this phase, if not managed, it supports blood sugar levels and your overall strength and energy.
  • Increase consumption of nuts and seeds: this supports your moods and calcium requirement, which also helps with vitamin D absorption. These foods are rich in phytoestrogens which mimic estrogen, naturally supporting your hormones.
  • Get your nature on: spend time outdoors, walk on grass, soak in the sun, go for a swim. Whatever it takes to get some natural sunlight. We are a part of nature, so it’s important to ensure we coexcist regularly. The sun heals, doesn’t harm (just be smart about what time you go outdoors)
  • Reduce coffee and alcohol intake: as we age the level of melatonin naturally decreases, making it harder to sleep and stay asleep. Consumption of coffee and alcohol can further impair our sleep. Also, its highly acidic nature adds to the degeneration of bones and many other parts of the body like the brain. It also can dehydrate us.
  • Hydrate: with the decrease in estrogen our skin tends to get dry, which is also a sign of what’s going on inside the body. Drinking water is obvious, but isn’t as effective as other liquids like coconut water, vegetable juice, water-based fruits like melons, oranges and berries etc. Hydrate with the rainbow in mind.
  • Eat protein rich foods: I am not a fan of over prescribing protein, but I can’t deny its significance- every single function in our body requires protein. No, I don’t mean go load up on whey or other isolates, but ensure you are consuming natural sources. Sprouts, chick peas, legumes, lentils, edamame, pumpkin seeds (and most nuts and seeds).
  • Reduce processed/packaged and fast food: this holds true for all of us, but is especially crucial at this point, when your body is going through significant changes, it needs more TLC. Processed foods, white refined sugar (which is hidden in so much), and packaged foods deplete us on many different levels- it gradually sucks the life out of us. Indulge occasionally, guilt free, but ensure you balance it out with your next meal.

Let’s consciously change the narrative around aging and menopause. Age is just a number, your well-being is in your hands. Research shows genetics to account for only 20-30% of a person’s chance to live to the age of 85. Lifestyle factors, such as food and exercise/movement play a key role in determining lifespan, and more importantly health span (the quality of life as you age). Let’s cut the victim mentality of blaming our genes and age for the aches and pains, focus on what you want to achieve and attach baby steps to the goals. Reflect 6 months later and you will be proud of yourself. As health coaches we are here to support your goals and enable you to live your best life. YOU ARE IN CONTROL!