Many peri-menopausal and menopausal women will experience the more common symptoms associated with this period of change. Others will encounter lesser known side effects. Whatever changes you may be going through, the recent nurture study results prove that you are not the only one…
From hot flushes to mood swings, weight gain and tears, the side effects are certainly debilitating. In fact, almost half of those surveyed suffered from hot flushes and night sweats, causing disrupted sleep and a near-constant feeling of clamminess.
Other side effects reported include:
- Irritability (33 per cent)
- Mood swings and uncontrollable tears (34 per cent)
- Fatigue (20 per cent)
- Breast tenderness (17 per cent)
- A flurry of lesser expected symptoms was also reported, which participants labelled ‘embarrassing’, including:
- Loss of libido (25 per cent)
- Heavier periods or ‘flooding’ (30 per cent)
- Weight gain (22 per cent)
- Vaginal dryness (13 per cent)
- Hair loss/thinning (12 per cent)
Unfortunately, the menopause often leaves women feeling helpless. Typical treatment offered by GPs includes hormone replacement therapy (HRT), though it is considered ‘unsafe’ by half of women.
Increasingly, anti-depressants are being prescribed to combat the mental side effects of the menopause. And, while it is true that 63 per cent of women say symptoms affect their mental state, just 15 per cent are diagnosed with depression. A stark contrast to the 38 per cent of those surveyed who were offered anti-depressants by their GP.
A more natural approach.
Despite 87 per cent of women stating that they would prefer to tackle their symptoms naturally, 70 per cent are yet to try making lifestyle changes.
“As menopause is a natural phase of life, many women prefer a more natural approach to alleviating the symptoms rather than relying on medication. While HRT and/or antidepressants have an important role to play for those who need them, effective alternatives are available, from isoflavones, sage leaf, royal jelly, evening primrose oil or black cohosh, to st john’s wort and 5-HTP”, explains Dr Sarah Brewer.
Isoflavones (plant oestrogens) provide a natural hormone boost when your own oestrogen levels are low, helping to combat symptoms such as hot flushes. Think chickpeas, lentils, soy beans and other soy products, dark-green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, fresh and dried fruits, and herbs such as garlic, ginger and sage.
“Be sure you steer clear of alcohol, spicy foods and hot drinks where possible as these can trigger flushes”, advises Dr Sarah.
Research shows that regular exercise: think three hours of brisk walking, stretching, muscle-strengthening and relaxation, such as yoga, per week, can reduce even the most severe menopausal symptoms.
It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, too. “Fat insulates the body, making hot flushes worse”, explains Dr Dawn Harper.
Try and stay cool in all aspects of the word. Opt for light layers and choose fabrics made from natural fibres, such as cotton or linen over synthetic fibres and silks.
“Wear several layers of thin clothing during colder periods so you can peel them off at a moment’s notice when flushes strike” says Dr Sarah. “Avoid very fitted or tight outfits, and apply this to your day-time and night-time clothing.”
"Many women swear by herbal remedies, the most popular being black cohosh”, says Dr Dawn Harper. Based on traditional use, Black Cohosh can help relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, temporary changes in mood, irritability, and restlessness. Try Healthspan's Black Cohosh Menopause Relief.
Other popular supplements include soy isoflavones and sage extract, which is thought to significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flushes and night sweats, and is thought to help to restore the natural hormonal balance in the body.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can be used to help manage depression and anxiety. It works by exploring the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and is thought to be an effective method to treating symptoms of low mood and depression often associated with the menopause:
"Although menopausal depression is primarily triggered by hormonal fluctuations that affect your mood, it's important to be aware that it can also be caused by the significant lifestyle changes often going on around the same time", says women's health and mental health writer Sarah Graham. "CBT can be helpful for dealing with these changes by identifying why you feel low and helping devise coping strategies."
Meanwhile, when it comes to hot flushes and night sweats, many women benefit from acupuncture sessions, with studies reporting that compared to those who did nothing, women who had acupuncture experienced fewer hot flashes, and then they did have a hot flash, the severity was weakened.
Dry down there
Too many women give up on a previously happy, healthy sex life because vaginal dryness has made sex uncomfortable or painful," says Dr Dawn Harper. “It doesn't have to be that way – your doctor can prescribe oestrogen pessaries or cream to help – or you may benefit from a specialised lubricant".