Is the menopause making you feel crazy? We’ve put your questions to the experts
The menopause can leave you feeling a little topsy-turvey. You’re hot, you’re irritable and you’re most definitely not to blame. The menopause causes a constant change of hormone levels throughout the body, which directly affects your mind. From foggy memory to uncontrollable emotions, surprising highs then devastating lows, blame mood-enhancing serotonin and endorphins for the rollercoaster. You may feel like it doesn’t make any sense but each but every time your hormones do a little dance, your brain chemistry has to compensate, although it doesn’t always get it right. Cue mood swings and unexpected reactions to the smallest challenge. Want to try to control your menopausal mind? We’ve decoded the questions you were thinking, but were too shy to ask…
“This is quite a common symptom around this time and you need to make sure that your blood sugar is balanced. When your blood sugar drops your body will release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and this can give you mood swings, irritability and aggressive outbursts,” says nutritionist and women's health specialist Marilyn Glenville, PhD (marilynglenville.com).
“This means not only thinking about the quality of the food that you eat but also the timing. Eliminate added sugar and refined carbohydrates and also eat little and often. Try not to go more than three hours without eating. You might also need to eliminate caffeine as it is a stimulant.”
“There are several factors to tackle. Firstly low or erratic mood can result from falling oestrogen levels, because oestrogen attaches to receptor sites in the brain and nervous system,” explains Eileen Durward, menopause expert at A.Vogel. “Consider using a plant-based oestrogen, such as fermented soya isoflavones, as these gently support oestrogen levels without the problems associated with harsh oestrogenic medication.
“Secondly, increase your intake of magnesium and reduce your consumption of caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar, as these all strip magnesium from your body. Magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system, and it makes you more resilient to both physical and emotional stress.”
“Take time out to de-stress with this kitchen cupboard face mask which helps replenish skin’s vitamin C and collagen naturally,” says Emma Coleman, holistic skin specialist at Inner-Soul. “Into a bowl mash up a ripe kiwi, add a tablespoon of porridge oats plus a teaspoon each of honey and dried tamarind spice. Stir well then apply to the face, massaging lightly to exfoliate a little and press into place. Lay down, close your eyes and leave to set for up to 15 minutes. Remove the excess with some tissue or kitchen towel before splashing the face with tepid water and patting dry. You’ll emerge soft, plumped and refreshed. Always avoid eyes.”
“Your sleep cycle may be affected as hormones that induce sleep or wake you may may fluctuate or be disturbed. While this is normal for some women it is important to take extra care of yourself through lifestyle and nutrition,” explains Henrietta Norton, co-founder and technical director at Wild Nutrition.
“Eating well during your menopause is important to improve sleep, help to ease symptoms and provide extra support for the liver, adrenals and nervous system. Foods to include are garlic, onions, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables (watercress, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale and broccoli) and green tea such as matcha. Plenty of high quality protein and fats are essential while cutting down on sugary refined foods. Foods high in vitamin C will support your adrenals such as red and yellow peppers, strawberries, blueberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes.
“Extra magnesium and B vitamins are important for your nervous system, which will encourage restful sleep, and can be found in dark leafy greens, asparagus and sunflower seeds."
“No, you're not going crazy. Problems with memory and fuzzy thinking during menopause can be due to the reduction in oestrogen levels, poor or interrupted sleep due to night sweats and stress,” describes Pat Duckworth, cognitive hypnotherapist and award-winning author of Hot Women, Cool Solutions (patduckworth.com).
“To relieve feelings of stress and enable your memory to work efficiently, take a few moments to practise relaxation breathing. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in automatically triggers your parasympathetic system which calms your body and your mind. Sit down comfortably and, if it is safe to do so, close your eyes. Send your attention inwards to your breathing without trying to change it. Once you are aware of the rhythm of your breathing, start to count on your in breath and then count for longer on the out breath. There is no right number to count to, but you are aiming for a longer, relaxing out breath. Do this for between one and three minutes. With your mind and body relaxed, you might be surprised how much easier it is to think clearly and remember things.”
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