Woman awake in bed and unhappy

Q & A: Am I menopausal?

“I’m 45 years and seem to be suffering from symptoms of menopause, but I think I’m too young.  I often feel really hot during the day and sometimes wake up at night covered in sweat.   I also get up three times during the night to go to the loo and am struggling with concentration.  What do you think?” 

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer answers.

The average age for menopause is 52 but it sounds like you are going through the perimenopause (the years leading up to the menopause), which often start in your late 30s or early 40s. The perimenopause can last many years with symptoms sometimes stopping and starting during this time.  The good news is you can help manage your symptoms naturally through diet and lifestyle changes.

Hot Flushes

Hot flushes can be exacerbated by caffeine, alcohol and chocolate (which also contains caffeine), so it is worth cutting them out for a while to see if it you notice any improvement.  Caffeinated drinks, especially coffee, can irritate the bladder, which might be one of the reasons why you are getting up in the night.

Avoid Sugar and eat foods containing phytoestrogens

Sugar in all its forms can encourage unpleasant symptoms and deplete the body from much-needed nutrients.  On the other hand, foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as soya products, flaxseeds, beans and legumes, help balance oestrogen levels which start to fluctuate as you approach the menopause.

Increase your nutrients

You may be deficient in certain nutrients which we know can make matters worse, so do try to ensure your diet is as nutrient dense as possible.  Pile up your plate with colourful fruits and vegetables, plus plenty of protein from oily fish, chicken, beans and grains, such as quinoa.  Try to eat a rainbow every day; you’ll automatically be getting plenty of nutrients this way.

Manage stress

Stress can also make symptoms worse, and sometimes mimics those of the menopause. Try to make time for exercise and relaxation.  However, avoid active exercise in the evenings as it can over-stimulate you and stop you from sleeping.  We all have our own ways of dealing with stress whether it’s reading a book, taking a long bath or meditating; try to find whatever works for you.

Getting symptoms under control now, and plugging any nutrient gaps, will help support overall health for the future as well as helping to protect against other conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

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