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Simple daily activities, and the things we eat can have a big impact on the way we experience menopause.

Along with the basics of healthy eating (you know the drill - lots of plants, a wide variety of natural colour, minimal processed, sugary, sweetener sweetened foods high in saturated fats); the following foods contain nutrients which are particularly important and beneficial during our journey through menopause:

nutrient found in
 

phytoestrogens  

soybeans (edamame), tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed
calcium

chickpeas, lentils, low fat diary - taken with lots of sunlight.  (also, get a bone density test)

omega-3 oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, anchovy and sardines; flaxseeds, chia, avocado, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, or a good omega-3 supplement
soy minimally processed, ideally non-gmo and organic forms including tofu, soy milk, tempeh, edamame, miso
vitamin D sunshine, or supplements if sunshine isn't available
magnesium pumpkin seeds! chia, almonds, cooked spinach (and all green leafy veg), nuts esp cashews and peanuts, soy milk
food to nourish your gut microbes lots of high fibre pulses and vegetables - artichokes, asparagus, lentils, onions; and fermented food like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, miso and proper sourdough

 

In addition to food, there are some relatively simple daily activities which you can do.  Don't kill yourself trying to do all of these things every day, it's unrealistic, but try to hydrate daily and do as many of the below, as often as you can over a one week period. 

Individually these things are super helpful, and cumulatively, they're very beneficial to your overall health, well-being and journey through menopause:   

today I will: why
stay hydrated the more hydrated you are the less likely you are to have hot flushes. weirdly, it also makes the high frequency of needing to pee less high frequency.  and if you're night sweating like me, you do need to drink more to stay hydrated. aim for 2-3l/day and start drinking (water hahaha) first thing in the morning
 sleep well

don't really need to say it but being tired makes everything feel worse.  menopauzzz (terrible name) sleep drops really work, they've been a lifesaver for me

do pilates so many benefits.  of note for menopause, done correctly pilates will firm up your pelvic floor and may help with not peeing your pants (as much).  It's also amazing for overall strength and flexibility, maintaining bone density, with correct instruction has a low risk of injury and makes you feel like a million bucks after every class
do yoga same as above.  I find some days if I'm super anxious I need something more aerobic to calm me down, but yoga has an important place in our exercise repertoire with a myriad of mental and physical benefits, especially if like me your flexibility sits around 2 on the 1-10 scale of flexible
take a walk being outside and moving in a non-jarring on your joints fashion is really good for mind and body.  Even if it's shitty and rainy, a walk is non daunting and revitalising.  You can think about your biggest problems or nothing at all. Solo or with others, a good walk is good for the soul
talk That old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved' is really quite accurate.  Sometimes my menopause symptoms make me think I have some kind of hideous disease and if I didn't talk about what was happening and what I was feeling I would go to a pretty dark place before finding out that everyone has sore joints and neck and shoulder pain is kind of normal for menopause.  And even just talking openly about menopause has the positive effect of knowing you're not alone and not some kind of social pariah for gong through it.  Also, often talks lead to laughter, and almost always connection, two things which are super important
soak up some sunshine vital for the optimal absorption of calcium (which is vital for bone health), and also really good for making us feel happy
be in nature

sometimes when I'm out walking I just feel the need to stop and gently lay my palm on the trunk of a tree. and just stand there for a second and it's kind of like you're actually breathing in sync with the tree. and you kind of are.   Getting out amongst wonderful living breathing nature is cathartic.  It's easy to get caught up in menopause and it's myriad symptoms - on top of everything else - work, relationships, running a household, staying in touch with friends and family...., and think life is just so full on, but being in nature, and just breathing, steadily, slowly with it, is really grounding.  Everything in nature, including our life stages, has it's place, difficult or not, and out in nature it just seems easier to breathe through it

 

A few notes on some of these recommendations if you're curious:

Omega 3, Soy, Calcium - this is a really interesting fact.  Around 80% of Australian women experience hot flushes throughout menopause - compared to around 7% ! of Japanese women.  Research suggests the Japanese diet, rich in oily fish (and soy, calcium and fermented foods) plays a significant part in this much lower incidence of hot flushes. 

Soy has had a bad reputation in the past, for messing with our hormones and thyroids, even for causing cancer, but in it's least processed form (tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame) soy is a fantastic low saturated fat source of good fibre, phytoestrogen,  calcium and magnesium.  

Also, and I think this is significant, in Japan menopause doesn't have the stigma it does here.  It's called Konenki - a word whose meaning encompasses 'renewal years' and 'energy'.  It's no surprise Japanese women approach konenki with a much more positive mindset, v's the actual fear many western women attach to menopause. I wholeheartedly believe the way we approach things has a direct affect on our experiences of them - and this is particularly true with the way we face menopause with such fear and trepidation. 

Phytoestrogens - there's still loads of research happening on this front but the phytoestrogen found in food can mimic the effect of the body's own estrogen - which can be super helpful when your estrogen levels are bouncing all over the place through perimenopause.  A diet rich in phytoestrogen can help to smooth out the erratic estrogen highs and lows which cause flushes, mood swings, tender boobs, anxiety... 

Gut health - there's a fantastic article in the 2 October issue of new scientist which explores the growing evidence around the role of the microbes in your intestines and their influence on how well we age.  

I don't particularly like attaching menopause to aging, but the reality is, if we're going through menopause naturally, we have had a fair few trips round the sun. Nothing in our bodies happens in isolation, so taking action to age well, can also have a positive influence on the way we travel through menopause. 

In a nutshell gut microbes influence your brain and your mood.  And the food we eat influences the quality of our gut microbes.  A diet high in processed food, sugar and saturated fats feeds 'bad' and less diverse gut bacteria.  A diet high in plant fibre and fermented foods feeds your 'good' bacteria, cultivating a more diverse and youthful gut microbiota - translating to a healthier you, now and as you age.  It's 100% worth including foods which support healthy and diverse gut flora in your everyday menu.

Everything in Moderation - ticking off the nutrients and things to do lists daily is basically impossible, so be kind to yourself and do what you can, when you can as often as you can.  Just being aware, and being able to make choices which include the above as often as you can or want to is enough. And if you need a glass of wine, (It's Tuesday and I'm stingin' for Friday and a lovely glass of red I must say) do it guilt free and enjoy every lovely sip. 

Helpfully, the cool, and actually quite efficient thing, is that there's a lot of cross-over in terms of foods containing the nutrients listed above.  For example, with edamame and tofu you're ticking off omega 3, phytoestrogens, soy and magnesium. Boom, book in for your fave sushi Friday night too. 

And remember, nothing exists in your body in isolation.  The changes which happen with Menopause can be a bit of an amplifier - potentially exacerbating existing deficiencies or highlighting issues you previously could 'ignore'. It's extra important to take care of your health through this period.   Reciprocally, embracing a lifestyle filled with balance, good nutrition and exercise will have positive reverberations around your whole entire being. 

Have a good day hotties, xo, Linda. 


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