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A few lifestyle adjustments can make the transition into menopause easier to handle, writes Angela Donaldson.
Menopause affects women in different ways. Some of us will barely notice we're going through it, while others will be plagued by symptoms like mood swings and hot flushes.
The good news is that you don't have to just sit back and wait to see how it's going to affect you. There are steps you can take now that will smooth the road to and through menopause.
Start on supplements
Supplements and herbs can be helpful, but if you go by the instructions on the label you may not get much benefit, says David Stelfox, senior lecturer in naturopathy at the Endeavour College of Natural Health. For best results, he recommends consulting a qualified naturopath or herbalist.Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and evening primrose oil can be used to combat the saggy skin that occurs after menopause, says Stelfox.
If your daily calcium intake is low, he recommends a calcium and magnesium supplement in the lead-up to and during menopause to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Do it now: If your dietary calcium intake is low, eat more calcium-rich foods and drinks and consider taking a supplement from the age of 45. Check your intake on Dairy Australia's calcium calculator at www.dairyaustralia.com.au.
Fight it with phytoestrogens!
In Mediterranean and Asian cultures where there is a high intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, women don't suffer menopausal symptoms to the same degree as Australian women.
And it's because plant-based foods are high in phytoestrogens plant hormones that have the ability to mimic oestrogen in our bodies. "Phytoestrogens balance our hormones by taking up the slack when there's not enough oestrogen being produced," says medical herbalist Jennifer Chalmers.
Our body eventually adjusts to the new hormone levels, but we can reduce the impact of the change as well as improve heart health by eating these foods daily. "This is important because the drop in oestrogen around menopause increases your risk of cardiovascular disease," explains Chalmers.
Do it now: Eat phytoestrogen-rich foods many times a week.
- Soy foods (soy-linseed bread and cereals, soy milk, tofu).
- Beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans).
- Nuts and seeds.
- Celery (as juice or in salads).
- Apples (eat or juice it).
- Parsley (make tabouleh).
Calm your mind
Meditation can alleviate stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, says Shushann Movsessian, a psychotherapist and mindfulness meditation teacher.
"Mindfulness meditation, in particular, can be very helpful for alleviating the anxiety women have about going through this transition," she says.
In a 2006 study at the US's University of Massachusetts Medical School, women who used mindfulness techniques reported a better quality of life and a 40 per cent reduction in the severity of their hot flushes.
Do it now: Meditation is a great tool to use during menopause and will have greater benefit if you develop the habit before symptoms begin.
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