Menopause, and the transitional phase leading to it, perimenopause, is a normal biological process in a woman’s life. However, we understand its symptoms can be hard to manage. These can include hot flashes, low energy, weight gain and mood swings. Our best advice to help you through this time would be to focus on good nutrition and regular exercise. Below we share four ways to help offset or alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause and support your body’s systems, from Rob Hurst, nutritionist and trainer at Gym Plus Swords.
Increase Vitamin D Intake
A lack of vitamin D plays a big factor in menopausal symptoms. It can lead to fatigue, low immunity, mood swings and sleep problems amongst others. The best way to get vitamin D is through natural sunlight. However, in Ireland, this can be difficult due to the weather conditions and climate. In addition, menopause can cause the skin to thin, making it harder to produce the amounts of vitamin D needed. Therefore, dietary sources of vitamin D are crucial to support bone health and regular body function. Oily fish (mackerel, wild salmon, sardines), cheese, beef liver, egg yolks, dairy products and fortified foods are all good sources of vitamin D.
Eat foods containing isoflavones
Studies have shown that many symptoms of menopause happen as a result of declining oestrogen levels in the body. One way to balance this drop is to boost your diet with foods rich in isoflavones. These are a group of naturally-occurring chemicals, a class of phytoestrogen, that resemble oestrogen in the body. Many nutritional experts agree that they play a similar role to standard oestrogen in the body and can alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes, high cholesterol, decreasing bone density and poor mental cognition. Dietary sources include chickpeas, peas, peanuts, nuts and legumes. Also, organic soybeans and unsweetened soy milk are a great source of isoflavones and healthier for your body.
During perimenopause and menopause, the production of hormones in the ovaries declines rapidly. This causes losses in muscle mass and bone density. If left inactive, it can lead to weight gain. However, developing muscle mass and strength through resistance training has been shown to play a major role in relieving these problems. If you’re new to weights, start with compound exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups such as deadlifts, squats, lunges, bench press, overhead press. Our advice would be to book a consultation with one of our Gym Plus trainers, who will show you how to lift properly.
Studies show that regular physical exercise decreases the frequency and intensity of hot flushes in post-menopausal women who spent 3-5 hours per week on fitness. I recommend combining resistance training with cardiovascular exercise to get the best results in terms of weight loss and overall health. Aerobic conditioning for burning calories and body fat includes exercises such as walking, cycling, running and swimming. Varying your cardiovascular training is also important as the body is good at adapting. After some time, try varying your training by doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, Tabata, or LISS (low-intensity steady state).
Finally, at Gym Plus we aim to support women during this important time in their lives. And provide those who want to take control of their health and wellbeing. Our recommendation is to find an activity that you enjoy and seek a supportive friend who can help motivate you throughout. Also, we strongly advise booking a consultation with your GP before introducing any new changes to your diet or fitness routine.