World Menopause Day: dealing with the next chapter in my life
#worldmenopauseday 2019: dealing with the next chapter in my life
Menopause: A subject that seems to instil a sense of shame or embarrassment. Like periods, many women find this to be a little taboo subject. So on this day, I thought I’d have a conversation with you, it seems appropriate, of course.
Menopause: what does it mean?
First of all, let’s get a little definition here: What is menopause? It is defined as the time in a woman’s life when the normal biological stage of menstruating and your natural reproductive life ceases. It’s usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years.
Biologically, this affects our body in a way that our ovaries cease producing the oestrogen hormone, which leads to significant falls in our oestrogen levels, which then lead to us experiencing many symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, weight gain, and other issues with joints and muscle discomforts. Many women will experience some or all of these symptoms at some stage during their menopausal journey.
As someone who is going through menopause, I have chosen to share my experience and provide some simple tips as to how to manage menopause, so that other women, going through this can either benefit or learn from this, too.
Menopause: Vanessa’s experience
Two years ago I underwent a hysterectomy to remove a very large fibroid. For years, I struggled to manage all the symptoms that a fibroid causes, such as heavy periods and bloating. However, through diet and exercise I was able to manage the symptoms. When it got extreme, I would take a strong pain-killer and a hot water bottle, and this would allow me to get on with my work/life commitments.
This said, the symptoms were overbearing, and eventually, my GP advised that at the age of 52, I may want to consider surgically removing the fibroid as this would enhance my quality of life! When you hear those words, it was an obvious yes. I went away and mulled over the concept of having my womb removed and all its implications. To emphasise,this is not an easy decision to be made, and I recommend all women consider this with deep thought.
During menopause, the fibroid is intended to shrink naturally within menopause, as oestrogen levels drop. Despite waiting for it to shrink, it didn’t. Eventually, I opted for the operation. What triggered it? Well, a combination of things. I read books on the subject, such as “The wisdom of the menopause”, and a personal experience changed my mind: Whilst volunteering at a local community project, a lady, thinking I was pregnant, congratulated me and asked how I was feeling. Being 52, I was not pregnant with a child, but appeared to be so bloated from the fibroid. Time for a change!
After all my research and mental preparation, I decided to go for the procedure. I was given the option to keep my ovaries but have the womb removed, this varies case-by-case. The operation was set for Dec 18th, with one night in the hospital.
The operation was over in a flash, but I was sore. Following the procedure, I was told to rest and then resume normal life six weeks later. Unfortunately, running a new business doesn’t allow you that luxury of resting up for 6 weeks. Added to that, I can’t keep still. I rested for 10 days but within a fortnight, I was back at work. I don’t recommend this experience for all women, it was hard. Added to this, I went straight into menopause - which meant I struggled, terribly, with joint pains and fatigue. Running my business means many hours on my feet, which was a huge burden and discomfort to my system. My hormones were all over the place, and I opted not to take HRT (medical therapy) and manage my symptoms through diet and exercise. Here’s how:
Managing menopause & the symptoms: 3 tips
- Diet boosted with oils and superfoods - My diet is heavily loaded with plant based foods, lots for seasonal veggies and fruits. On some occasions, as I have low iron count, I would consume oily fish such as mackerel. I boost my nutrient intake with superfood powders such as maca, wheatgrass, turmeric and lots of seeds, nuts and green leafy kale or spinach.
- Moderate intake processed foods, Caffeine, Alcohol - Personally, it was vital to eliminate chemical processed foods, which are widely used in a lot of manufactured foods to prolong shelf life or enhance food flavours. I limited intake of alcohol as this interfered with sleep patterns and body temperature. In addition, caffeine is a stimulant and plays havoc with a system that is already struggling to find balance. During this period, my body was trying to find hormonal balance, I have found that nourishing my body with natural, wholefoods, wholegrains and fresh seasonal foods help me find balance and energise me fully.
- Moderate levels of Exercise - I found exercise allowed me to gain mental strength, body confidence and bone density. Weight management is also something to consider during this hormonal period, as, for some women, it can slow metabolic rate. It is recommended to have your own timetable, find a class or sport that releases your happy hormone. I incorporate a sweat class (spin and boxing are my goto), yoga, pilates, kettlebells and golf into my weekly timetable.