Menopause is currently hitting the headlines with a call for a ‘menopause revolution’ supporting increased education, workplace policy, medical school training, public health messaging and inclusion in school curriculums. It is a very important life stage for a woman, since there are significant changes that can have both physical and psychological affects, therefore being informed and prepared is invaluable.
A common characteristic in all women is the sudden drop in oestrogen and progesterone, responsible for a large part of the physiological changes experienced during this stage.
Dr. Helena Rutllant, head of the oncology at Vitae and a nutritionist (Clínica Corachan de Barcelona) talks about the changes that can be experienced during menopause and how to be one step ahead, support yourself and even prevent them.
At a certain age, the first symptoms of menopause start to appear and with them all the changes that this new vital stage implies.
What happens when we reach menopause?
The word menopause only means last menstruation, therefore, it is the transition period between the reproductive stage to the non-reproductive one. The menopause marks the cessation of menstruation, which we recognise after 12 months without one.
It is a vital period in a woman’s life regulated by the decrease in ovarian activity and, therefore, it will be characterized by a decrease in the production of oestrogen and progesterone, whose deficit will mark the appearance of a series of symptoms or pathologies.
During this stage we can find:
- Vasomotor symptoms: sweating/hot flashes, palpitations…
- Psychological/emotional symptoms: emotional, anxiety, depression, asthenia, fatigue and sleep disorders
- Osteopenia, osteoporosis
- Difficulty controlling weight
- Dry skin and mucous membranes
- Alopecia, nail disorders…
- Digestive disorders
We could define osteoporosis as a loss of bone mass that ends up compromising the strength of the bone, producing a greater risk of fractures in the event of falls or serious bruises.
The previous step is osteopenia where we would already see a decrease in bone mineral density, although not all women with osteopenia will necessarily end up with osteoporosis. For this reason, an early diagnosis is very important to prevent the transition to a more serious form of bone demineralization.
The cause of both (osteopenia and osteoporosis) is the lack of oestrogen that will cause a lack of calcium in the bones.
It should be noted that during the first 5 years of menopause, even 5% of bone mass can be lost.
Is there a way to prevent osteoporosis?
We have to be aware that perimenopause can last for 5 years, so that any preventive action during this period will be of vital importance in order to prevent or delay some signs and symptoms.
There are three basic pillars to avoid or prevent osteoporosis: physical exercise (weight bearing), a varied and balanced diet with the presence of foods rich in calcium and correct levels of vitamin D.
If you’re diagnosed what can you do?
First of all, you need to know whether you have osteopenia or osteoporosis. It is always important that you follow the three basic pillars, so if you do not exercise you could try to incorporate this habit into your life. It’s also useful to look at your diet in detail.
Foods rich in calcium to focus on include:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (watercress, kale, etc.)
- Sesame (can be taken in the form of tahini, as a dressing in salads, vegetable creams, etc.)
- Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, dried figs, etc.)
- Chickpeas, beans, tofu
- Sardines, salmon
It is also important to know that diets rich in salt and/or with excess phosphorus (carbonated drinks and cola, processed foods with a large amount of additives, etc.) will cause a decrease in the absorption of calcium, especially if we have low levels of vitamin D. In this case, we must supplement appropriately especially during the winter months and when possible sunbathe for 10 minutes a day. This vitamin has receptors in 30 cells of our body, so maintaining optimal levels will help address all the body’s needs. If you want to test your levels order a home finger prick blood test here.
In the case of suffering from osteoporosis, apart from the three previous steps to follow, we should ensure that the calcium that circulates in the blood serves to mineralize the bone, and therefore including vitamin K with vitamin D is recommended.
Menopause symptoms and treatments
The symptoms are very varied, each patient will have to be assessed individually and depending on their needs the protocol will be different.
As each woman and each client is unique it is important to carry out a personalized 360º diagnosis that encompasses the entire state of health and lifestyle of the person before making suitable recommendations.
If you’d like support around the menopause and your signs and symptoms please do not hesitate to contact The Food Teacher™ Clinic for a free telephone consultation. You can also book a personalised Nutritional Therapy Consultations.