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What to know about Peri-Menopause and Menopause, and how fitness and nutrition can help

A lot of people ask me why I list ‘menopause and peri-menopause’ specifically when I talk about clients I support… and here is why... In a similar way to pregnancy the Menopause is a very important and key period of transition for any woman. Our physiology changes irreversibly and exercise and specific nutrition can help prepare us and even improve our own personal experiences.


Other than hot flushes and no periods you may not know much about menopause despite being a woman and destined to experience it some day, so here are some of the main changes and how it can / will effect you - AND DON’T WORRY, it’s not all doom and gloom as, well, for starters NO PERIODS, NO CRAMPS ….halleluja, and also not all women experience every symptom in it's fullest form. So don't necessarily start worrying now, it might all be fine, however I believe we need to get to know our bodies, to understand the processes so we can help ourselves if we need it. Here is what you might want to know:


  • HELLO OLD INJURIES: Oestrogen governs so many of your bodily processes, and one of the things it’s involved in is water regulation. As the ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen it’s a lot easier for tendons and ligaments and joints to become dehydrated which can lead to a resurgence of old injuries

  • BELLY FAT: Another effect of the decrease in natural oestrogen production is that body composition changes. As oestrogen levels fall there is tendency to accumulate fat around your middle (it’s called Visceral fat) rather than around you reproductive organs i.e hips and thighs

  • INSULIN RESISTANCE: Yet another effect of low oestrogen is the body sensitivity to insulin. Oestrogen increases your insulin sensitivity so as oestrogen levels decrease you become more insulin resistant, so your body has to produce more insulin which increases fat storage

  • MUSCLE LOSS / OR NO MUSCLE GAIN: Once you hit peri-menopause there is a decline in muscle mass, around 1% every year or more. In fact many super strong athletic women find gaining muscle really hard during menopause

  • OSTEOPOROSIS: There is a direct relationship between osteoporosis (a disease that causes weak bones) and the decline in oestrogen levels during peri-menopause and menopause

  • INSOMNIA: Just when the babies are all grown up and you get a peaceful night of sleep… hello insomnia. Lower levels of melatonin cause hot flushes at night and disrupted sleep.

So the above sounds a little scary, I’m 39, so I’m up next and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit daunted by the changes that are incoming, if indeed I am to experience some or all! I have chosen to educate myself and my lovely clients, I’m not going to wait for it to happen and then freak out. I’m going to get one step ahead and prepare my mind with research and here is how I will prepare my body:


STRENGTH TRAINING

I am a child of the 90’s (think bump bags and East 17) and growing up weight training was often considered a bit no no for women and girls… ‘you don’t want to get bulky do you?!’ … WOW, how wrong was that?! Weight training is thankfully very popular amongst women now. The Instagram hashtag #strongnotskinny has been used over 9 million times so a few people know. Let me also tell you, incorporating weights into your training IS 100% going to benefit you by building stronger bones and by increasing your muscle mass over time. not only that but it also helps with mood swings because exercise can boost low mood and can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Not to mention, stronger muscles and a fitter body is just going make life easier from a functional point of view.

NUTRITION

What we put into our bodies is also going to help. Scientific research is showing that a whole-foods diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein and dairy products may reduce menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish, is also though to improve things. There are also a bunch of supplements and vitamins you can try for example tart cherry juice. Studies have show that tart cherry juice reduced bone reabsorption and can help with the sleep disruption (along with being full of Vitamin C). This is just a portion of how nutrition can help, I'm excited to learn more as new studies are carried out in this field.


Thankfully people are now finally talking about menopause and there are some brilliant experts and coaches out there to help you should you require it. Recently, I was even lucky enough to have Anna Allerton, Allerton Coaching on my Evening with an Expert webinar talking about how amongst the list of things you might lose during perimenopause and menopause, you career shouldn't be one! It is no longer something to hide and a lot more research is being done on various treatments and therapies … the more we talk about it, the less of a stigma there is around these kinds of topics, (although why there is a stigma when 50% of the worlds population experience menopause and the symptoms I don’t really know!)


On average these days we are likely to live till we are 90… and I know how I want to live those years. If you need any help getting into strength training or nutritional advice, please drop me a line. Training with weights can be a little nerve racking if you’ve never so much as looked at a kettlebell but with a bit of guidance and support you'll find strength you didn't know you had.


My best advice - do you own research and listen to your body. There are some great websites, books, wonderful support groups and professionals out there. Here are some useful resources (many of which I used to gather information for this blog):


Books:

Preparing for the Perimenopause and Menopause - Dr Louise Newson

Everything you need to know about the menopause - Kate Muir

Peri menopause power - Maisie Hill

The New Natural Alternatives to HRT - Marilyn Glenville

ROAR - Dr Stacy Sims

Apps:

Balance App (where you can log symptoms and download to take to GP)


Links:

British Menopause Society: https://thebms.org.uk


DISCLAIMER: The above is my advice based on my own certified reading and research, I am not a medical professional I am a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist. If you are struggling physically or mentally your first port of call should always be your GP.




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