Menopause symptoms and what to do about them

It was World Menopause Day last Saturday and we have put together some ideas of how to help manage some of the key menopause symptoms, including weight gain.

How do I know if I’m in menopause?

Cessation of menstruation for 12 consecutive months is the definition and, therefore, the main symptom of menopause, although symptoms can start up to 10 years before this, known as perimenopause.

Other common menopause symptoms that can occur in the period up to and following the cessation of menstrual bleeding include:

  • mood swings, potentially due to hormone fluctuations
  • hot flushes, often when feeling stressed
  • lack of concentration
  • poor short-term memory
  • difficulty falling asleep and increased night-time waking
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness due to a reduction in oestrogen production and potentially leading to sexual discomfort
  • urinary incontinence due to loss of muscle tone and lowered oestrogen levels
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • weight gain
  • digestive issues

The number and severity of menopause symptoms vary for each woman, but most of us know that menopause (and perimenopause) is a challenging time in a woman’s life.

Is there anything we can do?

There are several things that we can do to help manage the menopause symptoms, the main one being to maintain a healthy lifestyle overall that includes all of the following elements:

  • Eating a nutrient-dense diet that includes lots of healthy fats
  • Reducing alcohol consumption and staying well hydrated at all times
  • Remaining in good physical shape, incorporating at least 20 minutes of exercise into our daily routine. This can help both with physical and mental health
  • Relaxation exercises might also be useful in helping to manage anxiety and mood. These can include things like meditation and deep breathing
  • Following a regular sleep pattern, with a night-time routine that supports 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night. Again, getting enough sleep is key to helping to maintain mental health and helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Natural lubricants can help to support a healthy sex life
  • Maintaining a strong friendship group or joining groups of like-minded women of a similar age can help with feelings of isolation and suffering alone. Some of the more unusual or milder symptoms are something only women at the same stage of life can understand
  • Booking a session with a nutritional therapist or naturopath might help identify a diet and supplement program specific to your symptoms. They will also be able to arrange hormone testing that may not be available via your doctor

What about weight gain?

In addition, for some women, one of the main symptoms of menopause will be weight gain, particularly around the middle; gut symptoms may accompany that.

As we age, several changes naturally occur in our gut, including a reduction in the production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, which help us digest our food, and a reduction in the diversity of our gut bacteria, which help to support the production of some key vitamins in our body. This may lead to symptoms of indigestion or heartburn as well as bloating, gas and potentially constipation, leading to weight gain.

Whilst it might help to take a supplement with digestive enzymes and/or friendly bacteria, making sure we include lots of vegetables in our diet can help to ensure we have enough fibre to support stool consistency and gut transit time to help alleviate bloating and other symptoms. Fibre also provides prebiotics to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and foods such as live natural yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut all include friendly bacteria that can help to support our microbiome.

Hormonal changes, particularly a reduction in oestrogen and consequent increase in cortisol, may also contribute to gut symptoms and weight gain. Healthy detoxification pathways are essential for helping to maintain hormonal balance and leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach and bitter leaves such as rocket and watercress all support detoxification.

Lack of sleep, increased fatigue and lowered mood and energy may also contribute to weight gain and gut symptoms, both as a result of changes in metabolism and because we may be inclined to eat more for energy, comfort or other emotional reasons. Daily exercise is vital to help maintain a healthy metabolism and spacing out meals to allow our body to digest everything we eat fully can also be helpful – aim to eat three meals per day with a full 4-5 hours in between each (no snacking between meals).

Final thoughts regarding menopause symptoms

Finally, as we are all different and experience different symptoms at different times, keeping a journal or diary of menopause symptoms and what has worked/hasn’t worked may be useful in identifying what helps you personally.

The following websites may be useful for further general information and support regarding menopause symptoms:
The Menopause Exchange
The British Menopause Society

Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying regular please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.

ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107

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