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Guest blog: Menopause information sheet from Dr Hannah Short

Guest blog: Menopause information sheet from Dr Hannah Short

TOP LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR A HEALTHY MENOPAUSE

NUTRITION

  • Centre diet around plant-based whole-foods: women who follow a plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Recent evidence suggests that they may also suffer fewer menopausal symptoms.
  • Think “right carbs, good fats” not “low-carb, high fat” or “no fat”: complex carbohydrates (e.g. root vegetables, beans, oats, wholegrains) and plant-based fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocado, good quality olive oil) are essential for good hormonal health.
  • Eat the rainbow AND the alphabet: fill your plate with a wide variety of brightly coloured fruit & veg. Aim to include at least ten different types of vegetable in your meals each week (aim for 30 varieties over the month) – diversity is key to a healthy gut microbiome (and good hormonal & emotional health). Leafy greens and dark-coloured berries are particularly beneficial.
  • Include a serving (or two) of beans/lentils/hummus in your daily diet – a fantastic source of fibre, protein and micronutrients. Also excellent for heart health.
  • Consider switching cow’s milk for fortified soya/oat/hemp milk (more heart-healthy)
  • Include minimally processed soya foods in your diet: e.g. edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, miso (limit to one serving daily if you have a thyroid condition) – helpful for menopausal symptoms, heart and breast health.
  • Flavour your food with all manner of herbs & spices (rich in anti-oxidants) – experiment!
  • Minimise refined/processed carbohydrates and junk food (e.g. refined sugar, white bread, baked goods, take-aways), alcohol, caffeine & animal products.
  • Aim to eat all meals within a 12-hour window e.g. between 7am & 7pm. This helps with weight maintenance and hormonal balance.

SUPPLEMENTS

Recommended for everyone, irrespective of diet:

  • Vitamin B12:
    • Aim for 10 micrograms (mcg) daily or at least 2000 micrograms once a week
  • Vitamin D3:
    • Aim for 10 mcg/400 IU October-April (in spring/summer, ensure sun exposure to skin on arms/legs/back for at least 20 minutes daily; continue supplement if not possible)
  • Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):
    • Algae derived EPA & DHA (250 mg/daily) or 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed (e.g. added to cereal/smoothies/salad/soups) and 6 walnut halves daily
  • Iodine:
    • Either ¼ teaspoon iodised salt daily or supplement (up to 0.5 mg/day – do not exceed this)

Resources
The Gut Health Doctor
Devon Gut Clinic
The Happy Pear

SLEEP

  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Switch off electronic devices at least one hour before bed and/or consider wearing blue-light blocking glasses in the evening
  • Aim to get up at approximately the same time each day to establish a routine (this will help with hormonal balance)
  • Aim to get outside in the morning daylight (whatever the weather) for at least 20 minutes each day. If this is not possible, try and have your breakfast/morning drink close to a window/in a naturally lit area.
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages after midday
  • Avoid alcohol before bed – not only does it reduce good-quality sleep, it is an endocrine (hormone) disrupter and can affect HRT.

EXERCISE/MOVEMENT

  • Aim to move your body daily – this is important for mental & physical well-being, as well as hormonal balance.
  • If you don’t already have an exercise regimen, start slowly – even a ten-minute walk around the block has its benefits (see NHS), or consider a five minute morning online yoga session e.g. 5 minute yoga session.
  • Weight-bearing exercise (e.g. hiking, running, dancing, weight-training, tennis) – at least twice weekly – is essential for bone health after menopause. Swimming and cycling are great forms of exercise for heart health and general well-being, but will not prevent osteoporosis.
  • Consider joining your local Park Run or Great Run Local – great not only for exercise, but also community-building, social inclusion and gets you out into nature (which has enormous benefits for our mental health). Do not be put off if you do not run (yet!); many people walk or walk-run around the courses. Children and dogs are welcome too!
  • Balance and core-strength are increasingly important as we age, and reduce the risk of falling in later life. Another reason to consider a regular yoga practice, or why not sign up to a local Pilates or tai chi class?

STRESS REDUCTION/SELF CARE

  • Stress reduction is important for all of us and is paramount during the menopausal transition
  • 5-10 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation/breathing exercises can provide enormous benefits and lower the stress response: Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer are all meditation apps you can trial for free.
  • Take at least 15 minutes a day, every day, to do something you enjoy (and just for you) e.g. reading a novel, playing an instrument, having a candle-lit bath, listening to your favourite music/podcast.
  • BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Suggested reading:

The Stress Solution: Dr Rangan Chatterjee

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled: Ruby Wax

Dr Hannah Short
MA (Oxon) MB BChir MRCGP DRCOG DFSRH
Advanced Certificate in Menopause Care (BMS/FSRH)
www.drhannahshort.co.uk

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