This month we talk to Menopause Nutritionist Shirly, who helps women struggling with menopause anxiety, low moods, depression, brain fog and disturbed sleep.
I was around 48 years old when I went to see my GP about my low moods and depression, as I thought I was developing mental health problems.
My GP only offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and as I believe in working with my body, I didn’t want ‘man-made hormones’. He offered no other information, support or help.
Being a Midwife, I’m used to referring pregnant women to other healthcare professionals. So, I was disappointed not to be referred to someone who could help me.
As a healthcare professional, I have access to a database of research material and once I qualified as a Nutritional Therapist, I was in full-on menopause research mode.
I was shocked to discover that menopause is associated with serious health risks. This spurred me on to look after my health, more than reducing my menopause symptoms.
I also found out that there is very little support for women who can’t or don’t want to take HRT and want to manage their symptoms naturally through food and lifestyle changes.
Being trained in Functional Medicine principles of looking for root causes of symptoms, I knew that looking after ourselves in midlife, couldn’t be as simple as replacing low or lost hormones.
I researched the main hormones involved in menopause and how they affect certain body systems, to cause different menopause symptoms.
I then used my knowledge of nutrition to support these body systems. This helped me understand why it’s not enough to just ‘eat healthy’. Here are the basics of what we should be doing in order to take control of our menopause symptoms. We need to;
- Reduce or eliminate foods and lifestyle habits that contribute to making our symptoms worse, such as alcohol, smoking, poor food choices, stress, sedentary lifestyle etc.
- Provide the nutrients and compounds that support the body systems involved in menopause symptoms, through our diet. These include cruciferous and green vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and fibre rich foods.
- Eat to metabolise and excrete used hormones effectively, in order to support hormone balance. This includes movement and exercise.
- Get our blood sugar and stress levels under control. High sugar and processed foods, as well as stress, creates hormone imbalances in our body. We may experience these imbalances as anxiety, low moods, brain fog and even wake us up at night.
- Work on a deeper level with our body and for me, this means getting our gut health in order. Many women don’t associate gut issues with mood issues. However, 95% of our serotonin is stored in our gut. Which is why mood swings, depression, anxiety and other mood issues in menopausal women, may be due to digestive issues.
In addition, our stomach acid and digestive enzymes decrease as we age and this may be one reason why we have digestive issues.
Working with a client 1:1 is means that I’m able to work with her holistically, in order to understand what’s making her symptoms worse. Genetics, current/previous illnesses, nutrient deficiencies, foods choices, stress levels, lifestyle, detoxification, hormonal and neurotransmitter communication etc, all influence menopause symptoms.
I also provide personalised menu plans and recipes, to women who may not want in-depth 1:1 support.
To find out more, visit perimenopausenutritionist.com.