Just what is menopause? And how do you know when you’re ‘in it’?
A guest blog from our friends at Mpowder.
Perimenopause. Menopause. Postmenopause….
We may be familiar with these terms as women switched on to wellness and self-care. But do we really know what they mean?
The truth is that the language that surrounds the menopause is not always clear - and the labels applied, rarely helpful! In fact, often these distinct biochemical points in our life are used interchangeably.
If so, you are not alone.
In fact, recent research in the UK revealed that 2 in 3 of us are ‘blindsided’ by the perimenopause. (source: Gen-M, Invisibility Report).
That is why, as we look at understanding menopause - and indeed, whether you’re ‘in it’, we need to start by demystifying the terminology.
These three labels describe the three different stages of the menopause, each of them characterised by biochemical changes in the body.
The three stages of menopause
Perimenopause: is the time preceding menopause, which usually happens in your 40s and 50s, but can be earlier for some. Due to sex hormones starting to decline, your cycles of menstruation and ovulation may become irregular. You may notice mood swings, your sleep becoming more disturbed, weight gain out of the blue - particularly around the waist area, your sex drive going down, and your skin becoming drier.
These symptoms can come unannounced, and slowly start to be more present to the point when you reach menopause.
Menopause: menopause itself is a single, retrospective date in the diary - the 12 month anniversary since your last bleed or period. For many of us it is a date we can not mark - we may be on birth control pills, HRT or we may simply have noticed our menstruation cycle change and eventually cease...but have no idea when we last bled!
Post Menopause is then, effectively, the rest of your life. And, for our generation, we may be lucky to live at around 50% of our lives post menopause. At this point, your sex hormones will decrease and eventually plateau, and symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats become more common for a while. This is also the time to start thinking about your bone and heart health more seriously.
Over time, some symptoms may ease, but urogenital symptoms such as vaginal dryness, urgency and frequency to urinate, and urinary tract infections are more common in post-menopause due to low levels of oestrogen. The risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues (including depression and dementia) also increases. It is important to be monitored and assess your individual risk for these conditions with your doctor.
The transition from perimenopause into menopause and postmenopause is a gradual process, and very individual. Some women can stay in peri-menopause for several years while others have a quicker transition through menopause. The average age of women reaching menopause in the UK is 51.
So, how can you tell if you’re perimenopausal?
The most common reflection we get from women in perimenopause is that they believe they began their transition at the point they ‘stopped feeling like themselves’. Often the first symptoms are related to our mind. We may feel more anxious. We may get a sudden dose of ‘imposter syndrome’ at work. Our skin may change. We may feel bloated and uncomfortable in our clothes...
And what should you do first if symptoms impact your quality of life?
1. Make friends with your doctor: the best first step is to visit your doctor with a list of symptoms and concerns. HRT can address many symptoms head on - and act as a preventative measure against some of the chronic diseases we become more at risk of as we age.
2. Rethink what you put on your plate: what we eat in midlife can make a big difference to our transition. Look to up your intake of protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. Choose plant-based powerhouses like leafy green vegetables, seeds (chia seeds are a firm favourite in our community!), and legumes like chickpeas and soybeans to deliver powerful nutritional goodness to balance hormones, promote bone health and protect your heart.
3. Supplement smartly: MPOWDER PERI-BOOST, for use from the age of 43, contains over 24 different plant based ingredients, including Moringa, which is full of calcium and phosphorous, to keep our bones health and strong, as well as zeatin to feed our skin, beta-sitosterol which can lower cholesterol, and anti-inflammatory acids and carotenoids that support eye health.
MPOWDER MENO-BOOST, formulated to support you once you’ve had your menopause journey, includes red clover, a natural antioxidant which is anti-inflammatory as well as rich in vitamin C and has shown promising results in trial for its ability to support bone health and joint pain.
MPowder is designed to deliver a daily scoop that addresses all your body’s biochemical needs through the different stages of menopause. And although we have omega 3 in our powdered blends, for those of us who are vegan or vegetarian, we also recommend considering a high quality omega 3 supplement too. Research has shown that Omega-3 EPA and DHA may be beneficial to bone health, due to their anti-inflammatory effect, their impact on bone formation, bone resorption and on serum calcium. We’re big fans of Bare Biology’s newly launched Vim & Vigour Vegan supplement.
But perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do, to support our bodies and minds at this lifestage, is to approach it with a curious mind. Every individual’s menopause journey will be different. Work out what works for you.
And, I promise, Part 2 can be every bit as fulfilling and exciting as Part 1.
With love, Rebekah, founder of MPOWDER.