How to ease the effects of symptoms of menopause

Lesley Dobson / 10 July 2013

If your menopausal symptoms are affecting your life, there are steps you can take that can help to reduce their severity.



Diet and weight loss during menopause

Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, and could help you deal with the symptoms of the menopause. It will also be good for your health generally, possibly providing some protection against cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.

Try to eat a balanced diet, with at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables every day (more if you can manage it). Keep sugary and high fat foods (such as full fat hard cheese and butter) to a minimum. Try to eat oily fish (such as fresh salmon) twice a week, and when eating meat, choose poultry over higher-fat red meat.

Losing weight, as well as being good for your health, can directly help ease your symptoms. Studies have found that being overweight and having hot flushes are linked. And research published in 2012 found that women taking part in the study that lost weight while eating a low fat diet, and increasing their fruit, vegetable and grain intake, experienced fewer hot flushes and night sweats.

Smoking and drinking

If you smoke, you’ll probably know already that it’s harmful to your health. A study published in 2012 found that smokers had more hot flushes than non-smokers, which is an extra incentive to quit.

Watch your alcohol intake as well. 14 units per week is the recommended upper limit for women. If you drink more than this you can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Some women find that becoming menopausal means that they can no longer tolerate the same amount of alcohol as they did before.

Caffeine intake is something else to watch out for, as this can make your symptoms, including the hot flushes, worse. Try cutting down and see if things improve.

Exercise during menopause

It’s well known that exercise is good for our health, can reduce our risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis, and is also good for our mental wellbeing. Regular exercise, such as brisk walking three to four times a week, can help strengthen your bones, improve your mood, help with weight loss, and may help you sleep.

If you aren’t already exercising, start gently, and gradually increase the time you spend exercising (and the effort you put into it). If you have any existing health conditions, or have concerns about your health, see your GP before you start on a new exercise regime.

HRT/MHT

If self-help methods such as diet and exercise don’t help, you may want to talk to your GP about medication. HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), or MHT (Menopausal Hormone Therapy, as it is also known), is generally regarded as the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms. In fact, at a meeting of the International Menopause Society in 2013, experts concluded that:

  • MHT is the most effective treatment for symptoms such as hot flushes and sleep deprivation.
  • MHT is also beneficial for bone health and may decrease mortality and cardiovascular disease.
  • The benefits of taking MHT generally outweigh the risks for women under 60, or within 10 years of the menopause.
  • The risks are generally small.

If you think that this may help you, talk to your GP. They may feel that other prescription medications, might suit you better.

Alternative remedies for menopause

Some women prefer to take alternative remedies, such as black cohosh, ginseng and red clover. Before you start taking any medication or alternative therapy that hasn’t been prescribed for you by your GP, talk to your doctor to make sure that they are safe to take.

Some may react with other medications you already take. You shouldn’t take dong qai and some varieties of red clover if you are already taking warfarin or any other anticoagulant.



The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.