Bladder infections, irritation and incontinence.
Unexplained vaginal pain and something that feels like thrush but isn’t.
Aching joints, osteoporosis and weight gain.
The laundry list of symptoms that accompany you throughout the menopause is dizzying.
As your hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) change in the lead-up to, during or after the menopause, you might experience any or all of these. In any combination, this can lead to you feeling tired, out of sorts or just not like yourself.
And let’s not forget that these physical changes in your body, naturally provoke a million questions...
Do I need HRT?
If I do, how do I even go about that? Are there risks I need to know about?
And is HRT the only option? Or is there anything else that can help?
Do I also need to worry about reduced bone density? What about osteoporosis?
Who do I turn to for help?!
In this post, pelvic health specialist, Alison Middleton and dietitian, Grace Chau share their advice on managing your menopause symptoms at home - and how physiotherapy and proper nutrition can help.
How can I manage my menopause symptoms myself?
Looking after yourself well is crucial.
The good news is there is plenty you can do on your own to lessen the impact of your menopause symptoms. Here are four simple ways you can help yourself:
1. Follow a healthy diet.
This means limiting refined / processed foods and trying to eat less high fat, high salt or overly sugary foods - all of which can worsen symptoms. Aim to include 5 portions of fruit and veggies per day and drink plenty of water (1.5 - 2 litres daily, sipped throughout the day).
2. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol.
Both of these worsen flushes and increase the risk of osteoporosis, so try to reduce your intake of coffee, black and green teas, energy drinks, wine, beer and spirits. Today there are more tasty decaffeinated and alcohol-free versions of your favourites than ever, so you needn’t feel deprived.
3. Make it a priority to move your body regularly.
Being overweight has been proven to worsen flushes. Regular, appropriate-for-you exercise (whether that’s hitting the gym, heading out for a brisk walk or a Pilates class) helps not only with weight loss, and reducing hot flushes, but can also:
help to manage joint pain
lower the risks of heart disease and osteoporosis (both of which are more common in menopausal women)
lift your mood - especially important during the times you’re feeling low or not yourself.
help prevent or manage osteoporosis
4. Manage your stress levels and try to get the best sleep you can.
Easier said than done a lot of the time, we know! There are loads of mindfulness techniques you can implement to reduce everyday stress. Even using a meditation/sleep app like Calm or Headspace can work wonders for people who struggle to relax and aren’t sleeping well.
Apart from HRT, is there professional help available to help me manage my menopause symptoms?
Some of the ways a pelvic health physiotherapist can help you manage the change better include:
helping you manage any vaginal issues, such as pain, vaginal dryness, something that feels like thrush that isn't and any prolapses that may have suddenly appeared or are getting worse
providing you with a pelvic floor strengthening programme, which has the proven benefit of preventing and reducing incontinence and helping you manage any prolapse
teaching you relaxation techniques to help with joint pain, disturbed sleep and low mood
providing you with a specific exercise programme designed to strengthen and tone your body before, during or after menopause, whilst helping you with weight management - an exercise programme can also be designed specifically for you to help prevent and manage osteoporosis and osteopenia
supplying you with information and advice on HRT
helping you decide what’s right for your body and lifestyle
Similarly, a specialist dietitian can also help with managing your menopause by assessing your diet and designing a personalised nutrition programme. They can:
help prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia by ensuring you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D
assist and support you with weight management
provide advice on protecting your heart health
guide you in lowering your cholesterol levels and blood pressure
An appointment with either or both can be really helpful to discuss all your symptoms, explain your options and get you feeling better.
Where can I find more information about menopause management online?
Two reliable resources our clinicians swear by are the websites of Pelvic, Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy and Menopause Matters. Both offer valuable resources to help you learn more about what’s happening in your body and how you can manage your symptoms before, during and after menopause.
Physiotherapist Alison Middleton and dietitian Grace Chau each provide specialist menopause management services at icpc Health. If you’d like help with your own unique situation, get in touch to arrange an initial appointment with either or both of them at icpcHealth.com or on 01467 633444.