Dealing with the change

Rachel Borrill talks to Juliet Bressan, GP and author of Menopause — the Drug Free Way.

TRADITIONALLY doctors have offered menopausal women drugs like HRT to help ease their symptoms, but with the continuing controversy over this treatment, many women are now turning to natural alternatives.

Dr Juliet Bressan, a GP and author of Menopause — the Drug Free Way, believes positive thinking, exercise and diet can all help to ease menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, weight gain, depression, memory loss and a low sex-drive.

“Women often feel hot, fat and ugly during the menopause,’’ she explains. “I think it is important to acknowledge this, then sit down and think how are you going to deal with this.

There are two approaches you can take: feeling sorry for yourself, or deciding to look after your body, by paying attention to what you eat, taking regular exercise and nurturing your mind, says Dr Breslin.

More than a hundred women were interviewed for her book, with the majority citing hot flushes as the worst aspect of the menopause. It begins as a feeling of intense heat in the chest and neck which then goes to the face and the rest of the body. The average woman has up to five a day.

To combat this, Dr Bressan suggests keeping a ‘hot flush’ diary to pinpoint any triggers.

Note the time of day, your stress level from one to 10, what you have just eaten and drunk, what clothes you were wearing and what you were doing.

“The women noticed they had more hot flushes when they were stressed at work, or had a lot of alcohol, or were eating on the hoof. Once you have figured out the pattern, you know what to avoid,’’ she says.

“Wear layers and cotton, make sure also that you are drinking enough water. Dehydration can make hot flushes worse and cause leg cramps.’’

Women who ate soya-rich foods, chickpeas, yams and sweet potatoes — which all contain plant-based oestrogens — reported a noticeable improvement.

Deep ‘belly breathing’ can bring instant relief too. By taking full, deep breaths into our lungs, rather than the normal frequent shallow ones, our bodies eliminate the heat naturally.

Unfortunately, some women age 55-65 will continue to experience hot flushes even after the menopause.

“If the hot flushes continue to be hideously uncomfortable, then it does affect the quality of life,’’ says Dr Bressan. “So if you do need extra help then there are some herbal remedies like agnus castus, vitamin E, cod liver oil supplements that do work.’’

Dr Bressan suggests regular exercise, especially using weights, will combat other symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, and prevent osteoporosis. Taking daily calcium and vitamin D supplements will also help.

She also recommends a consultation with a nutritionist to ensure that your diet is properly balanced and has enough zinc and iron nutrients to make up for the loss through the inevitable heavy periods.

Dr Bressan repeatedly stresses that the women who had a positive attitude, and took control of dealing with their symptoms had a “better” menopause.

“It is a question of feeling empowered,” she says. “We need to fight back, take control of the situation and to be able to cope with it.”

Menopause The Drug-Free Way by Dr Juliet Bressan, is published by Sheldon Press, €12.85.

GET UP AND GO

Move it: If you could compete in any Olympic event what would it be? According to the latest research, by TheRetirementCentre.com, the number one choice for people over 55 is swimming.

And what a great choice. Swimming is one of the best-forms of exercise for older people as it tones and strengthens your body without putting strain on your bones, muscles or joints.

Dark circles: Before you rush out and buy expensive eye creams, there are some natural remedies that might get rid of those dark circles under your eyes, why not give them a go?

A chilled tea bag on the eye for 10 to 15 minutes is probably the most popular and apparently effective method.

Happy man: Congratulations to Matthieu Ricard, a French genetic scientist and Buddhist monk, who has been officially declared the happiest man in the world.

Brain scans revealed that Ricard, 66, who lives in India has the largest capacity for happiness ever recorded. Ricard believes this is all thanks to his daily meditation ritual. “Meditation completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,’’ he says.

Top tips to keep motivated

It’s hard to get motivated to exercise when it’s raining outside, here are some tips to help…

1. Change your routine — variety is essential to keep you interested

2. Chart your progress — it is important to see how far you have come

3. Reward yourself — set a goal and if you achieve it buy yourself a treat.

4. Write down the excuse, walk away and look at it again. Are you sure you can’t make time?

5. We all have bad days – plan , get your gear ready, look forward to it.

6. Join a group — it is much harder to make that excuse.

7. Exercise for charity — again, it will motivate you.

8. Think about the positives — exercise makes you feel better, lose weight etc

9. Make it fun — choose new music to exercise too, or buy some new gear.

10. Get inspired — read success stories.

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