More than just hormones
You are normally considered to be through the menopause when you have not had any periods for two years, and during this time your hormones should have balanced out and your body should have learned to cope with this new low level. Many women feel just as good, if not better, after their periods have stopped – no more monthly blues, feeling low, bloating etc., and as long as they continue to take care of themselves, problems should not arise.
However, for some women the path through the menopause can tax them both physically and emotionally, and even after the menopause is well and truly over, they continue to suffer. Most common symptoms tend to be hot flushes/sweats, fatigue, joint pain and low mood. What is causing these symptoms? It is very unlikely to be hormonal flux after all this time.
Going through the menopause, even an easy one, stresses the body’s nervous system, particularly the adrenals, and if you then couple this with the external stresses of day to day life, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, holding down a job, and family life (many women through the menopause have elderly relatives to care for and maybe have to babysit their grandchildren too), it is not surprising that their body is under so much pressure and eventually something gives.
This compounded stress, over time, leads to what is called adrenal fatigue and symptoms include:
- hot flushes
- low mood/depression
- poor sleep
- sore joints
- digestive problems
- itchy skin
- nausea – just to name a few!! Sounds very similar to the menopause, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, most doctors will not recognise this condition and very often prescribe anti-depressants or HRT, neither of which will address the underlying cause. So, if this is you, what can you do about it?
How to support your adrenals
Adrenal support is very important at this point, so you need to have a good look at your diet and lifestyle.
Are you drinking lots of tea or coffee or fizzy/sugary juices? Eating foods with high levels of salt and sugar? Processed foods and/or fast foods? Not drinking any plain water? When we are stressed/fatigued we tend to crave these types of food to give us an energy boost, but all that happens is that we quickly ‘crash’ and our body craves more and more to try and keep going.
All of these foods and drinks can also drain the body of the nutrients it needs to counter stress, and therefore make adrenal fatigue worse. So the first step is to gradually improve your diet. Start adding in more fresh foods and wholegrains such as brown bread and brown rice and slowly cut down on the tea and coffee (don’t do this quickly or you will end up with a really sore head!). Start adding in plain water and herb teas too.
Supplements such as a vitamin B complex and extra magnesium can support the adrenals. Your local health shop should be able to advise you on which are the best for you.
Daily relaxation is vital for adrenal support and just sitting down with a cup of tea and a magazine won’t really do it. Research has shown that if you shut yourself away from all distractions and listen to specially recorded relaxation music, this can very quickly have a beneficial effect, but you do need to be consistent! You can get smashing relaxation CDs/downloads from Amazon for next to nothing.
Exercise is really important too and I know that when you are feeling really fatigued, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym or pound the streets. But just start with a 10 minute walk every day: exercise produces feel-good chemicals in the brain which can lift the mood and you may find that over time your 10 minute walk gets longer and longer. Try to fit exercise in every day: even in little doses it helps – I always run up and down the stairs at work as quickly as I can. Or you could get off the bus a few stops early and walk the last leg, or use a mini trampoline or mini step machine while watching the TV.
Acupuncture can work wonders for adrenal fatigue, so is worth looking into as well.
One word of caution though: these symptoms can be caused by other factors such as low iron or vitamin D levels, or low thyroid function, so it is important to see your doctor as well, even if it is just to rule these out.