Health: Feeling festive and menopausal – not necessarily a good mix

by Rose Barrett
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Christmas is a time to challenge any of us and women in particular, who face the festive challenges more than others – shopping for the perfect gifts, family clothing, negotiating family tensions re the Christmas dinner and of course, cooking not just for the day itself but often for Christmas Eve, Stephen’s Day and over the so-called ‘holidays’! 

And then there’s the cleaning of the house, and the gift wrapping – the two seasonal tasks that drive me over the edge. Goodwill to all, most of us are ready to collapse by noon on Christmas Day! 

But if you’re navigating the difficult waters of menopause, it can be the most horrible of times, amidst a see-saw of emotions, hot flushes and physical discomforts. 

Dr Deirdre Forde, founder of Céile Medical, the first dedicated menopause clinic in the midlands, says that “Menopause can throw up all sorts of possibilities for trouble and strife around Christmas.” 

“I think a lot of people still see it through the prism of the big screen with unrealistic expectations. It can be an enormously stressful and emotional time. 

“Human beings are hard wired to react to stress, – it’s a primal instinct and dates to times when people had to hunt for survival with threats everywhere. We have moved on from being hunter gatherers but the basic ‘hypothalamus’, which is like an internal alarm in your brain, naturally remains. 

“Stress exacerbates menopause symptoms like anxiety and can cause your body to go haywire. It’s not pleasant but it is manageable. The good thing is once a perceived threat disappears, the hormone levels return to their normal rate”. 

Dr Forde’s advice is simply to forget trying to please everybody at Christmas; if you are having guests over on Christmas Day, don’t stay in the kitchen – get out and mingle with them. 

“There is nothing wrong with pre-prepared vegetables, readymade desserts. Ditch the idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas as it simply doesn’t exist, expect on the TV screens.” 

“Sleep and exercise are our ‘friends’ but Menopause is the great sleep stealer. Exercise releases serotonin, our happy hormone, it’s great for our minds, bones and it can aid sleep.”. 

Dr Forde recommended mindfulness, hobbies, whatever you enjoy along with Omega 3 and Magnesium supplements, and drinking ample water which is powerful for good skin, hair and energy. 

“Even a thirty-minute walk can make a huge difference to mood. Remember it is your thoughts that affect your moods, not the other way round so if a thought is not serving you, ditch it. Negative thoughts are a bit like a bad movie playing on a loop”. 

Weight is hard to shift during the menopause but you must eat well to maintain a healthy weight – and Christmas food temptations are lethal! 

“A healthy balanced diet will help to counterweight gain. Reduce sugars and carbohydrates which will ultimately end up around your tummy as you become more insulin resistant. Vitamin D, K and calcium for bone health, eat kale and spinach, very nutrient dense and brilliant in soups, stir fries and juices”. 

Cut down on alcohol and spicy foods, and load up on berries, rich in Vitamin C. She further recommended magnesium to aid a peaceful night’s sleep, vitamin B complex for a healthy immune system, Omega 3/fish supplement, dairy for calcium, protein fish, eggs, etc. 

Practical tips include cool cotton sheets, maybe even silk pillowcases. Wear cotton, silk and linen clothing, dress in layers, and steer away from tight fitting clothes. 

Keep Christmas simple, Dr Forde warned, there is no such thing as the perfect woman, much less a perfect menopausal woman!

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