Post-menopause – even the term itself is somewhat cumbersome. We may view this epoch in our lives with some trepidation. Does it mean hitting terminal decline, winding down, deteriorating?
Not necessarily according to Goldster Health Coach Susan Saunders. “It’s an exciting time,” she states resolutely. “It may mean an empty nest, moving house or retiring. What has changed positively is that we are no longer tied to the rollercoaster of hormonal change – periods and perimenopause. We’ve got that energy back. A famous anthropologist coined the term ‘post-menopausal zest’.”
So we need to be positive about it – these are potentially golden years of our lives with upsides such as increased leisure time to devote to the things we love doing, grown up children who no longer require care and all the delights of grandchildren.
“Obviously the downside is the loss of our reproductive hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone which do so much more than reproductive functions. They wrap us in a protective cloak and keep us healthy during our fertile years. Those hormones go, it’s as if Mother Nature is saying ‘Right honey, you’re on your own!’ ” Continues Susan explaining that the loss of oestrogen in particular affects the whole of our bodies. Oestrogen receptors are not just in our ovaries, they’re in our brains, bones, arteries and joints too. “Once oestrogen has gone, we need to work hard to look after ourselves because the hormonal soup is not doing that anymore.”
Susan, who has a new book out on post-menopausal health has helpful tips for those in this age group. Firstly to put yourself and your needs first. “We tend to think ‘I’m so busy’, she continues, “but you can only do those things if you’re well. We can’t give to others unless we look after ourselves first.”
Secondly she urges us to find the joy in life. “Where can we find freedom? Where can we find joy? Can we revisit something that we liked as a child?” Whether that’s dancing or reading or gardening, finding a passion is key to enjoying life and staying healthy and happy post-menopause.
Thirdly, she feels we should be getting outside into nature and using that time for reflection. “We can ask ourselves some questions and try and problem solve the issues we’re facing. It works better outside.”
In terms of food, we should be more mindful of what we are eating as we age and of the gut and its functioning. “The gut is where everything starts in terms of health,” says Susan pointing out that menopause has a direct impact on the gut because oestrogen works with the gut microbiome to help maintain the health of the gut lining. So what should we be eating more of? “Fibrous fruit and veg, oats, apples, beans and pulses, chia seeds and flax seeds,” lists Susan explaining that these will help maintain the structure of the gut wall, which, in the past, was something oestrogen helped to look after.
Phytoestrogens and the foods rich in them are also important – flax seeds, soya beans (including tofu, tempeh and edamame), dried fruit, sesame seeds, cruciferous vegetables. “They are naturally occurring compounds that mimic oestrogen in our bodies,” Susan elaborates.
Last but not least we need to stay active, moving throughout the day as well as doing concerted sessions of exercise. Carrying shopping bags, walking up the stairs, walking round the block all count. “Any form of movement so you’re not stuck at your desk all day,” affirms Susan. “And work on balance and posture to avoid falls.” Yoga, tai chi and Pilates all help with balance and posture and you can even supplement this by standing on one leg to brush your teeth morning and night.
Approach it with the right attitude, get educated about your health and this time of life can be a truly enjoyable era for you. Goldster’s expert Susan knows the best places to start.