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Simple guide to menopause

Orla Walsh, RD
Orla Walsh, RD
Orla Walsh is a Registered Dietitian, owner of Orla Walsh Nutrition, former performance nutritionist to the Irish Olympic team and regular contributor for the Irish Independent newspaper, RTE and Newstalk FM.

What is menopause?

Menopause usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55 years, with the average age being 51 years. 1 in 20 women go through menopause between 40 and 45 years, while about 1 in 100 go through menopause before the age of 40. This can occur for lots of reasons, including treatment for cancer.

When a woman goes through menopause, her periods stop. Menopause is when periods stop for 12 months. Perimenopause occurs in the years prior to this, and can cause havoc on monthly cycles making them shorter or longer, lighter or heavier. However, as some form of contraception stops the monthly cycle, this ‘sign’ isn’t always available.

It’s worth noting that if you’re younger than 40 years and your periods have stopped, this can be for longs of reasons including conditions like HA and PCOS. Please let your doctor know if and when this happens.

Generally, women wait about a year before they get the treatment they need. There are many reasons for this. A study suggested that social media was the main source of information for women. With so many unqualified people giving advice on social media, perhaps it’s misinformation. It could also be the simple fact that symptoms vary so much, and can be put down to other factors in life.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause is different for everyone. Some sail through it, some hit it like a tonne of bricks. Menopause and perimenopause can cause lots of different symptoms. About 8 in 10 women experience symptoms. And, for 8 in 10 women these symptoms interfere with day to day life.

The duration, frequency, intensity and volume can differ. On average these symptoms last for 4 years after the period stops and for 3 in 4 women they last for about 7 years in total. For the unlucky 1 in every 10 women, symptoms are experienced for up to 12 years.

There isn’t an area of the body that isn’t impacted. This may be why 3 in 4 women feel so unprepared for it. I suppose, how could you prepare for something that can be so varied and unpredictable? Symptoms are plentiful and there are comfortably over 40. For example,

  • anxiety,
  • issues with memory,
  • night sweats,
  • weight changes,
  • headaches,
  • mood swings,
  • brain fog,
  • hot flushes,
  • sleep disturbances,
  • changes in sex drive/ libido,
  • challenges during sexual intercourse e.g. vaginal dryness,
  • joint stiffness,
  • aches & pains,
  • recurrent UTIs,
  • palpitations

How can you treat menopause?

  1. There are things you can do to help with symptoms. Basic advice for most women would be to limit caffeine, alcohol and smoking while aiming to get some daily exercise. Also, including some soya foods as well as linseeds / flaxseeds may have some benefit.
  2. There are also medicines that can replace the missing hormones and help relieve your symptoms. There has been plenty of scare mongering about the different options so please do talk to your GP about what is suitable and safe for you.
  3. There are dietary changes you can make to help you feel better. Adequate hydration, eating enough protein at meals and aiming for 7 portions of fruit and vegetables each day is a great start.
  4. As menopause puts the body at greater risk of certain conditions and diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis, the diet needs to be altered to mitigate this increased risk. Upping your intake of dairy, ensuing you’re taking a vitamin D supplement, eating lots of nut and seeds as well as focusing on resistance exercise will go a long way.

Want more info?

If you would like to learn more about menopause and what you can do then book an appointment with one of our team of Registered Dietitians for an online or in-person consultation.

Alternatively, you can register for my upcoming webinar – Managing Menopause – on 22nd March 2023.


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