Emilie Pine writes in ‘Notes to Self: Essays':
‘If getting my period was ‘becoming a woman’, I fear that the end of my period is the end of being a woman…..
‘As I think about bleeding, and not bleeding, I realise that the cultural silence around female blood is part of a much wider problem - a total shitstorm - of how women’s bodies are imagined, aestheticised and policed to be a certain way. Any variations from the approved script render you invisible and silent.’
When we interviewed our MPowder Community last summer, one of the biggest fears surrounding the menopause was a sense that the end of our periods may make us somehow ‘less woman’;
‘I feel bereft. It has taken my life from me; my fertility, my mind, my looks.’
(Source: MPowder Community Survey, Summer 2019)
Too many of us unconsciously equate our value in society with our ability to procreate - and our desirability with ‘youth’. The menopause can feel like a thief. It enters, uninvited (and often unexpected) and lets loose with a raft of physical and psychological symptoms that make us feel out of control and fundamentally ‘changed’. Our loved ones can struggle to support us because they are as shocked and confused by the changes as we are.
Just 7% of women get the help they need during the menopause according to research undertaken by online community Gennev in 2019. Shocking and unacceptable - yes. But the same research found that 75% of women emerge from the menopause happier with their life.
Transitioning to be stronger and more content is amazing. But it doesn’t make the transition easier. So, what can those of us now experiencing a ‘second spring’, pass on to women ‘in the midst’ feeling bereft and alone?
We’ve spoken in previous posts about the lifestyle and diet tweaks to help with the peri-menopause - and the foods and nutrients you can consider incorporating. The following tips are focused on the period once your menopause has officially passed (12 months after your last period) and are based on the stories shared by the MPowder community. As always, they are designed to nourish body and mind.
Track your symptoms. Sadly the symptoms you experience in peri-menopause don’t magically stop on the first year anniversary of your last period. But it is important to keep track of how you feel. Particularly if the symptoms are affecting your quality of life. There are a number of books and apps out there. Our community referenced ‘The one year symptom tracker; medjourmal life series’. It’s pretty basic but easy to use. MySysters is the first app designed specifically for women approaching the menopause or still experiencing menopause symptoms. Tracking what you experience will also give you the detail you’ll need to make good use of a doctor’s appointment - something you should have done earlier (ahem!), but if not, now is the time to see if they have solutions that can help. MySysters also has a nifty function that allows you to print a report of your symptoms to take to the doctor with you.
Reframe the phase in your life by listening to other women’s stories; we’re on a journey to collate as many stories as possible of the menopause transition. But there has been a big uplift in menopause literature in 2019. Check out ‘Menopause; the change for the better’ and ‘The magic of menopause; a holistic guide to get your happy back’. We're also big fans of Carl Hohore’s ‘Bolder; making the most of our longer lives’ - not a menopause manual, but a manifesto for ageing well. Honore’s goal is to ‘tear up the old script that locks us into learning in early life, working in the middle years and pursuing leisure with whatever time is left at the end.’ Instead - he asserts - we can learn, work, rest, care for others, volunteer, create and have fun all the way through our lives.
Introduce new foods for a new bio-chemical phase in your life; the foods and nutritional boosts we recommend for the peri-menopause are still of value once you’ve had your menopause. However, there is value too in considering the inclusion of:
Hops: Human studies have shown hops to combat menopausal symptoms as well as showing promise in protecting against bone loss and heart disease. In 2017 Portsmouth Brewery in the UK introduced Libeeration - a beer specifically designed by nutritionists to combat hot flashes! - unsurprisingly it sold out in days! We’re not sure of mixing alcohol with our symptoms (any alcohol seems to heighten hot flashes for us) but it is good to see creative thinkers tackling the life-stage and breaking taboos. Hops can also be taken in supplement form. Talk to a nutritionist for further information on trusted suppliers or DM us on instagram @mpowderstore and we’ll put you in touch with our nutritionist team.
Oats: a great source of soluble fibre and really easy to incorporate into your diet. There is increasing evidence that oats can help lower cholesterol and protect the heart too. Buy steel cut organic oats if you can.
Fenugreek: trials point to this herb’s promise in reducing the risk of heart disease, something we are at increased risk of as we transition through the menopause. Small trials have also seen an improvement in libido amongst women taking 600mg of Fenugreek daily for 8 weeks during the menopause transition.
Pumpkin: high in zinc, which, like magnesium, is really important for the menopause. Include it in your diet when it is in season. And use the seeds as a topping for salads, porridge and to add texture to smoothies.
Maca: Maca is a root vegetable belonging to the same family as cabbage, broccoli and radish. Herbalists recommend it for hormone balance, energy levels and libido. Incorporate it into a daily smoothie.
With all new additions to your diet, make sure you talk to a doctor, particularly if you’re about to have surgery, have an existing health condition, or are on blood thinners.
4. Incorporate weight-bearing exercise into your routine. We know many in our community have found exercise, generally, really helpful for the menopause transition. Weight-bearing exercise is particularly important to help your body retain bone density. Osteoperosis is a silent killer. Look to bone loading exercises. And look to try and do something every single day; not just for your bones but your mental health too. We love the RED January initiative - encouraging people everywhere to do 60 minutes of exercise a day to support mental health. Get sponsored and get going!
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, please seek professional advice before changing your routine as certain exercises may do more harm than good.
There is no silver bullet to make the menopause easy for those of us who are finding it tough. Alongside the lifestyle changes we write about regularly, the above additions could make a real difference. But, if you are really suffering, our biggest tip is to talk - to health care professionals, to friends, to your family - to us. Do not accept it as a necessary struggle. Seek help. You deserve it.
Finally, remember that you are not defined by the menopause. It is a natural life stage. It is something our bodies are designed to go through. We’ve written before about the powerful concept of ‘the second spring’ - the phrase used in Japan to describe the new beginning this life stage offers. In ‘Menopause, a change for the better’, the authors also highlight the status enjoyed by post-menopausal women in Mayan Indian tribes - where they become the wise women and leaders, revered for their life experience.
So take stock of all you are. All you have accumulated in life to date. You are more than your youth and your fertility. You are a woman. Phenomenally;
‘When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
(source: Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou)