What happens during Menopause and how to help fight the symptoms

Posted by Sanna Atherton Registered Nutritional Therapist, MBA, mBANT, CNHC on


Menopause is the time of womans life when the periods stop due to hormonal changes. It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, and the most common age in the UK is 51.  Menopause is a natural biological process that happens with ageing. However, it does not occur in all cases due to age; sometimes, it is triggered by other causes such as chemotherapy treatments, ovarian ablation and hormone therapy which may result in Early Menopause.

What happens?

Every woman is born with a finite number of eggs (around 2 million) and menopause happens when these literally run out and the monthly menstrual period no longer occurs.  During this process, ovaries slow down their production of oestrogen and other reproductive hormones such as progesterone. Without these hormones, the period stops and so the ability to conceive. 

There are 3 stages of Menopause

  1. Peri menopause (before) – this is the time period before menopause when oestrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop. It can start from the age of 35 years old and can last, in some women, between 8-10 years. At this stage, pregnancy could still happen.
  2. Menopause (during) – menopause is confirmed after 12 continuous months without periods.
  3. Post menopause (after) – starts after 1 year since the last period.


The most common symptoms in Peri menopause, Menopause and Post menopause are*:

  • Irregular periods – heavy flow, missed periods, shortened periods
  • Hot flashes – intense heat that suddenly occurs over the body
  • Night sweats – when hot flashes occur during sleeping times
  • Elevated heart rate – generally occurs with hot flushes or night sweats
  • Mood swings – anxiety, fatigue, difficult concentration, depression, irritability
  • Disturbed sleep / insomnia – due to temperature changes in the body
  • Vaginal discomfort – dryness, itching, pain during sexual intercourse
  • Urinary issues – less elastic with a loss of muscle control (leakage of urine)
  • Low libido – reduced interest in sex – due to hormonal changes

* Every woman is unique and may experience menopause and  its  symptoms  differently. 


Due to the declining of oestrogen levels during menopause, the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases resulting in blood clotting or Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) can be highly increased. Depression is another symptom which could be triggered by hormonal change of the Menopause.

How to confirm that menopause has taken place?

It is important to speak to your General Practitioner (GP) and inform them of the symptoms you have been experiencing. The GP may ask for blood tests such as FSH Levels to confirm the diagnosis; however, it is not required to diagnose menopause. 

What Can you Do to Help?


    The drop in oestrogen levels that occurs during menopause has a side effect of redistributing body fat and excess pounds start to settle around the waist. On top of that, the change that happens in relation to oestrogen and progesterone at this stage of life is also likely to make your body less sensitive to insulin, the fat storage hormone. This is produced in response to you eating carbohydrates.
    When the bodys cells are less sensitive to insulin, more insulin is needed to do the same job, and more insulin produced means more fat stored.
    There are also lifestyle factors to consider. Muscle mass diminishes with age while fat increases.
    That means its more important than ever to switch from whatever kind of diet youre on now to a low GL (glycemic load) diet that balances your blood sugar levels. This means you will be eating foods that do not trigger insulin secretion in response to what you eat, such as good fats, avocados and eggs. A blood sugar balancing diet like this focuses on real food: meat, fish, eggs, tofu, lentils, beans and chickpeas, lots of veg, some fruit, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. 


      Collagen is a type of protein that pretty much holds our bodies together.  It’s like the glue of our connective tissue, strengthening our skin, hair, tendons, nails, cartilage, teeth, muscles and bone. And even the lining of our gut and blood vessels.  When you eat protein (eg meat, fish, dairy, soy, eggs, pulses), the body makes collagen from the different amino acids from the food.
      As we age, collagen production starts to decline. And during menopause, it reduces by around 30%. Studies show that oestrogen levels are correlated with its production, so when oestrogen starts to decline, so does collagen. And that shows up in more wrinkles, dry saggy skin, thinning hair, brittle nails and joint pain. 


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      Your ovaries and adrenal glands make various hormones to manage the ebb and flow of your physiology from menstruation to metabolism to sleep.   But if any part of the chain isnt working properly, your hormones will be out of balance and the impact on your health can be widespread.

      Your body is able to put up with long-term stress for many years. However the stress and sex hormone pathways lead back to the same place – the brain – and unfortunately, the stress response (because its essential to your survival) takes priority over sex hormone production.

      As the ovaries start to produce less oestrogen during peri menopause, our bodies can produce a form of oestrogen from the adrenal glands. Since the adrenal glands also help us to deal with stress, its crucial to reduce and support stress during the menopause to ensure the adrenals are able to cope with these extra demands. Magnesium has a vital role to play here since it helps to support a healthy balanced stress response. Other menopausal symptoms such as headaches and mood swings may also benefit from additional magnesium in the diet.

      For symptoms of anxiety and tension, magnesium may help to calm everything down, and some studies show that it works even better when combined with vitamin B6.

      The best food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans and sea vegetables such as kelp. And to give you an idea of how much you need to eat just to meet standard daily requirements youd need the equivalent of 1 avocado, 1 cup cooked spinach, 1 cup cooked black beans and 100g tofu every single day.

      And for anyone with higher magnesium requirements, such as those struggling with PMS or menopausal symptoms these quantities would need to be increased. To achieve optimal daily amounts, especially for anyone with increased needs, supplementation is often recommended.


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      Embracing Menopause

      Peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause can be one of the most difficult time in life for women. But it doesn't have to be with the right advice and approach. All women need to transition through this time of life, it is a natural process and it can be managed naturally. IF you need extra support, please get in touch with a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist for how they can help support you.
      Thoughtfully written by:
      Sanna Atherton
      Registered Nutritional Therapist, MBA, mBANT, CNHC


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      https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/womens-health/later-years-around-50-years-and-over/menopause-and-post-menopause-health/menopause#:~:text=In%20the%20UK%2C%20the%20average,seeking%20support%20from%20healthcare%20professionals. [accessed 24th September 2022]

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