Seasonal Shifts in the Year and in the Body The weather in August thankfully perked up towards the end of the month and it was a relief to welcome back some late summer sun. The first few weeks of September in the UK are usually warm and lovely, so fingers crossed for an Indian summer!
As the season shifts from summer to early autumn, it’s the signal of the end of one phase but the start of another. The same can be said about our bodies. Being outside and in nature, helps our awareness of the passage of time and prepares us for the new season. It is important to embrace the start of September and the harvest it brings, as early autumn whispers around us.
Being in sync with nature helps to improve our happiness levels. Hormones of course play a huge part in how we feel and it is important to manage them. When we develop from children into adults, we are of course very susceptible to the sudden and intense rush of Oestrogen and Testosterone in our teenage years but as adults, we are still very much prone to their effects and our cycles. Females have a period of fertility from when they start menstruating to when monthly cycles cease. When there has been no period for 12 consecutive months, this is classed as the Menopause and the average age of when this happens is 51, but it can be younger. Like the emotional rollercoaster of the pre-teen and teenage years, the phase before Menopause, Peri-menopause, can last around 10 years beforehand, bringing irregular cycles (longer, shorter and even missed periods) as Oestrogen levels fluctuate and start to drop off. This time of change can bring on sleep difficulties, discomfort, waves of hot flushes, night sweats, itchy skin and mood swings, to name a few of the common effects.
However, there are many ways to help manage symptoms. By eating plant foods naturally high in Phytoestrogens such as flax seeds, soy and Edamame beans, dried fruits and nuts, sesame seeds, garlic, berries, wheat bran, tofu and cruciferous veg, such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Phytoestrogens act in a similar way to Oestrogen, thus helping to counter the body’s dropping levels. Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol can improve the length and quality of sleep as well as wearing cool clothing to prevent sudden temperature changes.
It is much easier to gain weight during the Peri-menopausal stage too, especially around the hips and belly. The body requires fewer calories than it did in your 20s and 30s, so try to make easy, subtle yet tasty swaps with your meals, as well as reducing sugar and carbohydrates intake.
As Oestrogen levels fall, you can help manage your mood with regular exercise. Building in some regular weekly cardio, which you like doing, is important too, helping you to keep blood pressure at healthy levels and look after your heart health.
Muscle toning and strengthening exercises, such as Pilates, makes such a difference to your body’s condition and compliments other forms of exercise beautifully. Pilates helps to keep you flexible and strong with good coordination and control. The mental benefits of practising Pilates regularly are particularly beneficial too, helping to balance your body and your mind.
It is also worth considering HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to help further manage symptoms, which is available during Peri-menopause and not just during the Menopause or post-Menopause stages, so do speak with your doctor for information and advice.