No woman welcomes the onset of menopause: the hot flushes, the insomnia, the weight gain, the lowered libido, and the endless list of other havoc-wreaking symptoms.
The trouble is, it’s unavoidable – for most of us, our menstrual cycle (and all that it entails) will halt by the age of 51 (according to the NHS).
But some part of it, experts say, is also down to factors you have a little more control over…
1. Stop using old pans
It might sound unlikely, but older non-stick pans are covered with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which can disrupt hormone levels – so much, in fact, that US studies revealed women with higher levels of the chemical in their blood went through menopause earlier.
“Choose your cookware carefully, especially as PFOAs appear to build up in the body over the years,” urges Dr Marilyn Glenville, women’s natural health expert and nutritionist.
‘We don’t yet know how big a factor these chemicals are, but they may have a cumulative effect over a woman’s lifetime. So avoid any non-stick pans or utensils as it’s just not worth having the possibility of that toxic exposure.”
2. Eat low-fat dairy
Studies from the US once showed that women who ate skimmed milk products, including low-fat cheeses and yoghurts, went on to delay the onset of menopause by over three-and-a-half years.
It’s thought that enzymes in the milk of cows can boost oestrogen levels, and hence boost the reproductive system.
“Try and stick with organic milk, yogurts and cheeses,” says Glenville. “And put the emphasis on eating more yogurt because of the beneficial bacteria.
3. Lose the clingfilm
Plastic is not desperately fantastic when it comes to our body’s hormone levels. Many experts believe that pliable plastics, like clingfilm, have harmful chemicals that can alter our hormonal systems – though the extent of this is not yet known.
For caution’s sake, Glenville believes you should never to heat food in plastic and that you shouldn’t keep food in its plastic packaging.
4. Use non-chemical beauty products
You might be slapping on anti-ageing moisturiser to combat wrinkles, but unless you’re using a natural one, you could be encouraging earlier menopause, due to the level of chemicals being absorbed into your skin and upsetting hormone balance.
“Avoid using skincare products such as moisturisers and deodorants, which contain fragrances or parabens,” says Glenville, who suggests using more natural cosmetics and toiletries.
5. Eat fish
Fish is regularly lauded for its health boosting properties, so it’s not a surprise it can help with menopause too – in fact, scientific studies have shown women who consume fish two or more times a week tended to start their menopause later than those who didn’t.
“Essential Omega 3 fats from fish help ‘oil' the body by lubricating the joints, skin and vagina. Omega 3 fats help balance hormones, boost your metabolism and help with weight loss,” explains Glanville, who suggests eating a diet of oily fish like salmon and mackerel or taking a special Omega 3 supplement.
6. Do puzzles
Keeping an active mind can help ward off many things, and now experts say it can ward off (for a little bit anyway) the onset of menopause.
“Help keep your mind sharp before reaching menopausal age. Daily crosswords, Sudoku or even learning a new skill or fitness class will help keep the mind sharp and help increase concentration levels. Or take a supplement like NHP’s Brain and Memory Support,” says Glanville.