News from ION

According to reports today, a government review has found that around 10% of drugs dispensed in England may be pointless and potentially harmful. When it comes to the menopause, however, a podcast with the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) reveals that unnecessary prescribing could be fuelled by lack of information.

Jackie Lynch, a registered nutritional therapist and author of The Happy Menopause, told the podcast, which is out now, that many women suffering from menopause symptoms were prescribed anti-depressants instead of having their symptoms addressed, and some mistook menopause symptoms for early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Lynch also said that the effects nutrition and lifestyle can have on menopause symptoms are still being overlooked. Many women begin to experience symptoms of the menopause in their early forties - particularly psychological symptoms such as anxiety, low mood and brain fog.  But because of lack of information, they do not always know how to support their health during this time.

“It’s amazing when you think of all the information that’s chucked at us as preadolescents,” says Lynch. “And then of course, women are bombarded with information around pregnancy. But not every women gets pregnant, and yet every women goes through the menopause. I find it astonishing that we don’t know this stuff.”

Lynch, who is also chair of the board of trustees at ION, encourages women to start thinking “harder and more constructively” about what they are eating.

“In a nutshell, diet and lifestyle – things like exercise, stress management and sleep – can absolutely make a difference,” she says, “particularly for most of us sitting somewhere in the middle in terms of severity of symptoms.”

HRT "not a magic button"

For women who do choose extra support through HRT, she explains that good nutrition is still important.  

“The one thing that all health professionals are absolutely clear on is that diet and lifestyle will make HRT work better. HRT can be a great thing for some women, but it’s not a magic button. You have to give it the right tools.”

Lynch also breaks down the age old narrative that ‘fat makes you fat’, advising women not to fear foods like avocados, full fat hummus and nuts.

“If you eat too much of anything, ultimately you will [put on weight],” she says. But the brain, she explains, is made up of fat. “So a very low fat diet is no good for anyone who is struggling from brain fog or emotional issues.

“Knock yourself out, enjoy full fat hummus. It tastes better and it’s going to really support you.”

...not every women gets pregnant, and yet every women goes through the menopause. I find it astonishing that we don’t know this stuff

Hard wired to nurture

Stress, says Lynch, can also play a large role in the menopause, and supporting the stress response through nutrition and lifestyle can help to manage symptoms.

Self-nurture is also important. “The problem is that as women, we are hard wired to nurture,” she says. “We look after everyone else except ourselves; whether it’s children, a partner, colleagues, the elderly neighbour or elderly parents.

“I encourage women to see this as their time,” she adds. “Dare to say no. Take more ‘me time’.”

The Optimum Nutrition Podcast is published by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. Listen to the full episode with Jackie LynchAvailable on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and Google Podcasts.