How can you best adapt to the changes in menopause?

Nourishing nutrition
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

October 2, 2021

updated 26 Nov 2021

“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”
Max McKeown


October is World Menopause Month.

And it is probably with a reason that it falls into autumn. Autumn is the transition from summer to winter. Nature around us is changing, adapting, and preparing for winter. Autumn gives us a splash of colour before the grey dark days of winter.

We start to take our winter clothes and coats out again. We start to dress for the cooler mornings and evenings. We adapt.

This all happens very naturally, and we don’t put any thought into it.

Just like nature, we – as humans – constantly change and constantly adapt to the circumstances.

However, even though menopause is a completely natural phase in the lives of EVERY woman who is fortunate enough to get that old, we often “fight” it rather than “adapt” or even embrace it.

Let me share Ger’s story which is quite a typical story that I hear a lot in my clinic or when I speak to women in their 40’s and 50’s.

Ger noticed that she was gaining weight around the middle in her mid 40’s but was trying to ignore it at first because she hadn’t really changed anything. She thought, maybe it was that extra bit of wine or that extra bit of cake, then it was maybe the holiday, then it was Covid, etc. However, she got to a stage where she wasn’t happy anymore and where she noticed her confidence was suffering. She felt uncomfortable in herself. Her clothes were tight. She felt very bloated all the time and sometimes experienced severe stomach cramps and pains. Her sleep was more and more disrupted. She felt snapping at her husband and her kids more frequently. She felt she was constantly worrying to the point of anxiety. Her GP suggested anti-depressants, but she thought “I’m not depressed”, but when she observed had noticed her moods were often quite low. There were days when she had no energy anymore and would have loved to just get away from it all. She told me she didn’t recognise herself anymore.

Finally, she decided it’s time to do something and joined a weight loss group again. She knew exactly what she had to do but was struggling to implement it because of her mood swings. There were days when she was hardly eating anything and others where she was binging. She decided to go back to the gym and go running more. And with a lot of willpower, she managed 2 months of sticking to the diet plan – or eating even less than in the plan! She stuck to an exercise scheme of the gym and running. She felt rotten. She had no energy left and it became more and more of a struggle – but the worse of all, she put on weight! She felt so deflated that she just went back on eating “whatever” (as she said it) and was giving out to herself for her lack of willpower. She lost more and more confidence and didn’t even want to go out anymore for fear of being judged.

I hear similar stories all the time and it pains me because I know it doesn’t have to be that way. Menopause does not have to be that struggle!

What was happening to Ger, was that eating a calorie-restricted, especially a low-fat diet, and on top of exercising too much, was putting her under even more stress.

Her body felt under threat. And her body felt that there is danger out there, and it hung on to every calorie she was eating and was not ready to shed any weight.

When Ger came to see me, we first looked at changing the foods she was eating. We included more nutrients that supported her overall physical and mental wellbeing. Like many women, she had no idea of the role the food we eat plays on our mental health as well. We talked a lot and just from talking it out, Ger came up with solutions and ideas on how she can prepare and eat healthier meals that suited her lifestyle, rather than following a prescribed plan. She changed her tough exercise regime to a gentler one – focusing on hikes in beautiful landscapes, and she tried out Pilates and Yoga. We also started with a meditation app, which helped her observe her thoughts better. Mindfulness helped her recognise that she was constantly giving out to herself. By recognising this, she was able to change her mindset. She was able to see her life in a more positive way. It took a while until she saw a significant weight loss, but she very quickly started to feel better in herself, more confident, and she saw a massive increase in energy. She also felt a big shift in her mood and so did her husband and her two sons. She said, “I am feeling more like myself again”.

Ger could have saved herself many years of negativity and stress and health issues. She could have spared her husband and sons a lot of stress as well. As she told me, at times I don’t know how he put up with me, and I am so glad he didn’t just leave me.

When Ger noticed changes in her body, instead of adapting to the changes, she tried harder to do the things she did in the past. Live could have been easier, had she adapted to a gentler, loving and caring way.

As we evolved as humans we had constantly to adapt to our changing environments. In fact, our genes have adapted to changing environments. However, in the last 50 years, our environment has changed so quickly that neither our bodies nor our genes managed to adapt that quickly in that same time. I believe this is the reason why we are seeing so many chronic long-term illnesses in the last number of years.

And of course, there is no point in wishing the “good old times” back, but I think we need to wake up and see that a lot of what we now consider food is actual poisoning our bodies. We need more awareness about what our current environment is doing to our health and wellbeing. And we need to adapt to the changes in our bodies.

When I talk to my clients, I often hear them say “But I never had a problem with bloating when I’m eating xxx” “I always used to eat xxx and I never put on weight” “My energy levels have never been so low, even though I haven’t made any changes in my life”

Especially, when we reach menopause, so many things are changing in our bodies. Most of them are because we are not producing oestrogen anymore in the ovaries. (We still produce some through the adrenals – which is why we need to address stress as well as nutrition.)

Did you know that oestrogen is involved in all these processes in the body?
  • Increases lean body mass
  • Reduces abdominal fat
  • Balances cholesterol levels HDL/LDL
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Maintains bone density
  • Improves mood
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces skin wrinkling
  • Reduces hair loss
  • Modulates appetite
  • Maintains a healthy gut and gut microbiome
  • Regulates histamine output (and allergies)
  • Improves insulin resistance

No wonder, it affects so many aspects of our lives. Many women feel better when they are taking oestrogen supplementation, however, it is not for everyone.

Regardless of whether you are or not, it is vital to adapt by making changes in your nutrition and in your lifestyle.

And I am not talking about eating less and exercising more!

I am talking about a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan that suits your hormones, your lifestyle and your genes. Ger was thinking she was doing the right thing as this was the only thing she knew. Ger was following a generalised nutrition plan that was not suited for her. She did not need anti-depressants or HRT (Hormone Replacement) in the end, because she adapted to the changes in a way that suited her.

Ger increased foods that contain phytoestrogens (which you find in pulses, lentils, beans, soybeans etc) that mimic oestrogen. She cut down on her sugar intake and replaced it with good sources of protein and fats. She reduced carbohydrates overall and substituted fast releasing with slow releasing. She increased her good fats. And most importantly, we addressed her gut issues so that she was actually absorbing the nutrients of the healthy foods she was eating. She decided on doing yoga 3x per week and made sure to get at least 10000 steps in daily. She started sea swimming. She started painting again. She still keeps practising meditation and journaling daily.

And the best is, she simply enjoys all her new lifestyle and doesn’t want to go back! She feels that she enjoys her food more than ever before.

Would you like to find out more about how a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan can help you? Contact me to book a complimentary Health&Energy review session at










Mulled wine

This delicious mulled wine is sweetened naturally with a little cider and the juice of an orange.

If not sweet enough just add some xylitol.


2 bottles of fruity red wine
150ml apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of one orange
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
5 whole cloves, stuck in an unwaxed orange
A pinch of nutmeg
5 cardamom pods (optional)
I tbsp of xylitol (optional)


Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the wine rest for an additional 10 minutes before straining and serving.

Healthy Mince Pies

Ingredients for the filling:

1 large apple
75g raisins
75g sultanas
75g currants
65g dried, ideally unsweetened cranberries
60g other dried fruit (sour cherries,
blueberries, mango, apricots
– dried but unsweetened)
Zest and juice of an orange
50g coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp butter, cubed
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g of almond flour or ground almonds
75g of coconut flour
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
zest of an orange
115g butter, frozen
(plus a little extra for greasing)
1 egg, lightly whisked


Pre-heat the oven to 175˚C, then put the almond and coconut flours in a bowl with the sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the orange zest. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and mix together with your fingers till a crumb forms.

Stir in the egg and mix with your hands to form a dough. Divide the dough in half; wrap each in film and place in the fridge for 1 hour (or overnight). Grease the moulds of a muffin pan with a little butter.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place between 2 sheets of baking/ greaseproof paper.

Roll with a rolling pin to flatten out the dough until it is pie-crust thin.

To make the filling:
Put all of the filling ingredients (other than the brandy) into a large saucepan over medium heat and stir.

When the butter is fully melted, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir through a tablespoon of brandy, and decant into sterilized glass jars.
Leave to cool with the lid slightly ajar, then secure tightly and store until required.
Using a biscuit cutter (or an upturned jam jar – needs to be about 8cm diameter), cut out 25 circles and lightly press into the muffin pan moulds.

The pastry can be tricky to work with, as there is no gluten holding it together. Be patient. If the pastry
splits just push it back together with your fingers and use any pastry scraps to fix it up.
Fill up each pie mould with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. Using the remainder of the dough, cut out 25 stars to top each pie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins, before gently easing them out. Don’t be tempted to remove from the
tin when they come out of the oven – they WILL fall apart if you do this.

(Recipe from Zest4Life Christmas recipes)

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