Your wellbeing Need aNswers oN meNopause? expert Nicole jaff gives refreshiNg iNsights Q A i’m dreading winter because i don’t seem to fight off colds and flu like i used to. it feels like i’m getting sicker more often since i became menopausal. My doctor has given me a thorough check-up, says i’m fine and that i can’t blame the menopause. what do you think? News flush... ✢ It’s important to do regular moderate exercise to help boost your immune system. w&h Want to know more about menopause? For more information, call Nicole Jaff on (011) 885 1498 or visit her website at www.menopausefortoday.com 118 woman&home A BrA nd ne w At t i t u d e PhotograPh greAt StOCk! *Bails J. (2008). Carnegie Mellon to Many women feel they get sick more often when they become menopausal. while some healthcare practitioners believe that falling oestrogen levels may be the reason, there’s just not enough evidence to prove this, or that the benefits of taking oestrogen outweigh the risks in the long run. when we’re young, we often take our good health for granted. Menopause comes at a time of life when we are getting older. As our bodies age, we have fewer reserves to fight illnesses. By the time we reach menopause we’ve probably got into a lot of bad habits that affect our bodies’ resources. the good news is that research has shown over and over again that living a healthy lifestyle can help fight disease. eating sensibly, exercising, dealing with stress and cutting down on bad habits are a must if we want to live well in menopause. Healthy eating can be one of the best defences in the fight against illness. it helps boost our immune systems, does wonders for our figures, helps prevent insulin resistance, makes our skin and hair look great and provides powerful antioxidants. if you think you’re not keeping to the straight and narrow, a good multivitamin and an Omega-3 supplement may help. regular, moderate exercise is another way to help fight colds and flu. Sleep is another factor that can affect our health and when we’re menopausal many of us battle to sleep. if we don’t have enough sleep we can become irritable, lethargic and less able to cope with the daily stresses of life. Sleep is vital because it helps to boost our immune systems. So get help if you are struggling. Health-wise, smoking is an absolute no-go for menopausal women. Apart from all the major medical problems, women who smoke often get really nasty colds and battle to shake them off. Many of us lead busy, harassed lives and changing our established routines can seem too hard, so don’t try to change everything at once. if we cut down on unhealthy foods, add more fruit and vegetables, make time to exercise, starting with just one or two days a week, and try to get enough sleep we’re well on the path to good health. the best way to change your lifestyle is to take it one day at a time; and don’t be too hard on yourself when you slip up. Stress and your immune system when we’re highly stressed we seem to get ill more quickly, more frequently and battle to shake it off. Cortisol, a key hormone, rises when we’re stressed as part of our “fight or flight” response. Cortisol enhances our immune system but when too much stress over a long period raises it too high, it can damage our health. doctors believed this was how stress affected our immune systems. new information offers further understanding. Our immune systems become suppressed after long exposure to stress due to chemical messengers called cytokines. these can stimulate or inhibit the growth and activity of various immune cells. responding to infection, these immune cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. this flood of cytokines creates cold symptoms. too few cytokines means you can’t fight infection, but too many may make you feel sick. Chronic stress may interfere with our bodies’ ability to turn off the production of cytokines. One of cortisol’s jobs is to turn off cytokine production, but when cortisol levels are too high, it can’t do its job properly. So, if you’re constantly stressed and producing too much cortisol, you’ll probably have excess cytokines which may trigger and prolong colds. Pause for Power ✢ Eat at least five servings of deeply coloured fruit and vegetables (e.g. spinach, carrots, peaches) daily and include plenty of citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. ✢ Drink plenty of water but don’t go crazy. Six to eight glasses daily will keep you hydrated. ✢ Don’t fall into the winter trap of eating large meals full of carbohydrates. a cup of vegetable soup may not be as comforting as a sticky pastry but it’s much healthier and is warming. ✢ Include an omega-3 supplement in your diet. research has shown that these may be powerful antioxidants.