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6 common health questions answered by the experts

6 common health questions answered by the experts MAIN

Menopause symptoms? Bloated tummy? Low mood? The experts are here to help answer your need to know health questions

Getting a GP appointment is stressful at the best of times so many health questions often go unasked and unanswered.

The Healthista team have collated a few of the most pressing health questions, concerns and queries that have popped into our inboxes, and asked a few experts we have been working with to answer them….

Health Question #1 How do I know if I am menopausal?    

‘Besides going to see your GP or Gynaecologist and getting an FSH (Follicle follicle-stimulating hormone test) hormone test, which is quite hard to diagnose as it can be different for every woman,’ says Dr Jo Bailey, menopause specialist Consultant Gynaecologist working with new vaginal health brand VJJ Health.

‘A good guide is also the age of a woman’s mother, as this tends to be of a similar age.

‘There is a collection of symptoms that can last for years, such as irregular periods, sleep disturbances, night sweats, mood swings,  joint pain, memory fog, and decreased libido, to name a few.

‘It’s best to go and talk to your Doctor and, ideally, a Menopause GP or arrange to see a gynaecologist.’ 

READ MORE: How to look after your Bone & Muscle Health during Menopause


Health Question #2 What foods can I eat to help balance my hormones?  

‘Following an active and healthy lifestyle will ensure you maintain a normal weight and create the right environment for regular hormone production,’ explains Aimee Benbow, nutritionist for the ethical supplement brand Viridian and author of The Menopause Journal

‘A balanced, colourful, and nutrient-dense whole-food diet is needed to ensure the body has all the necessary nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin B6, for hormone production and balance.

‘Essential fatty acids, in particular omega 3 which has anti-inflammatory properties, is found in oily fish, as well as seeds and nuts. Green leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium, whereas Vitamin B6 is found in fish, animal sources and fortified cereals. 

High sugar in the diet can lead to increased inflammation

‘Aim to reduce intakes of salt and refined sugar from ultra processed foods as salt leads to increased fluid retention which in turn can increase blood pressure and exacerbate bloating in those who suffer with this as a symptom due to hormone imbalance.

‘High sugar in the diet can lead to increased inflammation, which is associated with worsening pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms; additionally, high sugar intake negatively impacts energy levels, in turn affecting mood.

‘It is also advised to reduce alcohol intake as high levels of alcohol consumption have been associated with hormonal irregularities. 

‘The little-known spice ‘saffron’ has a wealth of research behind it, specifically in relation to PMS and low mood relating to hormone imbalance – as little as 30mg daily of saffron extract has shown to improve common symptoms associated with PMS and food cravings.’ 

READ MORE: Do you have stress belly?


Health Question #3 Why do I struggle to lose weight around my tummy?  

‘Stress can contribute to belly fat because of increased cortisol levels, the reason this accumulates in the belly is because it is close to the liver where it can be converted back to energy quickly if needed,’ says Rob Hobson, registered and sports nutritionist with sports brand Healthspan Elite, and author of new book Unprocess Your Life.

‘Some people, such as apple-shaped women, are predisposed to carry more weight around their middle.

‘Menopause also causes weight to carry around the middle, thickening waistlines, and this is because oestrogen drops, causing fat cells to enlarge as they attempt to produce more oestrogen – this fat accumulates around the middle as opposed to hips and thighs.

You can’t target fat loss by body area

‘Insulin resistance can also play a role as higher insulin levels in the blood promote fat storage.

‘Metabolic rate can also slow down with age as muscle mass decreases, so it is important to include weight-bearing exercise into your exercise regime.  

‘You can’t target fat loss by body area, so the same rule applies to anyone else trying to lose weight. A diet rich in plant foods high in fibre, including fruits such as apples and pears, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes.

‘Fibre helps to fill you up and bulk out meals. Protein is also important for satiety so stick to lean proteins such as poultry, tofu, or fish. Healthy fats are important to help reduce inflammation in the body as well as keep you feeling full between meals. These fats include avocado, olive oil, oily fish, nuts, and seeds.’

Health Question #4 Why can’t I get a flat stomach through exercise?  

‘You can lose weight by just exercising, but ultimately, how defined you look is dependent on how good your nutrition is,’ explains London PT Will Duru.

‘Training abs won’t get you abs, but it’ll strengthen your core muscles if done correctly, but to see your six pack you’ll have to watch what you eat and be on a calorie deficit (intake less calories than you burn daily) – using apps like MyFitnessPal can help monitor this.

‘To build lean muscle overall, I would advise focusing on compound exercises using the barbell to do squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, and bent over row etc- keep the sets between 4 to 5 sets for each exercise and 8 to 12reps with progressive overload to build strength and muscle.’

READ MORE: 5 common health conditions that can affect your mood


Health Question #5 Why do I suffer from low mood more often than my partner?  

‘There may be several reasons why you find yourself experiencing low mood,’ says Viridian Nutritionist Aimee Benbow. 

‘Hormonal imbalance leading to PMS symptoms, which include mood swings, are very common in women and it is estimated that up to 75 per cent of women experience PMS to some degree.

‘These mood swings occur due to the fluctuations in hormone levels just before your period, but the full menstrual cycle involves many changes in hormone levels throughout the cycle, which can impact our mood.  

‘Another cause of poor mood maybe due to a nutritional deficiency – nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin B6 have been researched in combination to aid low mood and depression.

‘Women with PMS have been shown to have low red blood cell magnesium content compared to women who do not have PMS.

‘Studies performed using the combination of magnesium and B6 found that, compared to placebo, there was a significant impact on PMS symptoms including cravings, water retention and anxiety.

the full menstrual cycle involves many changes in hormone levels throughout the cycle

‘Vitamin B6 has also been investigated in numerous studies for its benefits on mood and in particular depressive symptoms that are associated with PMS.

‘Supplementing with minerals like Magnesium could help to stabilise mood and alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety whilst also balancing fluid levels to ensure optimum hydration.

‘Vitamin B6 can help with symptoms including irritability and can be taken as a supplement or through the diet in foods like fish, poultry, potatoes, fruit, and fortified cereals. 

‘Sub-optimal Vitamin D levels have also been linked to poor cognitive function and low mood – ensuring good levels of sun exposure and supplementation during the winter months will prevent low levels of vitamin D and in turn positively impact mood.    

‘This could be down to a  number of factions. One could be a hormone imbalance, or it could be due to diet and a lack of vital nutrients in your diet which can cause low mood, even something as low as vitamin D can cause low mood.’  

READ MORE: Bloated stomach? 5 common causes of bloating and how to help


Health Question #6 Can I develop lactose intolerance in later life?  

‘Yes, this is possible,’ says Healthspan Elite Nutritionist Rob Hobson.

‘Lactose intolerance occurs when your body is not producing enough lactase, which is the enzyme needed to digest lactose (the sugar found in milk and dairy products).

‘This can happen due to primary lactase deficiency, a genetically programmed gradual decrease in lactase production after childhood, leading to symptoms in adolescence or adulthood.

‘It can also result from secondary lactase deficiency, where illness, injury, or surgery involving the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and gastroenteritis, reduces lactase production.

‘Certain ethnic and racial groups, including East Asian, West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian, have higher rates of lactose intolerance.

‘Additionally, as people age, their digestive systems change, and lactase production naturally declines, contributing to lactose intolerance in older adults.’ 

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