Dr Fiona Barry, owner of two female wellness clinics in Cork and member of Meno Active formulation team, answers our questions on menopause and the best ways to deal with the symptoms.

What is menopause and what happens during it?

In medical terms, menopause is the one year anniversary of a woman’s last menstrual cycle, so theoretically it only lasts one day. However, menopause has become the umbrella term for the transitioning of a woman’s body from her reproductive years to her non-reproductive years.

Like puberty, this transition occurs over a period of time. The process is divided into phases, beginning with peri-menopause and ending with post-menopause.

Menopause occurs because a woman’s ovaries begin to shut down and become unresponsive to the signals they are receiving from the brain. This means they cease to produce the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. This has a systemic effect as these hormones have many physiological effects throughout the body.

Unfortunately, the winding down of the ovaries isn’t a smooth, linear decline; it is more a 'stop-start’ process, causing the levels of hormones to fluctuate wildly.

Peri-menopause can be the most difficult time for women as this is the time that the hormones fluctuate the most. In early peri-menopause, a woman’s menstrual cycle is most likely still regular; however, she will not be ovulating every cycle. This leads to a decrease in progesterone and therefore a relative increase in oestrogen and testosterone, potentially giving rise to various signs that things are changing.

Due to the higher relative levels of testosterone, many women find their sex drive increases during this time. In late peri-menopause, the levels of all the sex hormones have decreased but they are still fluctuating.

Once a woman reaches menopause and becomes post-menopausal, everything starts to settle down as the hormone levels stabilise and the body adjusts to the new lower levels. Most women find their post-menopausal years the happiest years of their lives.

What age does the menopause typically start?

The typical age for menopause is 51. However, 1 in 100 women go into menopause before the age of 40 and 1 in a 1,000 before they are 30. This is a significant and noteworthy number and women need to be aware of it. It is also worth bearing in mind that peri-menopause, time leading up to menopause, is often the most difficult and symptomatic time for women. Therefore, when we think about menopause, we should think in terms of the time taken to complete the whole process, much like we do with puberty, and that process starts for most women in their early 40s.

What are the common mental effects of menopause on women?

The effects of menopause on our mental faculties are diverse, including our cognitive function and our emotions. Our brain contains receptors for a variety of hormones and it is through these receptors that our hormones elicit their effects.

Oestrogen boosts the synthesis and enhances the effects of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain. It is intimately linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin.

When oestrogen levels drop, as in PMS, post-partum or peri-menopause, it’s common for mood to plummet as well. Although it’s more complicated than this, put very simply, when oestrogen levels are up, so are serotonin levels and so is our mood; when oestrogen levels decrease, so do our serotonin levels and our mood goes down too.

What are the lifestyle changes women could introduce to help?

Like everything in life, preparation is key and there is no doubt that the more prepared a woman is and the healthier she is, coming into this phase of her life, the easier it will be. Our body is designed to cope with menopause, but we must support it, ideally commencing before we enter into it; in other words, in our 30s.

While the ovaries are the primary site of production of our sex hormones, other sites in the body also produce these hormones, such as our skin, our hair follicles, our fat cells, our muscles, our adrenal glands and even our brain. If a woman enters peri-menopause in good physical, nutritional and psychological health, her adrenal glands can increase their production of sex hormones by up to three-fold over time.

This adaptation will not occur if she enters menopause completely depleted, which unfortunately is the case for many women nowadays. A good starting point to help you prepare for this phase of your life is a healthy diet.

A Mediterranean-style diet, comprising of whole foods and rich in vegetables, is the most supportive during menopause. Adequate sleep is also vital to stabilise hormones, as is regular exercise and an appropriate work/life balance. As our oestrogen levels decrease, we become more sensitive to the stress hormone cortisol, so managing stress levels is really important.

Practices that help you relax, such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation or even a massage, will increase your mood and sense of well-being. If a woman is still struggling while on a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and employing stress reduction techniques, then she may need additional help, such as supplements or herbal remedies or acupuncture.

Every woman is unique so different treatments work for different people. It’s worth investigating what might work for you. For some women, natural remedies don’t give them adequate relief and for these women, they may have no choice but to go the medical route.

What are the benefits of using Revive Meno Active? Can it be used during peri-menopause?

The supplement Meno Active was created specifically for this phase of a woman’s life. It contains ingredients to support every system in a woman’s body that is impacted by menopause, from bones to hormonal activity. Not only does it contain 19 vitamins and minerals to support overall health, but it also contains digestive enzymes and live friendly bacteria. This is very important as our metabolism slows down during menopause and can cause us to gain weight.

In addition, it contains a high quantity of omega 3, in the form of DHA, which contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function. The formulation team also added four plant extracts: ashwagandha, sage, green tea and genistein, which is an isoflavone found in soya. These were chosen as a result of evidence-based scientific research and are present in the appropriate biologically active form and at the appropriate concentration.