'Falling off a cliff': How menopause affects the body, brain and how to help ease symptoms

"It's stressful when you turn into a person who is the complete antithesis of who I was." Photo credit: Getty Images.

If you're a woman approaching menopause or perimenopause, it can be an isolating experience. 

Naturopath and author Lara Briden, and Newshub's Entertainment Editor Kate Rodger joined podcast Fierce Fitness this week to talk all things menopause, which Briden calls "second puberty" or "reverse puberty". 

"It's a normal phase of life we're supposed to go through...it's something we've evolved to do. It's not just an accident from living too long," explained the author of The Period Repair Manual. 

"It's the stopping of the period at the end of our reproductive years. For most women, most of the symptoms come during perimenopause. Menopause itself should be a bit gentler [than perimenopause]. A lot of the turbulence comes in the lead-up." 

Those symptoms can include brain fog, anxiety, 'hot flashes' and vaginal dryness, among other things. 

It was a turbulent stage for Rodger, who explained that for her, menopause was like "falling off the cliff without an ambulance at the bottom".

"I guess part of it for me with my eight-year-old son and 14-year-old stepdaughter is I don't want these years to scar them for life,” she said. 

"I don't mean to be so hard on myself but it's incredibly stressful when you turn into a person who is the complete antithesis of who I was a couple of years earlier.

"I know this shall pass but I don't want this time to be etched on my child's soul until the end of time."  

If you're feeling similarly to Rodger, or you're approaching perimenopause and you want to be prepared, Briden says there are some lifestyle factors that can help - although much of your personal response will be down to genetics. 

"I want to acknowledge that while lifestyle factors can improve the symptoms, that does not mean those with symptoms have done something wrong," she said. 

"What I've observed is that some of the most simple things can make a huge difference." 

Moving the body

"Building muscle is important for several reasons including how it affects the brain and metabolism. Having a healthy amount of muscle is very good for this transition phase". 

Cut down on alcohol

"Alcohol is not friendly to the perimenopausal brain. With my patients, I really encourage them to stop it completely for a while and see what that does to their sleep." 


 "My fave supplement of all time, magnesium, can be a game-changer for menopausal transition symptoms."

To hear more about menopause, listen to the full episode.