During the menopause you could experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms – some expected and some seemingly hard to associate with the menopause. Many women get prepared for hot flushes and low libido but it’s not uncommon to experience issues relating to leg health. Food Scientist and Nutritional Therapist Susie Debice explains the leg problems to look out for…
You may never have had problems with your legs before, but as soon as you hit the menopause you might find that you’re not as light on your feet as you used to be. Common leg problems to keep an eye out for include:
- Heavy legs
- Restless legs
- Varicose veins
- Walking through treacle with heavy, tired legs
Having achy and tired legs after a workout or a long walk is completely normal but if your legs feel heavy and tired for no reason then this could be to do with your menopause. If you feel like you are walking through treacle or that your legs feel weighed down and that every step seems to take an incredible amount of effort and energy, then you could be suffering from heavy leg syndrome. Sometimes this is associated with varicose veins (which we’ll talk about in a minute) or it could be that fluctuating hormone levels associated with your menopause may have created a change in the circulation to your legs so the muscles and cells just aren’t getting the same amount or consistency of oxygen and fuel leaving the legs tired and heavy.
Being overweight doesn’t help, so embarking on a new healthy eating and increased activity plan is a good start. Sitting or standing for long periods of time may contribute to the problem. Set an hourly alarm on your watch or phone so that you can regularly take a 5-10 minute break for a switch in movement to help support blood circulation. Elevating your legs at the end of the day and even in the middle of the day helps to drain fluid from your legs and refresh the circulation helping release pressure that could be building up and creating a sensation of heaviness.
- Unsettling restless legs syndrome
You might be feeling tired and exhausted, but your legs may be telling a different story. If you notice that you are moving your legs in an agitated way due to experiencing tingling or an uncomfortable throbbing, jittery, crawling or shaky sensation then you could be suffering from restless legs syndrome (RLS) brought on by your menopause. RLS is considered a disorder of the nervous system which impacts on the muscles in the legs. The mineral magnesium found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and avocados, contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and also supports normal muscle function so supplementing with the mineral may help settle your legs so you can feel more comfortable. Stress may enhance RLS so finding ways to relax such as meditation, massage and soaking in a warm bath may help you unwind and relax.
- Bumpy and painful varicose veins
The arteries, veins and capillaries which carry blood around your body contain valves which ensure that the blood flows in the right direction. However, falling oestrogen levels during the menopause means that these valves and the walls of these blood vessels may not be as strong as they used to be. This causes blood to collect in certain areas, creating a rippled, misshapen, and discoloured effect under the skin known as varicose veins. Over time, these areas may become swollen, painful and enlarged. Surgery may be your only option to remove these veins but it’s worth focusing on foods rich in omega 3 (oily fish, flax oil, walnuts, chia seeds) and vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, green leafy vegetables, parsley) which help to support the integrity of blood vessel walls and support normal circulation. If you don’t like the taste of fish, then you could supplement with Cleanmarine Krill Oil to help support omega 3 intake and also take a vitamin C supplement daily.
- The ‘orange peel’ appearance of cellulite
As you progress into the menopause, you may start to notice that your skin has that lumpy, bumpy, dimpled effect attributed to cellulite. Changes in oestrogen levels during the menopause are thought to be associated with a loss of collagen from connective tissue and a change in the way that fat and fluid become deposited under the skin. Supplementing with vitamin C and hydrolysed collagen peptides may help to support collagen renewal and replenishment. Dry skin brushing may also help to support lymphatic drainage and avoiding sitting for long periods of time may also be helpful for the circulation. Cleaning up your diet and lifestyle could be helpful – cutting back on sugar, alcohol, processed food and saturated fat. Drink plenty of water and make sure you hit your 5-a-day.
If you are finding that the menopause is impacting on your quality of life, then it’s best to get in touch with a nutritional therapist.