Over the years, lots of women have asked me whether things like achy legs, leg cramps, swollen ankles, restless legs or hot (and very cold) feet are symptoms of menopause. The answer is yes, they can be, and there are four main reasons why these symptoms can occur.
Issue 1: Magnesium deficiency
The first one is magnesium deficiency. As we know, falling oestrogen levels can affect the absorption of magnesium and that can have a detrimental effect on other areas connected to menopause. An unbalanced diet can also cause magnesium deficiency, and stress will burn magnesium up like no one’s business. So magnesium deficiency is really common in the menopause.
Leg problems caused by magnesium deficiency
The sort of symptoms you’ll get with magnesium deficiency would be things like cramps, especially at night. You’ll get those restless legs, you know, there you are just dropping off to sleep and suddenly, your legs are jiggling about all on their own. It can be quite uncomfortable, and it can take a long time to settle down. You can also get pins and needles and what I call jumpy legs.
What can help?
The solution to these issues can be a magnesium supplement. I’d suggest either a powdered magnesium that you can dissolve in water and take just before bed, or magnesium tablet taken with your evening meal.
For leg cramps especially, there is a tissue salt that you can take called Mag Phos, which you can take right before you go to bed. I like the Helios Mag Phos 30C. Try bathing in magnesium salts too: a warm (not hot) bath before bed can really help to comfort legs.
Make sure that your diet is rich in magnesium foods. Add more fish, dairy, nuts, meat and spinach to your shopping list.
Issue 2: Fluid imbalance
Another menopause-related issue is fluid imbalance. We know that falling oestrogen can interfere with the hormones that control the water balance in the body, which means you can get dehydrated very quickly as you go through menopause and very often, you’re not even aware of this particular problem.
There’s an obvious answer to this – and it’s one I talk about a lot in relation to cellulite: you need to drink plenty of still water. How to do it if you’re not a good water-chugger? Start habit stacking with a litre of water a day for six weeks, after that you are likely to find it feels like second nature to down a litre and more. Try to drink more water than coffee or tea: both are dehydrating and stimulating, and can make night sweats and hot flushes worse by interfering with your whole water balance.
Leg problems caused by fluid imbalance
The most obvious sign of a fluid imbalance is swollen ankles and legs in general – some of us feel it around our knees, others can also see a daily difference in our thighs. Your legs will feel more achy too. This can be a contributory factor to hot, puffy feet and general dehydration – and just as a little aside, dehydration can also cause breast pain. So make sure you’re drinking more water over and above anything else you’re drinking in the day.
What can help?
As well as plenty of water, some herbal teas can help with this issue. My favourites are golden rod and fennel tea, but they can be a bit of an acquired taste.
Issue 3: Circulatory problems
Another impact of the menopause can be a general deterioration in your circulation. Oestrogen can make it that bit more sluggish. It can also be to do with the fact that we live a more sedentary life, a lot of us, we’re having jobs, we’re not moving about as much, and that can affect circulation in the legs.
Fatigue can be behind a slower circulation and lymph too – if you’re really tired, you’re not going to want to exercise and that will have an impact on the flow of your body and the way it metabolises waste.
Dehydration can be a factor in a slower circulation.
Leg problems caused by circulatory problems
Circulatory issues – blood and lymph flow – will ultimately cause issues like swollen ankles and legs as well. Your legs will feel more tired, hotter, possibly quite restless and even end up with vascular issues as well.
What can help?
Water water water! And Legology Air-Lite! When the weather is warm keep your Air-Lite in the Fridge and apply it chilled, upwards from ankles to knees and over thighs. Then lie flat on your bed or the floor with your feet resting against the wall at right angles for 10 minutes to give fluids a chance to run back up your legs and take the puffiness down.
Issue 4: Structural issues
Menopause can also cause structural problems. During the menopause our posture can change and this is to do with the fact that our joints can be affected, that can pull on our posture, and that can cause problems with our legs as well.
These changes can be to do with dehydration too, and if you’re sitting at a desk all day this can affect your shoulders, which in turn can affect your lower back, and your hips, and that can give you leg pain, which could also give you swollen ankles. So keep a check on your upper posture as well, and make sure that you’re sitting up straight when you’re at your desk.
Leg problems caused by structural issues
For this particular one, you’re going to get general aches and pains. You might end up with pains in the knees, you might get ankle pains, you can get sore feet. You might find that when you’re walking, that the soles of your feet start to get sore and you’ve never had that problem before, and as I mentioned before, you can end up getting sore hips and just general pain all over.
What can help?
If your back has become sore the first thing to do is see a chiropractor. After that – and they will probably recommend this – look at taking up stretching exercises. The best for posture are the Alexander Technique, Pilates, Lotte Berk and Barrecore, and yoga.