What Every Woman Should Know About Menopause + Natural Relief Tips
8 minute read
While menopause is most often associated with hot flashes, it is officially defined as twelve consecutive months without a period. Your body no longer produces the hormones that regulate your ovaries, which means you can no longer get pregnant and your body goes through some hormone-related changes.
Surprisingly, most women only know the basics about menopause, but getting to know it more intimately can make the transition into this new stage of life much easier. Or, if you have had menopause for some time already, this may answer some questions you hadn’t even thought to ask.
Getting Familiar With Menopause
Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and varies for each woman. Often symptoms will start to develop before the last period and can last for years afterwards. Genetic factors as well as the health of your ovaries play a role in when menopause will start and often you will notice hormonal changes before it officially begins.
Perimenopause is the timeframe before your last official period and marks the beginning phases of hormonal changes. Menstrual periods become more irregular, and flow can get heavier or lighter than usual.
Once you have missed a period for twelve consecutive months, your have officially entered menopause. Postmenopause marks the years after this when the typical symptoms have ceased.
As lower levels of estrogen and progesterone are produced by the body, there is less activity in the ovaries. Because your ovaries dictate the release of eggs and menstruation, lower hormone levels and activity is why your period begins to slow and eventually stop.
Around the mid-40’s, most women will notice changes in their menstrual cycle, which is called perimenopause.
Menopause affects women differently, but there are a few common symptoms found by studies that the majority of women will experience. Women also report different levels of discomfort and disruption to their daily lives.
Certain factors, such as smoking, cancer, or having a hysterectomy can impact the severity and duration of menopause symptoms. In general, women will experience:
♦ Vaginal dryness
♦ Hot flashes
♦ Irritability and mood swings
♦ Depression and or anxiety
♦ Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
♦ Dry skin, mouth, and eyes
♦ Weight gain
♦ Increased urination
♦ Painful or stiff joints
♦ Sore or tender breasts
♦ Hair thinning
♦ Naturally Treating Menopause
Hormone therapy is always an option, but, for the most part, menopause symptoms can be treated naturally. Here are some typical ways to lessen and even prevent problems:
Get Enough Calcium
The hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, so getting enough vitamin D and calcium becomes essential. By keeping these nutrient levels up, you can prevent diseases such as osteoporosis and dangerous bone fractures, which are a higher risk during and after menopause.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day is a great way to prevent menopause symptoms. Your risk for heart disease increases after menopause, and fresh produce is full of heart-healthy nutrients that can decrease this risk.
In addition to this, most fruits and vegetables contain nutrients, like vitamin K, that prevent bone loss and promote weight loss, which are both beneficial to menopausal women.
Putting on extra pounds during menopause is common, especially around the abdomen. Excess body fat increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease and worsens night sweats and hot flashes associated with menopause.
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Losing as little as ten pounds has been shown to improve menopause symptoms and protect you from high-risk diseases.
Regular activity improves bone strength, metabolism, and sleep while reducing stress. When you stay active during and after menopause, you reduce your risk for the diseases that seem to be more common after menopause.
| Related: Every Woman Over 40 Should Do These 8 Exercises Weekly |
Studies have found that regular exercise in menopausal women improves both physical and mental health. With mood swings being a common symptom of menopause, exercising for improved mental health is a big win.
Drink More Water
Dryness is a common symptom of menopause as a result of the lowered estrogen levels. When you drink between 8 and 12 glasses of water a day, you can prevent dryness and reduce bloating associated with hormone changes.
Drinking more water also helps to prevent weight gain because you feel fuller and your metabolism will be running more efficiently.
Watch What You Eat
You need to avoid high-sugar and processed foods as these can cause dangerous blood sugar spikes. With diabetes being more of a risk after menopause, controlling blood glucose levels becomes essential.
| Related: Can Vitamin D Reduce Diabetes Risk? |
You also want to eat more protein to prevent losing lean muscle mass commonly associated with menopause and aging. High protein diets also support weight loss, which is more important during this stage of your life.
You will also come across foods that trigger hot flashes and mood swings. Once identified, you need to avoid these. Common trigger foods are alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods as well as sugar-laden treats.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds in plants that mimic estrogen. Because of this, they are useful in balancing hormones that will change during menopause.
Asian countries typically consume large amounts of phytoestrogens, and this is thought to be the part of the reason for less reported incidents of hot flashes. Foods like soy, tofu, flaxseed, and beans are linked to reduced severity of hot flashes and night sweats, so should be a part of your daily diet.
Phytoestrogens can also be taken as supplements if access to the food sources directly proves challenging.
Sleep can be disrupted with night sweats, and a lack of sleep will only worsen mood swings as well as your productivity for the next day. To ensure you get a good night’s sleep, avoid stimulants like alcohol and caffeine and develop a nighttime routine.
Turning off and avoiding bright screens prevents your brain from being over-stimulated. Choosing a hot cup of decaf tea and reading a book is a great way to unwind before bed. There are a lot of “sleep hacks” you can try.
The Bottom Line
It is important to watch for signs of menopause and take care of yourself before, during, and after. Women with menopause are at increased risk for osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, so staying ahead is essential.
As uncomfortable as menopause symptoms can be, when you are informed and prepared you can effectively minimize discomfort and get through this stage of your life with ease. It definitely gets better, but it also doesn’t have too bad that bad right now.