9 of the Best Ways to Help You Navigate Menopause
Menopause occurs when a woman reaches the end of her menstruation cycle for 12 or more months. Neither a disease nor a condition, it’s a normal, natural event.
Hormonally, it’s a shift as monumental as puberty and pregnancy. As such, there can be several difficult symptoms to manage.
Here’s what you need to know about menopause and how to find natural relief from its challenging symptoms.
What Happens During Menopause
As a normal function of aging, usually between ages 45 and 55, a woman’s ovaries begin to reduce their functioning. This results in lower levels of estrogen and other hormones such as progesterone in the body.
Periods become irregular, sometimes skipping for a few months and then returning, or with heavier or lighter bleeding. And then they stop altogether.
Menopause also can result from a medical condition, after chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatments for cancer, or when the ovaries or uterus have been surgically removed.
A host of symptoms may begin during the phase leading up to menopause, called perimenopause, and many of those symptoms continue during and after postmenopause, when they eventually diminish.
These are the most common symptoms:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Memory problems
- Mood issues (low mood, feelings of anxiousness, irritability)
- Vaginal dryness (pain during intercourse)
- Loss of libido
- Increased need to urinate/UTIs
- Breast soreness
- Weight gain around abdomen, hips, and thighs
- Skin changes/acne
- Hair loss/brittle nails
- Headaches and dizziness
- Digestive issues/bloating
- Joint pain and muscle tension
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this transitional time is critical – and may even alleviate, reduce, or stave off some of these unwanted symptoms!
9 Proven Tips to Help You Navigate Menopause
Here are nine ways to navigate menopause naturally.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
Research has revealed that there’s a relationship between nutrition, body mass index, and the severity of menopausal symptoms.
If your diet is on point (plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and fiber – and very little refined carbs, sugary treats, processed foods, and fried foods) and your body mass index is in a healthy range, your symptoms will likely be less severe. Take steps to improve your diet and achieve a healthy weight.
Getting plenty of regular exercise can help with multiple menopausal symptoms. While the research isn’t conclusive, in one study involving physical activity interventions, menopausal women reported having fewer hot flashes and night sweats. Exercise has mood-boosting benefits as well, and strength-training exercise helps to maintain bone health and promotes restful sleep.
- Avoid Foods That Exacerbate Symptoms
Spicy Foods – Spicy foods (jalapenos, cayenne, hot peppers) can trigger sweating, flushing, and other hot flash symptoms, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Alcohol – Research suggests that drinking alcohol can make several menopausal symptoms worse including low mood, feelings of anxiousness, disturbed sleep, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Caffeine – A Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Menopause found that postmenopausal women who consumed caffeine had more hot flashes and night sweat symptoms than women who didn’t.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking can increase hot flashes. Of course, it’s an unhealthy habit to begin with. Perhaps this is further motivation to quit for good!
- Consume Ground Flaxseeds
Ground flaxseeds and unfiltered flaxseed oil are rich in lignans, a group of chemical compounds that function as phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Research shows that consuming flaxseeds can be helpful in mitigating or reducing hot flashes and night sweats. And, as an added bonus, the phytoestrogens in flaxseeds may help to decrease the risk of breast cancer – especially in postmenopausal women, according to research.
- Consume Soy Products
Soy products such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and edamame can be very beneficial during menopause. Soy is rich in isoflavones (phytoestrogens), which are similar to flaxseeds.
A 2021 study, published in Menopause, found that a vegan diet rich in whole soybeans reduced moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84%, from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day.
- Try Black Cohosh
Of the herbal remedies reviewed by the North American Menopause Society, black cohosh appears to offer the most promise for helping with hot flashes. The herb, derived from a species of buttercup, may help with mild hot flashes according to some studies, but not all. It’s definitely one to discuss with your medical doctor and possibly try as it does work for some women.
- Eat Calcium-, Vitamin D-, and Protein-Rich Foods
To protect your bone and muscle mass during menopause, it’s important to eat plenty of foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
Calcium and vitamin D will help to ensure your bones stay healthy and strong. One study showed that postmenopausal women who got adequate vitamin D had fewer hip fractures.
Regularly eating protein, a little at each meal, helps to slow age-related muscle loss.
- Practice Mindfulness
Whether it’s meditation, yoga, or simply sipping on a relaxing cup of herbal tea, finding time to be still and calm will help you ride the waves of menopause with more serenity.
One review found that mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and being focused help to reduce the intensity of hot flashes, stress and feelings of anxiousness, and irritability – hallmark symptoms of menopause.
Menopause is an opportunity for women to take better care of themselves and their health. If you incorporate some of these healthy practices and still struggle with unwanted symptoms, be sure to consult your medical doctor.
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