Menopause has been referred to as the “change of life”, and it can be stressful for a lot of women… to say the least. Below are some simple tips on how to help navigate through menopause naturally.
By definition, menopause is the absence of periods for 12 months. It occurs on average at the age of 51. The menopausal transition, or perimenopause, begins on average 4 years before the final menstrual period, and can last up to 10 years!
Why does it happen?
As our child-bearing years come to an end, our ovaries stop producing estrogen, and as a result, there are a number of physiological changes that may negatively impact a woman’s quality of life. Virtually all women experience hormonal fluctuations prior to menopause. As hormone levels decrease, a number of symptoms of menopause can start to present themselves.
Here are some ways you can do to help ease the transition naturally for healthy menopause.
Eat Foods High in Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Fortunately, these foods can help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
Simply eating more plant foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, if tolerated, can offer some relief, as they contain hormone-balancing plant chemicals known as phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseed also contains phytoestrogens and have been shown in studies to reduce hot flashes. The isoflavones in whole soy foods can help balance hormone levels and have some mild estrogenic activity, which can also help reduce hot flashes.
Choose natural non-GMO options made from whole soybeans, such as tofu, edamame, roasted soy nuts, or tempeh, rather than supplements. (If you have a history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor to see if phytoestrogens are safe for you.)
Avoid Foods That Make Menopause Worse
Caffeine, alcohol, fatty meats, and sugary or spicy foods may trigger hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and other menopause symptoms. Everyone is unique when it comes to food intolerances, and different foods may affect women differently. One of the best ways to know what may be triggering your symptoms is to start an elimination diet such as Whole 30.
I recommend keeping a food journal to keep a record of how certain foods affect your personal symptoms. It’s best to work closely with your doctor to help guide you through any dietary changes.
Avoid Environmental Toxins
While natural sources of phytoestrogens can help with menopausal symptoms, synthetic estrogens known as xenoestrogens can actually worsen them.
Environmental toxins are a significant source of xenoestrogens and can enter our food supply through pesticides, herbicides, and plastics. Hormones used in commercial livestock and milk production also increase exposure to environmental estrogens. These synthetic estrogens can be “hormone disruptors” and can worsen hormonal imbalances. Eating organic and non-GMO as much as possible can help reduce these effects.
Drink Enough Water!
During menopause, women often experience dryness and bloating. This is likely caused by a decrease in estrogen levels.
Drinking 8–12 glasses of water a day can help with these symptoms as well as reduce bloating.
In addition, water can help prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss by helping you feel full and temporarily increase metabolism. According to a recent study, drinking 17 oz (500 ml) of water, 30 minutes before a meal may lead you to consume 13% fewer calories during the meal.
Weight gain is common during menopause for several reasons: hormones, aging, lifestyle, and genetics. Gaining excess body fat, especially around the waist may affect your menopause symptoms and increase your risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Diet plays a significant role in weight loss (I like to say abs are made in the kitchen!), but keeping active has major benefits to reducing menopause symptoms. Whether it’s walking, yoga or running marathons, pick something that works for you and your lifestyle! Staying active at any age can:
- reduce stress
- increase energy levels
- prevent muscle loss that normally occurs during menopause
My best advice is to focus on your overall health and not just the number on the scale. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you look and feel your absolute best during menopause and beyond.
These are just a few of the many natural strategies to help navigate menopause symptoms without prescription medications. Menopause symptoms can be difficult to deal with, but eating the right diet and exercising regularly may help alleviate and even prevent them. These symptoms are not something you have to “just deal with” and relief is just around the corner. Start with some of the changes mentioned above and work with your doctor to find the best solution for you.