All women want to experience better menopause. But unfortunately, far too many suffer through this crucial life transition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Indeed, there are numerous steps you can take to help you sail through menopause and beyond, reveling in your newfound freedom from menstrual cycles. In this article, we’ll discuss the stages, symptoms, and natural solutions for life change.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural aging process for females in which their ovaries run out of eggs, and they stop producing hormones causing the menstrual cycle to cease. If a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months, she has completed the menopausal transition.
Though women in their 40s and 50s can experience menopause, the average age in America is 51.
Stages of Menopause
There are three stages of natural menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
Perimenopause is the transition phase to menopause. The average length of this stage is three to five years, but it can last for up to 10 years before periods cease.
Many symptoms of menopause begin during this period as estrogen levels fluctuate wildly. In addition, menstrual irregularity in which your menstrual periods may lengthen or shorten –, or you occasionally skip a month — is also common during this stage.
Menopause is reached when you have had no period for 12 consecutive months.
Once you have reached menopause, you are now postmenopausal, a stage that lasts until the end of your life.
The symptoms discussed below and others can persist well into your postmenopausal years.
What Are the Most Common Menopausal Symptoms?
Here are some of the most common menopause symptoms, causes, and natural solutions you need to know to have better menopause.
Hot Flashes, Cold Flashes, or Night Sweats
Up to 80% of menopausal women report experiencing hot flashes, brief periods of sudden intense heat in the upper body. It is usually most intense in the chest, neck, and face. Hot flashes can cause sweating as well as reddened skin.
Though cold flashes are less well-known, they can happen following a hot flash if you lose too much body heat. They can also occur alone.
Hot or cold flashes can be triggered when hormonal fluctuations cause a temporary dysfunction in the hypothalamus, the region in the brain that regulates body temperature. Night flashes are the same as hot flashes, except they occur while you’re sleeping, often jolting you awake covered in sweat.
For some unexplained reason, hot flashes can still plague postmenopausal women. According to Harvard Medical School, “A 2008 U.S. study found that 30% of women still had hot flashes 10 to 19 years after menopause, and so did 20% who were more than 20 years past menopause.” (1a)
Relieving Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
- Dietary Estrogen: Since drops in estrogen levels are associated with hot and cold flashes, integrating phytoestrogens — estrogens that occur naturally in plants and meat — into your diet may help. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include flaxseeds, soybeans, tofu, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, walnuts.
- Vitamin E: Research shows that taking 400 IU of vitamin E per day for at least a month may help relieve hot flashes. (2) You can include more vitamin E in your diet (preferred) or take a daily supplement. Foods high in this nutrient include squash, broccoli, avocado, almonds, spinach, wheat germ, flaxseed.
- Keep a cool environment: Dips in estrogen levels may cause sensitivity to temperature changes, so you may need to use air conditioning or fans in your home or vehicle. Remember also to open the windows for air circulation when needed.
- Black Cohosh: Numerous research studies suggest that this herb may effectively reduce the severity and number of hot flashes. (3) It may also help relieve other menopause symptoms such as depression and fatigue. You can usually find black cohosh in the supplement section of grocery stores, pharmacies, or online. It is sold in powder, capsule, or tea form.
- Wear loose cotton nightwear: Cotton is breathable, allowing air to reach your skin. Conversely, synthetic materials like nylon restrict air flow, thus increasing body temperature and triggering night sweats.
- Keep your bedroom and bedclothes cool: This can include running a fan or air conditioner in your bedroom at night, sleeping on cotton bedsheets, and covering yourself with a light blanket or sheet if needed.
- Use talcum powder: Dabbing talcum powder on dry skin before bedtime can relieve night sweats by absorbing perspiration.
Women in menopause typically experience sleep disruptions, including insomnia, trouble staying asleep, and poor sleep quality. Night sweats can play a role, but even women who don’t experience this issue often have difficulty sleeping.
The cause? Experts believe declining estrogen and progesterone levels during menopause may play a role. For example, estrogen helps the body use serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep, and progesterone exerts a “sleep induction or hypnotic effect.” (4) So, it makes sense that a reduction in these hormones can negatively impact sleep.
Relieving Menopausal Sleep Disturbances
Here are a few natural ways to improve your sleep.
- Set and follow a sleep schedule. If you go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time every morning, you’ll train your body to sleep during that specific period.
- Avoid caffeine later in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent sleep if ingested too close to bedtime.
- Avoid drinking water or other fluids at least three hours before bedtime to prevent waking up to urinate during the night.
- Make sure to empty your bladder before going to bed.
- Try not to watch TV or use your computer or tablet an hour before bedtime. The light from these screens disrupts your brain’s melatonin production.
- Practice mind and body relaxation techniques before bedtime.
- Avoid napping during the day.
- Try not to perform aerobic exercises before bed, as the resulting adrenaline can interfere with sleep.
If you’ve done all this and still experience sleep issues, please talk to your doctor about appropriate medical interventions.
Mood swings are sudden and extreme fluctuations in mood, and like other menopausal symptoms, they are caused by the rollercoaster-like changes in hormones leading up to post-menopause.
The North America Menopause Society (NAMS) estimates that up to 23% of women will experience menopausal mood swings, but some studies suggest it could be more than 50%. (6, 7)
Natural Solutions for Menopausal Mood Swings
Fortunately, you can manage menopausal mood swings with lifestyle modifications and natural treatments.
- Increase intake of omega-3s. Numerous studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may improve mood disorders, especially depression, and help regulate mood. (7, 8) This nutrient has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Foods high in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, avocados. You can also take a daily omega-3 or fish oil supplement.
- Limit your intake of caffeine. This compound is a central nervous system stimulant that may trigger anxiety and anger.
- Get regular exercise. Numerous studies show that exercise has a positive effect on mood. For the best mood-altering results, try to perform at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. In addition, regular exercise may reduce the expected weight gain during menopause as a side benefit.
- Get better sleep. Not getting enough z’s affects mood. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet with a cool temperature to enjoy better sleep. Also, try to avoid the television, computer, and electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime as they can interfere with melatonin production, thus interfering with a good night’s sleep.
- Take mood-regulating supplements. Vitamin B-5, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, ginseng, and St. Johns Wort may help you manage mood swings.
Weight Gain/Slowed Metabolism
Weight gain is often another unfortunate symptom of menopause. Reduction in circulating estrogen at menopause is associated with increased total body fat and abdominal fat, increasing the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health problems. (9) The resting metabolic rate also decreases with age, making weight gain more likely.
Natural Solutions for Managing Your Weight During Menopause
- Eat a high-quality diet that contains plenty of nonstarchy veggies, a moderate amount of lean protein, and a small amount of whole-food fats.
- Limit your intake of heavily processed foods, trans fats, starchy foods, and sugars.
- Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of intense aerobics like jogging. In addition, experts recommend that you perform resistance exercises at least twice a week. (10) Studies suggest that aerobic exercise may significantly increase your resting metabolic rate, potentially resulting in better weight management.
- Reduce stress. Studies suggest that chronic stress promotes weight gain in a couple of ways. The first is that stress triggers a release of cortisol that can increase cravings for sugar, starchy carbs, and junk food. This can easily lead to overeating unhealthy foods. Secondly, it increases fat storage, especially the dangerous visceral fat in the abdominal cavity. To avoid these issues, please try to de-stress daily. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation effectively relieve stress.
- Take Luminae supplement daily. All-natural Luminae contains 7-Keto DHEA shown to improve thyroid function. In addition, clinical trials have shown that it can significantly increase resting metabolic resting rate in as little as 7 days! (11) Take one tablet first thing in the morning to boost your metabolism.
Another common symptom of menopause is vaginal dryness that can cause painful intercourse, lowered sex drive, post-sex vaginal bleeding, and recurring urinary tract infections. Other symptoms of vaginal dryness include burning, itching, and irritation.
Why does vaginal dryness occur in menopause? As estrogen levels decline, vaginal tissue thins reducing the number of moisture-producing cells in the vagina resulting in dryness. This issue can start in perimenopause and worsen during and after menopause.
But it is particularly prevalent after menopause. Around half of postmenopausal women experience vaginal dryness, but experts believe it’s much higher than that because many women will not talk to their doctors about it. (12)
Unfortunately, vaginal dryness usually will not resolve on its own without intervention. However, you can do a few things to reduce its severity and ensure better menopause.
Natural and Medical Ways to Relieve Vaginal Dryness
- Personal lubricants. There are numerous brands of vaginal lubricants that you can purchase in pharmacies or online without a prescription. You can also buy lubricated condoms. Though they can make sexual intercourse easier, they do not reverse the thinning of vaginal tissue.
- Vaginal moisturizers. These moisturizers can help minimize the day-to-day discomfort of personal dryness.
- Soy. Plant estrogens like soy increase estrogen levels, thereby potentially relieving this condition.
- Black cohosh. Research suggests that this herb may help with vaginal dryness. (13)
- Menopausal hormone therapy. This involves a controlled administration of estrogen that can include estrogen cream used topically or inserted into the vagina, oral estradiol tablets, or an estradiol vaginal ring inserted into the vagina.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is a medication that replaces female hormones. Though it can improve menopausal symptoms, it increases the risk of developing stroke, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and other medical conditions.
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