HOW TO DEAL WITH MENOPAUSE
Women are incredibly powerful, especially considering all of the things their bodies can do. From monthly menstruation and hormonal shifts, to pregnancy and creating life, to the eventual shift into menopause which closes the chapter on a woman’s fertile years.
The transition into menopause can be difficult for some women – both physically and emotionally. Your attitude towards menopause can have an impact on how you experience this shift. Being aware of the hormonal changes and supporting your body through diet and supplementation can affect how you feel during the transition.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as a lack of period for at least 12 months due to the loss of ovarian activity. The average age of menopause is between 50 and 52 years, and can be influenced by a number of factors, including smoking, family history, genetics, weight, pregnancy and chemical exposure.1
Perimenopause is the technical term for the transition into menopause. This stage is characterized by shortened menstrual cycles – usually about 21 days apart. In later stages of perimenopause, cycles becoming very irregular with missed periods and 60-day (or longer) cycles. The entire period of transition into menopause can last about four years.
What Happens During Menopause?
Leading into menopause, a woman’s hormones begin to fluctuate. The ovaries create your main sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone. The quantity of these hormones begins to shift as you age and your ovarian function declines. As your ovaries begin shutting down, they produce less estrogen. This triggers your body into creating more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), because the ovaries are less responsive to its signals. Some doctors will test FSH to determine whether or not you might be in perimenopause; high levels typically indicate declining ovarian function. Progesterone also begins to drop as ovarian function declines. As a woman gets closer to menopause, the drop in estrogen prevents the uterine lining from building up enough to produce a period.
Once your ovaries stop producing hormones, your adrenal glands take over. They produce testosterone and androstenedione, which can be converted to estrogen in a woman’s body fat and other areas of the body. It’s important that your adrenal glands are functioning properly to experience a smoother hormonal transition. If you have high stress, adrenal fatigue or other burnout symptoms, take this time to learn some stress management techniques like meditation, and support your body naturally so the transition into menopause is smoother.
Transitioning into menopause
Women can enter menopause naturally by simply aging or via premature ovarian failure. Menopause can also be induced medically through medications or even surgeries like hysterectomies.
This transition into menopause can also be rough for some women; with the significant hormonal shifts, menopause can bring hot flashes, menstrual irregularities, headaches, mood swings, body aches, fatigue, vaginal dryness, and more uncomfortable symptoms.
Natural ways to support menopause
As women transition through perimenopause and into menopause, they often seek relief from the myriad of symptoms they experience. Fortunately there are a number of things women can do to support their body through the transition and reduce their discomfort.
Consume a nutrient-filled diet
A healthy diet should focus on unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, healthy fats. This nutrient-dense diet contains less fried foods, refined flours, alcohol, sugar and salt. If you are menopausal, focusing on nutrient-dense foods is important. A healthy diet can reduce inflammation while supporting brain health, bone health, cardiovascular health, as well as hormonal health. All of these become important as women age, and especially during and after menopause.
Support your hormones
During the transition into menopause, your hormones are fluctuating like crazy. Support your estrogen levels by integrating foods with natural phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can help to “replace” some of the estrogen that’s lacking in your body, especially as natural estrogen levels begin to decline. Foods like flax seed and fermented, organic soy tempeh contain different kinds of phytoestrogens, like lignans and isoflavones, which can produce estrogen-like effects in the body.
Consume healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids to support brain and hormonal health. Foods like salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds all contain these healthy fats that are shown to improve mood and reduce hormone-related depression.3
Maintain strong bones
As estrogen drops, the risk of osteoporosis increases. Support bone health with key vitamins and minerals in your diet, including calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2. Calcium-filled foods include leafy greens, sesame seeds, almonds and small fish with bones. Foods that contain vitamin K2 include meat, fish, eggs and small amounts can be found in fermented foods, like sauerkraut. While vitamin D can be sourced from some foods (eggs, meat), it can also be made by your skin when it’s exposed to the sun. You can also get Vitamin D from portobello mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. Also consider adding in some strength training to maintain bone density.
Focus on heart health
Eat a diet high in fibre to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. Eating flax seeds, leafy greens, avocados, whole grains, beans and legumes, and other fibre-filled foods will keep your digestive system healthy, balance your blood sugar, and keep your heart happy.
Supplements to reduce menopause symptoms and improve overall health
Supplements can be used during perimenopause for a couple of purposes: to alleviate menopause symptoms, and to support your body during the transition and afterwards.
Support your body during the transition through menopause
In general, supporting your body with a high quality multivitamin can ensure that you’re getting the vitamins and minerals that you need on a regular basis. Pranin Organic Purefood Women’s A-Z is a fantastic whole food multivitamin made with 100% organic ingredients. It contains antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, and it’s a source of plant-based calcium, iron and vitamin D.
Since the adrenal glands become the primary source of hormone production, it’s important to keep them well supported during the transition and post-menopause. B vitamins and vitamin C are some of the key raw materials that your adrenal glands need to do their job, including creating hormones and producing energy.4 The Pranin Organic PureFood C and PureFood B powders can offer a healthy dose of these key nutrients to support a woman’s adrenal glands.
Manage menopause symptoms with supplements
Menopause symptoms can be uncomfortable – especially hot flashes. Bioflavonoids, a variety of antioxidants in the body, paired with vitamin C have been shown to relieve hot flashes.5 Although some research indicates evening primrose oil does not have an effect on hot flashes, a controlled study from 2013 suggested that evening primrose oil may reduce their severity.6 Research also indicates that omega 3 supplementation can reduce the risk of depression and reduce hot flashes during the menopause transition period.7
Herbs and other botanicals can be a bit trickier. While some studies show their effectiveness, other studies may show no relationship. One of the common go-to herbs, black cohosh, may reduce hot flashes, support mood, improve sleep and reduce body aches.8 Another herb, panax ginseng, can be used to support the adrenal glands, reduce physical or mental fatigue, improve concentration and even improve mental health.9, 10 Research also suggests ginseng may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.11 Several other herbs, like red clover, ginko biloba and don quai have been studied for their impact on menopausal symptoms, but the results of their effectiveness are mixed.
As always, be sure to speak with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new supplement. Herbs and supplements can interact with medication or be contraindicated for certain illnesses or conditions. It’s also important to know which herbs you should use intermittently.
Don’t forget to love yourself during the journey
Menopause is a very big shift – physically and emotionally. As you go through the transition, have compassion for what you’re going through. Show your body love regularly through acts of self-care, and remember to take time for you. Activities like meditation, journaling, reading or taking a bath can be a great way to shift the focus towards yourself.
Be sure you get enough sleep, eat a nutrient-dense diet, and support your body with the supplements that make you feel good. Embrace the power that comes with being a woman, and remember – life doesn’t end after menopause. A new chapter is waiting for you on the other side.
KELLY MAIA AGNEW, CNP, ROHP, RNCP
is a holistic nutritionist with a passion for women’s health and wellness. Upon receiving her Honours Bachelor of Commerce, with a specialization in marketing, she began her corporate career in buying for a multi-billion dollar corporation. After neglecting her health and quickly burning out, she decided to make a career change. She graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in 2017 with first class honours – all while working as a marketing associate for a national crown corporation. Learn more about Kelly by visiting her website.
1- Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Tori Hudson ND
2- Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Tori Hudson ND
5- Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Tori Hudson ND
8- Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Tori Hudson ND