They don’t call it “the change of life” for nothing. Menopause and its notorious symptoms can be frustrating and downright bothersome, but there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make that might ease the transition.
The Onset of Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause usually does not occur overnight. The average age at which a woman experiences her final menstrual period is 51; however, women typically begin undergoing physical changes associated with menopause long before that final period. As a woman approaches menopause, estrogen and progesterone (female hormones produced in the ovaries) levels begin to decline—until eventually, the ovaries stop producing eggs and the menstrual cycle ends. This time of transition leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause and can last anywhere from 6 months to 10 years.
The most common symptoms associated with menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. Night sweats can be particularly bothersome because they interfere with sleep. Other symptoms of menopause may include vaginal dryness, muscle pain, difficulty sleeping, joint pain, impaired memory/concentration, anxiety, depression, hair loss, weight gain, increased cholesterol, adrenal fatigue, thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, and skin changes.
If there is a chance you could be coping with menopausal symptoms for six months to ten years, you’re going to need some strategies. It may sound overly simple, but healthy lifestyle choices can be the key to an easy transition. In fact, it all boils down to one goal—reduce and manage stress. Here’s how:
Relaxation Techniques: Stress exacerbates hot flashes. Minimize stress by engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, tai chi, yoga, and deep breathing. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce hot flashes.[i]
Nutrition: Choosing healthy foods is always important, but even more so when facing menopause. Support the body with nutrient dense food and avoid foods that have a warming effect, such as coffee, alcohol, chicken, and spicy foods.
Exercise: Experts agree that maintaining a regular exercise program is one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise promotes cardiovascular, mental, and emotional health and helps us to maintain a healthy weight. It can also improve sleep, prevent disease, and boost energy and stamina. Exercise is an effective stress reduction technique. For women coping with menopause, exercise comes with a huge payoff—those who exercise at least three hours per week have 70 percent fewer hot flashes.
Reduce Chemical Exposure: Many chemicals mimic estrogen and/or are carcinogenic. Some household chemicalshave even been linked to earlier menopause.[ii] Avoid strong cleaning chemicals and perfumes; instead use natural cleaning solutions such as vinegar and baking soda.
Homeopathic and/or Herbal Remedies: Many remedies are effective for reducing hot flashes and other symptoms. Work with a qualified professional to find the remedies that are best for you.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture has proven effective for reducing hot flashes. In fact, one study shows that women who received acupuncture had fewer and less-severe hot flashes.[iii]
Aromatherapy: Many women find that aromatherapy is helpful—for example, inhaling essential oil of lavender promotes a sense of relaxation.
[i] Carmody JF, Crawford S, Salmoirago-Blotcher E, et al. Mindfulness training for coping with hot flashes: Results of a randomized trial. Menopause. Published early online: February 26, 2011.
[ii] Knox SS, Jackson T, Javins B, et al. Implications of early menopause in women exposed to perfluorocarbons. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Published early online: March 16, 2011. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2401
[iii] Sunay D, Ozdiken M, Arslan H, et al. The effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones: a sham controlled clinical trial. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2011; 29: 27-31.