Menopause is a natural process and it’s completely normal to experience a range of symptoms throughout the transitional period.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your symptoms and reduce the impact on your life. These include exercise, diet and sleep.
Women who exercise during the menopause transition tend to have fewer symptoms than those who don’t. This may be because the hormones produced during exercise cause the body to release chemicals that reduce stress and boost mood.
Another reason exercise can help ease menopause symptoms is that it promotes healthy weight control and increases muscle mass. This is important since weight gain during the menopause transition can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
It also helps ward off bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis and fractures. The dramatic drop in estrogen at menopause accelerates the loss of bone density, so regular activity that includes both resistance and weight-bearing exercises can keep your bones strong.
Whether you’re an athlete or a couch potato, it’s never too late to start getting moving. If you’re unsure where to start, talk with your OBGYN about menopause and what types of exercise are best for you.
The key is to start slowly and gradually increase your activity levels. This can include walking, swimming and other forms of low-impact aerobics.
You can also add strength training, such as lifting weights or doing push-ups and sit-ups. This can help strengthen your muscles and reduce the severity of some menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Exercising also can improve your mood, sleep and energy level, which can all contribute to a more positive outlook during the menopause transition. It can also reduce your risk for developing depression, which is common after menopause.
It’s not surprising that a lot of research is showing that physical activity can help ease menopause symptoms. However, it’s still unclear whether exercise itself is the primary factor that causes the reduction in symptoms.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet can help you manage your symptoms of menopause. This includes eating a variety of nutritious foods that are low in saturated fats, salt and sugar. You should also include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A healthy diet can help you avoid weight gain and other related health issues. It can also boost your energy and mood, improve bone and joint health, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and promote better sleep.
Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These nutrients can help prevent osteoporosis and heart disease, which are common after menopause. You can get calcium from a variety of sources, including milk and dairy products, fish, and eggs.
It is also important to eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, which are full of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced diet can also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing some diseases associated with menopause.
You should also make sure you eat enough protein, which can help keep your bones strong and help manage menopausal symptoms. You can get protein from a variety of sources, including beans, nuts and lean meats.
The right combination of fatty acids and proteins can help you manage your hormones and keep your body functioning at its best. These include omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, which are phytoestrogens.
Flaxseed may also be beneficial for menopausal symptoms. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and plant estrogens called isoflavones. But you should eat it only in food form and not take it as a supplement because it can be difficult to digest.
3. Get Enough Sleep
The changes that take place in a woman’s body during menopause can cause a number of problems. Hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings are all common symptoms that women face throughout this time period.
But sleep disturbances are also one of the most common side effects of menopause, says Dr. Steven Goldstein, a New York University professor of obstetrics and gynecology. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 61 percent of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women report frequent bouts of insomnia.
A bad night’s rest can lead to a number of health issues, from obesity and high blood pressure to depression and heart disease. It can also aggravate preexisting conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and autoimmune diseases.
To get enough rest, you should aim for between seven and eight hours of sleep per night, says Jennifer Pien, M.D., director of the Center for Women’s Health at New York University Langone Medical Center. She suggests that you keep the bedroom as dark and cool as possible to prevent light disruption.
Another key is to get out of bed and do a calming activity in a separate room until you feel sleepy again. You can do this by meditating, taking deep breaths or reading a book.
If you are having trouble sleeping, ask your doctor about medication or talk to a specialist about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBTi). This form of treatment can help you work through some of the causes that are keeping you up at night.
You should also consider quitting smoking, which can interfere with sleep. The toxins in tobacco can disrupt your hormones and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s a good idea to check with your physician about whether you are a candidate for hormone replacement therapy, which is the gold standard of treating menopause-related sleep disorders, Goldstein notes.
4. Stay Active
While it may be difficult to find time for exercise during busy schedules, maintaining an active lifestyle is essential to the health of women during menopause and beyond. It reduces stress, helps with weight management and can help prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
It also contributes to a sense of well-being. Studies have shown that regular exercise has a positive effect on the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats.
Physical activity has also been linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety, so it’s important to keep active as you go through menopause. If you’re not already doing an exercise routine, start by walking or going to the gym and gradually build up your time spent exercising over time.
You might also be able to reduce your symptoms by eating more phytoestrogens (plant-based substances that can work in the body like estrogen) or taking a supplement with soy. These supplements are found in many vegetables, beans and other legumes, and herbs.
Whether you are a fitness enthusiast or new to exercising, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — like brisk walking or low-impact aerobics — every week is recommended for menopausal women. Adding strength training to your exercise regimen will also boost your overall health.
It’s also a good idea to attend support groups that focus on the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and other vasomotor issues. These groups have been shown to improve women’s knowledge of menopause, their ability to cope with the symptoms and to reduce the number of hot flushes that they experience. Additionally, women who participate in these groups report a more positive attitude towards menopause and are less likely to feel stressed.
5. Take Supplements
Hormone levels drop as a woman enters menopause, and that can trigger uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, and dry skin. The good news is that there are many supplements that may help with these common menopause symptoms.
Arguably the best supplement a woman in her 50’s can take is a probiotic. A premium probiotic can address the female microbiome that is often depleted as a woman ages.
Phytoestrogens: These plant-based compounds have estrogen-like effects, which can reduce perimenopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances. They can also prevent osteoporosis, promote heart health, and lower the risk of cancer.
Black cohosh: This herb has been used for thousands of years to treat a range of women’s health issues, including menopause. It has been found to be helpful for hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, and vaginal dryness.
Soy: Although it is a part of a healthy diet, soy supplements can have estrogen-like properties, which can be harmful. They can also alter the way your thyroid works, so they should be avoided by people with iodine deficiency or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Vitamins: Taking vitamin supplements can reduce the number of hot flashes you experience. They can also improve your memory, energy, and overall health by boosting serotonin levels, which help with anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Most people don’t get enough calcium in their diets, especially during menopause, so it is a good idea to take a supplement. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg if you are under 50 and 1,200 mg if you are over 50.
Ginseng: Siberian ginseng is a supplement that can help ease menopause symptoms by limiting stress. It can also help protect your body against high cortisol levels, which are common during menopause and cause fatigue and weakness.
When choosing supplements, choose those that have a high quality of control and are tested for ingredients. Talk with your doctor before you take any vitamins or herbs, and don’t overdo it.