How To Transition Smoothly Into Menopause
Hot flashes, mood changes, insomnia and brain fog. These are some of the difficult symptoms of menopause which people can face. Although menopause is a normal process of aging, there are some tips and tricks that can be incorporated to help you gracefully enter this new stage of life.
What is perimenopause and menopause
Menopause is defined as the absence of menstruation for at least 12 months. Whereas, perimenopause is the time period just prior to menopause where there are changes in the menstrual cycle . This includes having incredibly spaced out periods or having them occur more frequently and heavily. The average age range for menstruating people to experience menopause is between 41 to 58 years old, although the average age is 52 years.
These symptoms happen as a result of changing hormone levels, specifically progesterone and estrogen; two of the hormones involved in menstrual cycle regulation. As estrogen levels decrease, the risk of certain diseases increases, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
How food can help
If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you have likely read about the Mediterranean diet. This is a style of eating which incorporates not only whole foods but enjoying it with loved ones and remembering to utilize some form of movement daily such as walking. The types of food included as part of the Mediterranean diet includes complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruit and whole grain, lean sources of protein and healthy fats such as cold-water fish and nuts. On the contrary, this style of eating emphasizes reduction of processed grains, sweets, red meat and alcohol. This diet may be beneficial during menopause and post-menopause, not only due to its research for cardiovascular disease reduction, but because most individuals may experience weight fluctuations during this time .
It is also interesting to note that one study in the United Kingdom looked at women’s diets and timing of onset of menopause. They found a later start to menopause in those who had diets higher in oily fish and legumes, whereas an earlier start in those who consumed greater amounts of refined grains . This is in-line with the style of eating that the Mediterranean diet strives for us to achieve!
Certain foods can be sources of phytoestrogens, meaning they can act to balance estrogen levels in the body. These foods include ground flaxseeds, fennel, parsley, apples, carrots and legumes.
A focus on nutrients
A lot of these nutrients can come from eating a whole foods diet, but we may need to be aware of certain vitamins and minerals we could be under consuming as per our health needs. Please consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation to make sure it is right for you and within therapeutic dose.
To support bone health, it is important to consider intake of vitamin D3, calcium, magnesium and vitamin K2. As estrogen decreases, the activity of cells which produce bone also decreases, leading to poor production of bone. Vitamin D3 and K2 help with calcium absorption from the intestines and its deposition in bone tissue. Magnesium is equally important, as it is a mineral involved in several body functions including cardiovascular support and muscular health. When in low amounts, it can be a contributing factor to osteoporosis risk .
Bone health also includes engaging in weight-bearing exercise to build strong muscle and prevent bone loss. This can look like brisk walking, playing sports, weight training, etc.
As estrogen levels decrease, it can affect cardiovascular health through changes in cholesterol levels as well as changes in blood vessel pliability and blood pressure. The Mediterranean diet can be an excellent start towards promoting cardiovascular health, although it may be relevant to consider an omega-3 supplement as well. Omega-3s are important to help improve blood flow, decrease markers of inflammation, high cholesterol and blood pressure.
As the ovaries slow their production of reproductive hormones, the adrenal glands take over this responsibility! The adrenal glands are tiny glands which sit on top of your kidneys and produce our famous stress hormone, cortisol. After menopause, they continue to release small amounts of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. For this reason, supporting adrenal health is incredibly important when approaching menopausal years. This can look like adequate stress-management, sleep and nutrition. Aside from this, B-vitamins are supportive for adrenal health and neurotransmitter production.
Aside from these lifestyle changes, there is always more we can do to help support us through this changing season of life. If you are experiencing debilitating symptoms of menopause or simply want to improve your quality of life, speak to your healthcare practitioner about what else can be done and from a naturopathic perspective, this includes the use of herbs, acupuncture or hormone replacement therapy.
- N.A. (2019). Perimenopause and menopause: clinical overview, Elsevier Point of Care. Retrieved from Clinical Key.
- Papavagelis, C., Avgeraki, E., Augoulea, A., Stamatelopoulos, K., Lambrinoudaki, I. & Yannakoulia, M. (2018). Dietary patterns, Mediterranean diet and obesity in postmenopausal women, Mauritas. 110, 79-85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.02.001
- Dunneram, Y., Greenwood, D., Burley, V. & Cade, J. (2018). Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: results from the UK women’s cohort study, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 72(8), 733-740. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2017-209887
- Castiglioni, S., Cazzaniga, A., Albisetti, W. & Maier, J.A. (2013). Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions, Nutrients. 5(8), 3022-3033. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5083022
- Song, C., Wang, J., Kim, B., Lu, C., Zhang, Z., Liu, H. et al. (2018). Insights into the role of circadian rhythms in bone metabolism: a promising intervention target, BioMed Research International. 2018, 9156478. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9156478