Navigate Menopause - The Natural Way!
Women naturally possess an inbuilt strength and shatterproof resilience for life. It is this compelling feminine force which helps women navigate an array of physical and emotional changes throughout their lives such as monthly periods, pregnancy and childbirth, each bringing joy and happiness but also unique challenges and turmoils. However, for many women, these challenges pale into insignificance when they come face-to-face with the symptoms of menopause. Menopause arrives usually midlife, bringing with it an array of symptoms that can leave many women desperate for solutions to overcome this huge change in their life.
Over 40 million women in the US alone will soon reach or have already reached menopause, which usually occurs for the majority around ages 40 to 59. Menopause marks the time in a woman's life when her childbearing years have ended. A woman is considered post-menopausal when she has not had a period for 12 months. The process usually begins at about the age of 45 and should be over by the age of 60. During this stage, the ovaries stop producing eggs and female hormone levels drop. The resulting symptoms associated with this hormonal change include vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats and loss of sexual desire, to name just a few.
Menopause, Perimenopause And Postmenopause
The process of menopause isn’t something that happens overnight. For the majority of women, symptoms usually span over several years - for some, it may be 10 or more years. Generally, there are three stages of menopause, with each stage providing a gradual change over a number of years.
- Perimenopause – Each woman is different, but generally, perimenopause starts around the late 40’s (for some women it can be sooner). Women will begin to have irregular periods, worsening PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, brain fog, and there are likely to be some emotional changes.
- Menopause – Menopause is the stage when a woman has not had her menstrual periods for at least 12 months.
- Postmenopause – This usually happens around the age of 60, sometimes younger, and for most women, it provides some relief. Hormone levels should have stabilized by now. Many symptoms of menopause may continue but are usually not as severe.
Menopause Affects Every Woman Differently
Unfortunately, the discussion of menopause has always been somewhat of a taboo subject. It's unlikely that it was ever discussed openly with your mother or any other family member. It could be a very daunting feeling entering a phase that you know nothing about. Luckily, times are changing and the amount of information available is limitless and there is much more open conversation surrounding this topic. There is no reason to feel "in the dark" anymore. Knowing what to expect and what you may experience, is already winning half the battle. Combating those symptoms is the other half, for which we have you covered.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to how menopause will feel for you. Your lifestyle, environment, genetics and how you tolerate changes will all have an influence. Some people are miserable and some don't even notice. One woman may have her periods stop at 45 without a trace and others pour buckets of sweat and have periods until they are 60. There is also a chance of premature menopause. This can be due to surgical removal of the uterus or just failure of the ovaries. This can happen at any time. If a woman has not had any children by the time she reaches menopause, the psychological effects can be severe.
Embrace A Healthy Diet And Lifestyle
There are many foods that can aid in relieving some menopause symptoms. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, flax products, lima beans, nuts, seeds, green tea, celery and soy products can all help with certain symptoms of menopause. Instead of eating 3 main meals, it is recommended to “graze.” Eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day.
It is of vital importance that by this stage of your life, you begin increasing your calcium intake. After menopause begins, your risk for osteoporosis increases. However, there are herbal supplements available that can help with associated symptoms.
As your estrogen levels decrease, your risk of heart disease goes up. A good way to combat this is to find an enjoyable recreational activity, such as, taking a yoga class or walking your dog on a cool evening. Exercise will help you feel better and help control the weight fluctuations.
It’s completely natural to experience some confusion at this point in your life. You’re entering into a phase that is unfamiliar. Also, you’re losing something that has been a part of you for decades. This may take some time to come to terms with, but slowly you will learn to find the positivity in this stage and look forward to the reprieve you will reach at the end.
Common Effects Of Menopause On The Body
The symptoms of menopause vary between women in type and severity. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:
Hot Flashes/Night Sweats – Hot flashes may come on suddenly and feel like a rush of heat. You may want the air conditioner at 60 degrees, while everyone else is bundling up in sweaters. You may also experience other physiological symptoms such as heart palpitations, profuse sweating, anxiety, and skin sensitivity. Night sweats are similar, where you wake up from a deep sleep drenched in perspiration. Both begin during the perimenopause stage and can become severe if not addressed. Alternative therapies, a healthy diet and herbal remedies such as Black Cohosh and Red Clover can help. Some pharmaceutical prescription menopause treatments are known to cause serious and uncomfortable side-effects, so it is always good to look for a risk-free all-natural solution.
Irregular Periods – Your menstrual cycle will begin to change during perimenopause. Cycles may become shorter or longer, heavier or lighter or even skip months. This is the time to visit your gynecologist. Ovulation still occurs during this time so birth control is an important consideration if you don't want to get pregnant.
Loss Of Libido – Unfortunately, the loss of sexual desire is another common symptom. It is completely normal to experience a decline in libido which is usually as a result of low levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. If you are in a relationship, communication is key in overcoming this issue together.
Vaginal Dryness – This is a bit of a taboo subject many women do not feel comfortable discussing, either with their friends or even with their doctor. This symptom is mainly caused by reduced estrogen levels thinning the vaginal walls. It can be painful and irritated with intercourse. There are treatment options available to help ease this issue e.g. lubricants.
Urinary Incontinence – Leakage can happen at some of the most inopportune moments catching you off-guard. The muscles in the lining of the pelvic area are weakened which can result in an increased desire to go to the toilet as well as leaking urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh or lift a heavy object. Kegel exercises can help with this symptom as well as with sexual pleasure. There are hormone treatments, alternative treatments and if necessary, surgery can be performed.
Mood Swings – One may experience a fluctuation of emotions, highs and lows - a rollercoaster, if you wish, of feelings. This may be unfamiliar territory during this menopausal transition, but it is temporary. However, these mood swings may turn out to be more serious than you think if you have a tendency to suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. In these cases, it is pertinent that you seek medical attention. The mood swings are a result of low estrogen and affects your serotonin levels. Mild cases can easily be treated with alternatives such as; acupuncture, homeopathy, change in diet, exercise and having someone to talk to.
Fatigue – This is common in almost 80% of women. The decrease in hormones causes interruptions in REM sleep phases. Women may wake frequently during the night and be tired during the day. The fatigue is severe and may cause weakness. There are some easy remedies for this by going to bed a little early, getting more exercise and trying some herbal alternatives to encourage healthy sleep patterns.
Cognitive Problems – Brain fog and memory loss is another very common complaint during menopause. It can get worse during times of stress and illness. Smoking, medication, and alcohol can make it worse. These are, for the most part, mild memory issues, with a feeling of a general fogginess. You may also have trouble with short term memory, remembering dates, phone numbers and people's names. This can be a very alarming symptom. Try to get enough sleep, write things down, reduce caffeine intake, make physical exercise a priority and make sure you're getting proper nutrition and supplements.
Weight Gain And Bloating – During menopause women can gain as much as 15 pounds. The extra weight can have a farther impact on increasing heart disease and affecting you emotionally. Changing levels of estrogen can cause extra gas and fluids in the abdomen. A simple way to alleviate discomfort is to avoid "gassy" foods such as beans, bell peppers, onions and high sugar foods. Lower your salt intake and eat small frequent meals.
Balanced Well-Being Is Key
Unfortunately, there is no easy, quick solution for overcoming the challenges brought on by menopause. The key is being kind to yourself, and patient by nourishing your body and mind to help overcome the symptoms. Truth is, for many women, symptoms can last for many years and for most, life is never quite the same again. Eating a healthy diet, physical exercise, introducing natural health supplements, making some lifestyle changes and generally listening to your body for what feels good and what doesn't, will go some way in providing a more balanced life to help navigate the change of life.
Menopause affects every woman differently, and what works for your best friend or sister may not be the best option for you. Empowering yourself with a better understanding about your physical and psychological needs can help change the perception and experience of menopause. Taking up a new hobby, exploring alternative treatment options, meditation and acupuncture are ideal ways to accompany your menopause journey. Take your time to explore what works for you. Menopause doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Many women report that during this period in their life, they thrive and transform by re-discovering an energy, sexuality, creativity and joy that they haven't felt in years.
1 - Lancet