While menopause poses many physical and psychological challenges, it also provides us with an opportunity to make health gains that will contribute to ongoing vitality and wellness.

We often refer to menopause as if it were an event, or worse yet, as a disease! However, “menopausal transition” is a more accurate way of describing the process of hormonal changes that takes place in stages over several years, leading to the end of our reproductive years.

Perimenopause (meaning “near menopause”) is the beginning of the menopausal transition and signals the gradual decline of reproductive functions. Menopause is the point in time when menstrual cycles have not occurred for 12 consecutive months, and marks the end of our reproductive years.

For most women, perimenopause begins in their early to mid-40s and may last anywhere from 2 to 10 years. During perimenopause, women experience a decrease in the production of reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, as the body prepares to shut down the ovaries. In turn, hormonal fluctuations and imbalances trigger many different symptoms, such as irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, poor sleep, reduced libido, “brain fog”, and weight gain.  Profound changes in cardiovascular health, bone strength, and cell proliferation can also take place during the menopausal transition, which can raise a woman’s risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

Can HRT Help?

In recent decades, women seeking relief from menopausal symptoms were prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT), primarily estrogen, to alleviate hormonal imbalance. But newer formulations of body identical HRT provide much improved delivery methods by using patches and creams. These variations no longer have the risk of breast cancer and stroke. In fact, they have the added value of providing protection from heart disease, pre-diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.

But hormone treatment is not the complete solution and much can be done by turning to more holistic ways to address the symptoms of menopause, while also embracing positive lifestyle changes to support healthy aging. 

What can you do to treat your menopausal symptoms and navigate this challenging phase of your life? You may wish to consider the following lifestyle adjustments as a first resort. These carry no risks and promise many benefits for your physical and mental health.

Fuel Your Body with a Nutritious Diet

A healthy diet is essential for easing many debilitating symptoms of menopause. Your body needs whole foods that are rich in nutrients to promote hormonal production and balance, and supplements where necessary to help fight bone density loss. 

Choose foods that include:

  • Lean protein, organic and free of grain feed (grass-fed beef and lamb, free-run chicken and eggs, wild fish): these foods help maintain hormonal balance
  • Healthy fats (flax, olive oil, avocado, nuts): these foods help reduce hot flashes and night sweats
  • Phytonutrients (dark, leafy green vegetables, red, orange and yellow vegetables, onions, garlic): these foods have natural compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may also enhance immunity.

At the same time, avoid processed foods. These can aggravate hormonal imbalances, and cause inflammation and related pain. Lowering your intake of sugar, saturated and trans-fats, refined carbohydrates, gluten, dairy, and alcohol are good habits to embrace during the menopausal transition.

Gut health is also critical during all stages of menopause. Hormonal imbalance can disrupt healthy digestion and prevent your body from absorbing nutrient-rich food. This can lead to bloating and other digestive issues. Adding a daily probiotic supplement can improve your digestive function, help stabilize hormonal production, and increase absorption of nutrients.

Treat Your Body to Daily Movement

Research confirms that movement is vital in balancing hormones, elevating mood, promoting sleep, and addressing the symptoms of menopause.

Regular low-intensity and aerobic exercise (such as walking, yoga and aquafit) helps to lower stress, reduce cortisol levels, and burn fat. High-intensity training (such as cardio workouts) stimulates production of the human growth hormone (HGH), releasing fat, building muscle, and improving insulin sensitivity. Strength training or weight-bearing exercise helps increase bone density as well as muscle, to protect against osteoporosis. However, a body in menopause can get too much of this type of exercise, so it’s recommended to stick with small weights and your own body weight for resistance.

Embrace Your Sexuality

Your sexuality does not end with menopause. Although your libido may not be as strong as during your pre-menopausal years, this is an excellent time to focus attention on your sensual self as you move into the freedom of post-fertility. Sexual pleasure – by yourself or with a partner – brings hormonal benefits and helps with mood regulation. Don’t hesitate to seek relief from troublesome symptoms (such as vaginal dryness) through readily-available intimacy oils or estrogen creams.

Promote Sleep

With all the hormone changes that take place during menopause, many women find it difficult to get quality sleep. This can cause a cascade of problems such as an over-production of cortisol, which stimulates appetite and causes an interaction with insulin and weight gain. A lack of sleep also causes symptoms of anxiety, depression and mood swings. Energy tends to be low as fatigue takes over. Perhaps the biggest health concern is that without sleep, the body doesn’t get the opportunity to restore itself and remove toxins and dead cells. So developing good sleep habits is more important than ever.

There is no question that the menopausal transition can be very challenging, touching almost every aspect of our lives. But with mindful attention, holistic approaches, healthy habits, and the help of support networks, you can experience the “change of life” as a change for the better!

To find out how you can navigate the symptoms of menopause, click the button to book your free call with Dyna Vink, Health and Nutritional Coach.

My mother, like many of her generation, called menopause “the change of life.” Unspoken was the assumption that life afterward would be pretty much downhill and diminished. Thankfully, we no longer accept the outdated notion that menopause signals the end of a vibrant and healthy life.