A woman’s estrogen and progesterone begin to decline in perimenopause, the time around menopause. Menopause is official when the menstrual cycle ends for a full year without other cause. The average age of menopause occurs in the early 50s. It can be a scary time for women as their hormones begin to shift and they are left with a host of new hormonal symptoms, such as excruciating hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, mood changes, trouble sleeping, night sweats, skin dryness and fatigue.
There are some basic ways to help support the body through the changes that occur during the hormonal shifts and reduce symptoms. To support menopause symptoms, adapt a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory diet that is high in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids.
Diet and Lifestyle Tips:
- Drink lots of water to keep your body well hydrated, as dehydration can cause similar symptoms to menopause (moodiness, fatigue, memory loss, skin dryness).
- Eat a whole food, plant-based diet. Include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. In addition, flax seeds, legumes, fennel, celery, parsley, nuts and seeds can be provide essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Women who are experiencing hot flashes may find it helpful to avoid foods that can overheat like caffeine, sugar and spicy foods, and include more cooling foods like watermelon, cucumber or mint. I always point women with hot flashes to the Back Porch, a cold-pressed organic watermelon mint juice from Peoples Rx.
- The body starts to lose bone mass as estrogen starts to decline, so include calcium rich foods into your diet like sardines or other fish with bones, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and legumes. Consider supplementing with additional high quality calcium supplement.
- Create an optimal sleep environment by removing smart phones or switching them into airplane mode during sleeping hours. In addition shutting down or removing iPads, televisions and any other electronics from the bedroom is also helpful. Make sure that your room is dark. You can either use a sleep mask or hang blackout curtains on your bedroom windows. Many women may experience sleep problems during menopause so creating a calm environment is important to support restful sleep.
- Maintain healthy stress levels. The adrenal glands (our bodies stress regulators) are the backup glands that produce hormones during perimenopause when estrogen and progesterone produced in the ovaries start to decline. We need the adrenals working optimally as we enter menopause so they can supply the body with additional hormonal support. Simple ways to reduce stress are self-care rituals such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, mindful eating, stretching and/or meditation.
- Regular exercise can help to protect against bone loss that naturally occurs during menopause and also help to reduce stress levels.
Reduce the Junk:
- Sugar, except from natural sources such as fruit. Sugar puts stress on the entire body as it increases inflammation and also stresses the adrenal glands.
- Caffeine, which puts stress on the adrenals and also can be too heating for some women who are experiencing hot flashes.
- Alcohol, which can contribute to hot flashes. Especially red wine.
- Processed foods, which increase inflammation.
The diet to support menopause can help to support the discomfort of some of the most bothersome symptoms.
Natalie Collier, MScN received her Master of Science in Nutrition from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. In her studies, she focused on medical nutrition therapy, gut health, weight loss and detoxification. Natalie believes that clean water, clean air, and healthy food set the foundation for good health. Her mission is to empower her clients to nurture their bodies with real foods and self-care so that they can experience great joy in their bodies. Natalie offers grocery store tours, weekly recipe plans, and one-on-one counseling.