Menopause: A holistic health approach
Menopause is a stage that all women will go through at some point, whether brought on naturally or artificially (if the ovaries are removed or damaged in some way, like by surgery, radiation or drugs).
By definition, it is:
A point in time when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends, generally after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
Menopause, regardless of whether it is natural or artificial, is a period of time when the production of our sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) naturally decrease.
This means that during this stage of a woman’s life, she will have a lower level of these hormones, which can change the way her body acts/responds. This is often a frustrating time for most as they navigate these changes and new-found symptoms; however, rest assured that there is an easier and more holistic way to manage this stage of your life.
And in today’s blog post, we’re covering exactly that!
Lets dive in.
What should you expect?
Generally speaking, the transition from our regular menstrual cycles to the stage of menopause is one that takes anywhere from 5 to 10 years. This period of time throughout the transition is often called ‘perimenopause‘.
During this time, the hormones produced by the ovaries mentioned above (estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate widely. This not only can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle (like shorter/longer periods or time between periods), but it also makes it extremely tough to get an actual diagnosis.
This is why the only ‘true’ way to diagnose menopause is with 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period– even though the start of menopause is considered to be the first day following the end of your last period.
It is also important to note that not every women experiences symptoms. Our bodies are all built uniquely different, and our experience with menopause will be unique to each of us. Even if two women have the same symptoms, their experience with those symptoms can be very different.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Lower libido
How can you manage it?
There are different ways to manage the stage of menopause, either in an conventional way or in a natural, holistic way.
On the conventional side of things, a lot of people tend to utilize an option called Hormone Replacement Therapy (or HRT). This western practice involves taking a hormone supplementation of estrogen and progesterone, to replace what the ovaries are no longer producing.
This method often drastically reduces and/or eliminates any symptoms you might be experiencing- but not without expense. This treatment can be extremely difficult on your liver, as it now has to take on the responsibility of filtering these additional hormones.
In addition, this treatment may deplete the body of certain nutrients (like vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C and magnesium)- and in turn, lower levels of these nutrients can lead to other issues.
HRT treatment can also interfere with proper function of the other endocrine glands including the adrenal glands, pancreas, pituitary, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, and hypothalamus.
For that reason, should you and your doctor ultimately decide that HRT is the right fit for you, it will be especially important to ensure that you are supporting these glands and your liver throughout it.
Now, a more natural, holistic approach (which I recommend) is to instead work WITH your body during this stage, rather than against it.
There are a lot of things that you can do to help support this transition in the healthiest way possible, that will help to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and get you feeling your best.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Limit Refined/Processed Foods
These foods can put stress on the endocrine system and cause fluctuations in our blood sugar, as they often contain high-levels of sugar, artificial ingredients, chemicals and other toxins.
It best to avoid anything that comes in a box or bag that has an ingredient list longer than 3 lines or contains anything you can’t pronounce. Instead of fast, processed options- reach for whole foods like healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, lean meats, organic produce and good-quality fiber.
This will help to improve mood, regulate your blood sugar, help with weight loss/management, assist your adrenal glands, and improve your sleep.
2. Decrease Sugar Intake
It’s no surprise that sugar is a culprit in a lot of different issues- and the same goes here!
Refined/added sugar is hidden in almost everything, and it directly impacts your hormonal and digestive systems and can contribute to weight gain, fatigue and blood sugar problems.
Pay attention to your labels, and always read the ingredient label. You would be surprised how much sugar is present in things like pasta sauce, condiments and yogurt.
Try reaching for natural sugars like fruit- or opt for a ‘plain’ or ‘unsweetened’ variety of things like yogurt instead, and sweeten it yourself with a better option (like maple syrup, raw honey, monk fruit or coconut palm sugar).
3. Reduce Alcohol Intake
Did you know that alcohol raises your body heat? Yes, it’s true! Therefore, it is best to be avoided (or limited) during menopause as it can trigger hot flashes or night sweats.
In addition, some research shows that menopause can cause your body to be more sensitive to alcohol, meaning it can also impact sleep.
4. Watch Caffeine Intake
You may already know that caffeine can interact with our Central Nervous System and cause fluctuations in our mood- which means, that during menopause it can increase the frequency of mood swings.
However, caffeine can also intensify hot flashes and night sweats, and of course, impact your sleep as well. Sources include things like coffee, tea, chocolate, sports drinks or pop, and even some medication.
Try to limit your consumption and instead choose caffeine-free varieties (like herbal tea!).
5. Incorporate Cooling Foods
Hot, spicy foods (or even hot temperature foods) can also trigger hot flashes. By incorporating cooling foods like cucumber and avocado, you can help your body maintain its temperature.
Some women have seen success in avoiding things like soups and hot beverages, and instead eating/drinking things cold or at room temperature.
Another idea would be to incorporate things like homemade frozen ‘juice’ pops, smoothies, or even cold meal items like pasta salad.
6. Choose High-Quality Ingredients
When choosing what food hits your table, it is a really good idea to consider using ingredients with the lowest toxin-rate possible, as this can interfere with your endocrine system and put added stress on your body.
This means whenever possible choosing produce items (like veggies and fruit) as organic, seeking non-GMO items, avoiding artificial chemicals or ingredients, and also choosing better quality animal proteins.
For instance, when choosing eggs, dairy, meat or poultry, try looking for organic, pasture-raised, or grass-fed labels. Sometimes, even talking to your local farmer can help you find options that are hormone-free and chemical-free!
7. Drink Your Water
Water is always important and drinking it should remain a priority as it is required for all of our bodily functions.
When speaking specifically to menopause however, drinking lots of water can help decrease the bloating felt from hormone disruptions, and can also help flush out any toxins currently in the body.
8. Incorporate Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant estrogens such as isoflavones. These compounds work in the body to regulate estrogenic effects in the body which can help relieve some symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
You will find them in organic soy, flaxseeds and sprouted legumes. A good idea is to incorporate them several times a week and see how you feel.
Finally, here are some additional things you can do to help alleviate symptoms:
Acupuncture or massage
Spending time in nature
- Mindfulness activities (like meditation)
Supplements for additional support…
There are some natural supplement options you can take to help reduce and/or eliminate your symptoms. Best results come from using a few of the items below in combination.
1. Maca Powder
Commonly known as The Peruvian Ginseng, Maca is a root indigenous to the Andes of Peru. Maca was domesticated by the Incas and has since been used by indigenous people as part of a daily diet to promote optimal well being. Maca contains Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, other essential vitamins and minerals as well as a host of antioxidants.
Maca is considered to be one of the Amazons most important adaptogenic superfoods due to its extraordinary nutritional profile and unique array of phytochemicals.
Maca used during menopause helps to reduce symptoms of hormonal transitions like hot flushes, mood fluctuations, anxiety and to return inner harmony and balance to the body.
Magnesium plays a vital role in health throughout our entire lives, but it is especially important during menopause.
During menopause, it helps to keep bones strong and prevent osteoporosis (weakening of bones), as well as reducing unwanted side effects, such as difficulty sleeping, period changes and depression while supporting heart health.
3. Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh is used in herbal medicine to help ease nervous tension and to help relieve symptoms associated with menopause, like hot flashes, moodiness, vaginal dryness, and excessive sweating.
Used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve muscle and joint pain associated with rheumatic conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and/or fibrositis), and pain associated with neuralgia (such as sciatica).
To help relieve premenstrual symptoms like hot flashes, mood imbalances and night sweats.
The Vitex agnus-castus fruit, also known as chasteberry, is about the size of a peppercorn. This fruit (as well as other parts of the plant), are typically used as an herbal remedy to treat a variety of ailments.
Contains clinically-studied ERr 731® to help relieve hot flashes associated with menopause.
ERr = Rhapontic Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum, root)
*View link above for more information.
6. Meta I 3C
Supports healthy estrogen metabolism.
*View link above for more information.
Supports female sexual health and libido.
*View link above for more information.
There you have it babe! I hope that helps you understand what exactly menopause is and how you can help support your body through this transition!
Best of luck incorporating these tips!