I get lots of questions about how to handle menopause. Dealing with the symptoms of menopause can be rough, but you can take control and alleviate your discomfort in natural ways with lifestyle changes and shifts to your diet. If you’re not quite to that stage of your life yet, read on anyway, because the sooner you start making some of these changes (like a low-fat, high-fiber diet and stress control), the smoother your transition will be when it’s time. It’s good to be informed of the whole arc our life cycle.
Lifestyle Changes You Can Make
Yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and meditation can be used to reduce sleep problems, hot flashes, mood swings, stress, and pain in the joints and muscles. There are lots of dietary tweaks you can make and plenty of herbs and pills on the market, but sometimes gentle movement and a quiet mind that’s free of stress are the best remedies for menopausal symptoms.
Have more sex! When menopause hits, sometimes the last thing on your mind is sex. However, having more of it will help increase blood flow to the area and decrease the vaginal dryness and discomfort that often accompany menopause. If you’re really having trouble getting in the mood, try adding maca powder to your smoothies or drink it separately in another beverage. The journal Menopause states that maca can decrease the anxiety and depression that sometimes appear with menopause, and it can also lower the sexual dysfunction (and increase libido) in postmenopausal women without influencing the reproductive hormones. It’s also a great way to connect and destress.
Get a different kind of workout. For urinary incontinence, the Mayo Clinic suggests doing Kegels. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor and allow you to regain some control. It’s kind of funny that you can do them without anyone around you really knowing that you’re doing them. :)
Kick caffeine and exercise more for a natural energy boost. Caffeine isn’t good for anyone, but it’s especially important to steer clear of it if you’re having trouble sleeping. If you can’t let it go, try only having it in the morning—don’t use it as an afternoon pick-me-up or it could keep you awake when you want to be sleeping. Caffeine is also acidic, which means it will draw calcium from your bones and make them weaker and more likely to fall victim to osteoporosis. Exercise, on the other hand, will wake you up in the afternoons when you need a boost, stabilize your mood, help you sleep at night (just don’t exercise right before bed!), and may even minimize the hot flashes you experience.
Use coconut oil both as a skin moisturizer and a deep conditioning treatment for your hair. Menopause often brings drier hair and skin with it. This is a sweet-smelling, amazing moisturizer that’s free of all the chemicals you’d find in store-bought lotions and hair products promising the same soft skin and manageable hair.
Get some sun! Just a few minutes a day will help your body produce the vitamin D it needs to process the calcium you consume via leafy greens (not dairy!), which will lead to stronger bones that are less prone to fractures when you’re older. I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea that sun exposure can boost your mood, too, so a little sunshine can’t hurt if you’re suffering from mood swings, anxiety, or depression associated with menopause.
Herbs and Dietary Changes for Menopausal Relief
Try herbs and phytoestrogens. Herbs like ginseng, Gingko biloba, and St. John’s wort are said to be effective. In a study, 68 percent of users said the herbs helped improve their symptoms over the course of six months. Ginseng in particular has been used for mood swings and sleep troubles.
Black cohosh is one of the most talked about, researched, and controversial solutions to menopausal symptoms. Some studies say it works short-term (six months or less) for night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, and vaginal dryness, while other studies say it does nothing and should not be used because it can cause stomach discomfort and headaches.
We need more studies on phytoestrogens to determine whether they’re beneficial during menopause, but the Mayo Clinic says that certain plant foods chickpeas (isoflavones), flaxseed, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables (lignans) could help ease the symptoms. Soybeans are also mentioned, but I don’t recommend eating those due to GMOs, pesticides and other reasons, such as they have been cited as trypsinogen blockers and depressing thyroid function.
Have some fermented soy products. The only soy products I’ll ever recommend are the fermented ones like miso, natto, and tempeh. Though soy is often touted as a solution for many menopause symptoms based on studies in Asia that suggest that women there don’t have as much trouble with menopause as women in the Western world do, our soy differs quite a bit from theirs! Most of what we have in this country is genetically engineered and heavily contaminated with pesticides. It can do more harm than good, and new studies are suggesting that more fiber and less fat may be the dietary key to why women in Asia and the Western world experience menopause differently.
Limit animal products to hold onto your calcium and decrease your chances of getting osteoporosis. Animal products are far from Beauty Foods; they’re acidic and they take calcium out of the bones in as the body tries to neutralize the acidity. Studies also suggest that if you eat less fat and more fiber the way they do in Asia (there is no word for menopause in Japan; they don’t really need one because the transition is usually much easier there than it is here), you’ll keep estrogen levels from fluctuating drastically.
Get more vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to relieve menopausal flushes. The study suggests that vitamin E therapy may actually be an alternative to estrogen therapy. You can increase your vitamin E intake with dark leafy greens, nuts, tropical fruits (like kiwi and papaya), and red bell peppers. Use Vitamix, the best blender for green smoothies, to make the perfect drink for this – the Puerto Rican Glowing Green Smoothie.
Other Beauty Food solutions to menopausal concerns and discomforts include:
- Celery for bloating and stress
- Bananas when you’re fighting mood swings or depression
- Broccoli to stave off osteoporosis and arthritis while removing toxins
Ayurvedic Solutions for Menopausal Symptoms
From an Ayurvedic perspective, menopause is a woman’s movement from the Pitta phase to the Vata phase of life and discomfort comes from a preexisting imbalance in her dosha, mental strain, or the inability to efficiently remove toxins from the body and get nutrition to the cells.
Drink warm drinks and eat warm foods to ease the anxiety, hot flashes, feeling cold, and vaginal dryness that often accompany menopause. Also, making time for relaxation—whether it’s a bath, an evening with a book, massage, or yoga—is important when you’re dealing with these side effects, as is getting to bed on time (or early). Avoid caffeine and sugar. Need some tips for breaking bad habits? I have 25 tips for breaking health and beauty-destroying habits. Add a little more fat into your diet with nuts, seeds, and avocado and see how you feel.
If instead of feeling anxious and cold, you’re feeling a little more hot-headed than usual and you also have hot flashes, UTIs, and skin problems, try the cooling, sweet and soothing Beauty Foods, like cucumbers, grapes, apples, mangoes, melons, squashes, and bitter greens. Stay away from alcohol and spicy dishes. You may find one more reason to make the Glowing Green Smoothie your best friend. Try adding cucumber to it (but leave the melons out because those should always be eaten alone).
If everything’s just started to slow down and drag since you entered menopause and you’re feeling depressed, tired, and like you just don’t want to do much of anything, motivate yourself with spicy food and lay off the dairy products (if you haven’t already), because they can exacerbate those feelings. Exercise more, even though you don’t feel like it, and that will help, too.
When you’re approaching or going through menopause, always avoid processed foods and eat mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. This is always important to do, but it especially makes going through menopause a little easier. Avoid dairy products regardless of your symptoms. If you’ve eaten animal protein up until this point, consider eliminating it or cutting back on consumption (and eat it only at dinner) to see how you feel. Heavier foods will slow down your digestion, possibly making your discomfort during menopause even worse. (and you don’t want to ask yourself “why is my stool green?”) Between following the Beauty Detox diet and making the lifestyle changes to reduce stress and relieve other symptoms, you’ll be able to move into this beautiful wisdom phase of your life with grace.