Menopause is a natural process in a woman’s life. Many women go through this change feeling fine, both physically and psychologically. Nonetheless, some women are bothered by symptoms, including hot flashes, depression, irritability, anxiety, and other problems.
In addition, menopausal women are at a higher risk of several diseases including osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Many women turn to natural supplements and remedies for relief.
1. Remember to Stay Hydrated
Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common symptoms of menopause. As the name suggests, they increase your internal temperature to an uncomfortable amount. During menopause, women often experience dryness. This is likely caused by a decrease in estrogen levels.
You should stay hydrated to regulate your body temperature in a healthy way. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to naturally combat hot flash and to keep yourself healthy.
In addition, water can help prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss by helping you feel full and increasing metabolism slightly.
2. Eat Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium and vitamin D are linked to good bone health, so it’s important to get enough of these nutrients in your diet. Adequate vitamin D intake in postmenopausal women is also associated with a lower risk of hip fractures due to weak bones
Many foods are calcium-rich, including dairy products like yoghurt, milk and cheese. Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens and spinach have lots of calcium too. It’s also plentiful in tofu, beans, sardines and other foods.
Additionally, calcium-fortified foods are also good sources, including certain cereals, fruit juice or milk alternatives.
Sunlight is your main source of vitamin D, since your skin produces it when exposed to the sun. However, as you get older, your skin gets less efficient at making it. If you aren’t out in the sun much or if you cover up your skin, either taking a supplement or increasing food sources of vitamin D may be important.
Rich dietary sources include oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil and foods fortified with vitamin D.
3. Reduce Refined Sugar and Processed Foods
We all know sugar can be harmful. Consumed in moderation, it’s probably fine, but in excess, it promotes cavities, acne, weight gain, even heart disease. And guess what – the effects of over-consuming sugar are even more detrimental for women in menopause.
In menopause, as estrogen and progesterone diminish, our cells become more resistant to insulin, meaning the body has to work harder to manage blood sugar. Many women see their blood sugar levels rise during this time, making them more vulnerable to several ailments, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
A diet which contains high refined carbs and sugar can cause sharp rises and dips in blood sugar, making you feel tired and irritable.
In fact, one study found that diets high in refined carbs may increase the risk of depression in postmenopausal women.
Diets high in processed foods may also affect bone health.
A large observational study found that among women aged 50–59 years, diets high in processed and snack foods were associated with poor bone quality.
4. Eat more protein
The decline in estrogen from menopause is linked to decreased muscle mass and bone strength.
For this reason, women going through menopause should eat more protein. Guidelines recommend that women over 50 eat 0.45–0.55 grams of protein per pound (1–1.2 grams per kg) of body weight daily — or 20–25 grams of high-quality protein per meal. Regularly eating protein throughout the day can help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age.
One study found that consuming protein throughout the day at each meal may slow down muscle loss due to ageing and prevent hip bone fracture in older women.
Foods high in protein include eggs, meat, fish, legumes and dairy products. Additionally, you can add collagen/ protein powders to smoothies or baked goods.
5. Avoid trigger food
Avoiding certain foods may help reduce some of the symptoms linked to menopause, such as hot flashes, weight gain and poor sleep. Studies have shown that caffeine and alcohol can trigger hot flashes in women going through menopause.
High salt intake has been linked to lower bone density in postmenopausal women. Additionally, after menopause, the decline in estrogen increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Reducing your sodium intake may help lower this risk Furthermore, in a randomized study in 95 postmenopausal women, those who followed a moderate-sodium diet experienced better overall mood, compared to women who followed a generally healthy diet with no salt restriction.
Saturated fat raises cholesterol and boosts your risk for heart disease. It’s found in fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, and cheese. Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less per day. And watch out for trans fats, found in vegetable oils, many baked goods, and some margarine. Trans fat also raises cholesterol and increases your risk of heart disease.
6. Natural supplements and hormone therapy
Many women take natural products and remedies to relieve their menopause symptoms.
Here are the most common natural supplements for reducing symptoms of menopause:
- Phytoestrogens: These can be consumed through natural food sources or supplements such as red clover extracts.
- Black cohosh: Although some studies found that black cohosh may effectively alleviate hot flashes, the evidence is mixed.
- Other supplements: Other commonly used supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics, kava, DHEA-S, dong quai and evening primrose oil.
Hormone Therapy. Treatment with estrogen and progesterone, called combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT), can be prescribed for women who still have their uterus if they have moderate to severe symptoms of menopause. Estrogen alone is the prescribed regimen for women who have had a hysterectomy (no longer have their uterus). These are the most effective treatments for hot flashes, and can also help with vaginal dryness and mood problems. Hormonal patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings are alternatives to traditional pills, depending on the symptoms. Treatment is usually started before age 60 and taken up to 5 years.
Some women may not be candidates for HRT. These women include those with breast or uterine (endometrial) cancer, blood clots, liver disease, heart disease stroke, women who may be pregnant, or who have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
Non-hormonal therapy. If you are unable or do not want to take hormones, there are treatments that your doctor can prescribe to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
7. Get more phytoestrogen
Phytoestrogens are compounds in foods that act as weak estrogens in your body. Phytoestrogens or dietary estrogens are naturally occurring compounds found in plants. Many of these plants are already part of a person’s diet.
Phytoestrogens imitate estrogen because their chemical structure is very similar to that of estrogen from the body. When phytoestrogens enter the body, the body’s estrogen receptors treat them as if they were estrogen. Phytoestrogens are endocrine disruptors because they are chemicals that disrupt normal hormonal function.
Foods with the highest relative phytoestrogen content were nuts and oilseeds, followed by soy products, cereals and bread, legumes and some meat products. Example of foods that naturally contain phytoestrogens include soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums, green and black tea and many more.
While there has been some controversy on including these in the diet, the most recent research suggests they may benefit health — especially for women going through menopause. Phytoestrogens may be beneficial for women looking to rebalance their hormones as they approach menopause.
A healthy diet and regular exercise program will go a long way towards minimizing the symptoms of menopause and helping to maintain overall good health. It is also a good idea to finally kick any old, unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Other interventions that may be helpful are to dress lightly and in layers and avoid potential triggers like caffeine and spicy foods.