At LiveWellFit the majority of our clients are over age 45. We get tons of questions about how to deal with the symptoms of menopause and peri-menopause, and the best advice is always "eat clean and stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, reduce stress, move your body". While it's always best to talk to your healthcare provider first, we've compiled a list of some of the best advice and tips for those going through THE CHANGE.
Perimenopause is a transition time “around menopause,” which on average lasts five to ten years. Usually at around age 35, a woman’s progesterone levels begin to decline and become erratic. Many times there may be increased premenstrual symptoms such as fatigue and mood swings. Over forty, many women’s hormones begin to fluctuate, decrease and become imbalanced. Symptoms of hormone imbalance are varied and unpredictable – in other words INDIVIDUAL – and often go unrecognized as symptoms of perimenopause/menopause. Some women sail through their perimenopause years without symptoms, but approximately 75% of women in their 40’s and 50’s experience perimenopausal hormone imbalance symptoms.
Most women experience natural menopause between the ages of 40 and 58 with the average of 51 years of age. With menopause there is reduced functioning of the ovaries, along with reduced hormonal levels.
You’ve heard it all before... These fluctuating hormones can lead to fatigue, irritability, mood swings, hot flashes, reduced libido, weight gain, and other exciting symptoms! This is the time to really take steps to take care of yourself:
Eat a healthier diet, free of processed foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined carbohydrates and sodium (salt). All can contribute to more imbalance symptoms.
Practice portion control. Honor your cravings, but do so in moderation.
Eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. The more colorful ones are packed with valuable nutrients. Dark green and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collards have been shown to help in memory recall and other mental functions.
Choose organic whenever possible to avoid preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other substances that disrupt hormone balance.
Whole foods are healthiest, so pick the orange instead of the orange juice. You will get more hormone rebalancing nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy.
Limit your caffeine intake; drink less coffee and soda.
Drink more water, natural spring water is best.
Load up on antioxidant-packed blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Fresh or frozen, they reduce oxidative stress to reduce inflammation and improve your brain cell signaling.
Choose foods high in Vitamin C like red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds to reduce skin dryness.
Boost your omega-3s, a beneficial fatty acid found in oily fishes, walnuts, and flaxseed oils.
Spice up your diet with herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, such as turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and cayenne.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You’re not being “lazy”, you’re keeping healthy. Adequate sleep seems harder to get as we age and go through hormonal changes, but insufficient sleep links to weight gain, decreased alertness and poor immune function.
Avoid napping during the day, but if you absolutely must, limit naps to 30-45 minutes.
Take a warm bath with Epsom salts before bedtime to relieve sore muscles and help induce sleep. Relaxing herbs like valerian, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm can gently bring about the onset of sleep.
Chronic stress creates cortisol, which in turn relates to weight gain, especially dangerous belly fat. Reduce your stress with massage therapy, join a yoga class or meditate.
Make time to do the things you love, whether it’s relaxing with a good book or pursuing a favorite hobby.
Release the guilt of “not being everything to everyone”. Those that you love in your life will not collapse if you move to nurture yourself. In the end they will thank you, as it is impossible to give to others from a place of imbalance and exhaustion.
Exercise gets your endorphins moving and helps alleviate symptoms associated with menopause. Start with just including more natural movement into your daily routine. Take a flight of stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Park farther away from your destination entrance. Stand up and move around every 20 minutes if you’re sitting at a desk all day, and consider a standing desk. Walk your dog. Join some neighbors in their walking routines. Get a device that measures steps.
Weight training is recommended as perhaps the most effective way to engage the metabolism longer than other exercise. Fit in some weight-training classes twice a week.
Limit exercise right before bed as it can interrupt your ability to fall asleep. Get your workouts done earlier in the day.
Chemical disruptors can also throw off your balance, so avoid perfumes and go fragrance-free. There are many natural alternatives to perfumes that are often lasting longer and deliver therapeutic effects as well.
If you’re a smoker, seek the support you need to quit. Aside from the lung issues that smoking causes, nicotine enters brain receptors and disrupts normal brain function. On average, women who smoke experience menopause symptoms two years earlier than non-smokers. And smokers’ symptoms are often stronger and more troublesome.
Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adrenal support vitamins. Increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12 can be very helpful. Health food stores and compounding pharmacies are also good places to look for adrenal support vitamins specially formulated for your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap products, invest in yourself.
If hormone therapy is recommended, consider bioidentical therapy which matches your body’s hormone structure.
"Perimenopausal and menopausal women have unique health care needs. One of those is being able to spend adequate time with your health care provider. Whether it is a gynecologist, family practice doctor, internal medicine doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, naturopathic physician, chiropractor or acupuncturist, don’t be afraid to inquire about their experience and expertise in hormone balance and menopause issues.
The optimal midlife provider will take a thorough history and physical, know what testing is appropriate, be able to recommend appropriate screenings for disease risk such osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer. Additionally, your provider should be familiar with the spectrum of treatment options for perimenopause and menopause management. These include:
Diet, exercise and stress
Compounded bio-identical hormones
Non compounded bio-identical hormones
Synthetic and other non bio-identical hormones
Other health care team members that will help you meet your health goals such as physical therapists, massage therapists, fitness experts, and nutritionists