I have not yet experienced the joys of menopause. However, I do suffer from fairly severe PMS. I can only imagine how fun menopause must be. When my mom was going through “the change” as she liked to call it, I remember how quickly her body temperature would fluctuate.
Of course, this was uncomfortable for her. And for some women, symptoms are much more severe. When you’re in any kind of discomfort, you look for ways to remedy the situation, right? Well, menopause is no different. And if you take the right steps, you can most certainly make this transitional period easier.
Sometimes, it’s not about what you should do, but more what you shouldn’t do. If you’re currently doing any of the following, quit now in order to improve symptoms. You may not have control over menopause, but you do have control over your lifestyle.
Why do I feel this way?
When experiencing menopause, you may think, when is this going to end? Why is it that these symptoms develop? When you have a better understand of what’s happening within your body, you can take appropriate action.
Put simply, menopause is the end of menstruation. A natural part of the aging process, menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries produce lower levels of the hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. Meaning, a woman will no longer be able to become pregnant.
Unlike the first time you got your period, which occurred within a single day, menopause can occur over the course of several years. Yes, that’s right, years. So, if you do not want to suffer for months on end, you need to take a look at your current lifestyle to better yourself.
Although every woman goes through menopause, no two women will have the exact same experience. We’re unique beings and our bodies will react accordingly. Interestingly, menopause not only affects individuals differently, but also women from varying cultures. There are many factors involved, including diet, genetics, lifestyle, social and cultural attitudes.
As menopause begins, women may showcase symptoms that include anything from headaches to hot flashes, emotional instability to weight gain. Luckily, you can prepare yourself. When the time comes, you can take action.
How to make menopause easier
As mentioned, there are many things you can do to prepare yourself for menopause. As you make positive changes, you’ll not only lessen symptoms, but improve your overall health. Some women will begin to read books and articles on the subject. Others ensure that they’re managing stress and consuming a nutritious diet. If you’re doing any of the following, it’s highly recommended that you quit:
1. Drinking alcohol in excess
Women should not be consuming more than one alcoholic beverage daily to maintain a moderate intake. Although each individual woman is unique, alcohol often influences both the frequency and severity of symptoms. This is because as both men and women age, the body’s sensitivity to alcohol increases.
Overall, most women can still happily enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner while they’re going through menopause — as long as they do not drink in excess. In fact, when consumed in moderation, some studies have found a positive link between moderate drinking and health, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
Several studies have shown that in both pre- and postmenopausal women, light to moderate drinking may increase blood concentrations of estrogen and the byproducts of estrogen metabolism — protecting against coronary heart disease. With that being said, it’s a fine line between moderate and too much.
The research on alcohol
Within one report, researchers suggested that alcohol may affect the health of postmenopausal women directly, by impacting organ systems. These include the liver, brain and gastrointestinal system. At that point, any potential protective factors cause the opposite reaction, essentially threatening your health. For some women, alcohol will also lead to worsened sleep quality, an increase in hot flashes and uncomfortable night sweats.
When you drink alcohol in excess, you increase body heat and flushing. So for women who are prone to hot flashes, alcohol can be a trigger. Although this connection is not fully understood, it’s believed that alcohol alters sex steroid hormone levels, which then increase one’s risk of hot flashes.
2. Stressing yourself out
No surprise here, as stress makes a wide range of conditions worse. Once menopause begins, it’s easy to feel stressed about the symptoms that you’re experiencing. You may also be dealing with that the fact you’ve hit this transitional period in your life. Unfortunately, as stress increases, symptoms worsen, creating a vicious cycle.
Once menopause begins, estrogen levels drop. In turn, your body is less able to maintain cortisol levels. Meaning, you can begin to experience stress more readily than you did before. Studies have shown that endocrinological changes, directly influence vasomotor symptoms, including night sweats, flushes and hot flashes, as well as vaginal dryness.
Yoga as stress relief
Since life expectancy has increased, on average, women now have one-third of their lives left after going through menopause. If you implement healthy strategies into your life during this time, you may find that you significantly improve your life for years to come — especially those who learn to effectively manage stress.
Yoga is one key area of interest. Postures, controlled breathing and meditation have all been used as a therapeutic tool to help improve health and cure diseases. Evidence suggests that when practicing yoga, even short-term, individuals can reduce psychological distress. They can also reduce physiological risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
Within one study, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that although yoga did not have an effect on vasomotor symptoms, it did benefit psychological symptoms in menopausal women. Researchers have also shown yoga to decrease anxiety, blood pressure, pain, fatigue and overall distress.
3. Eating processed foods
No matter which way you slice it, processed foods are processed foods. Most are void of true nutrients and contain harmful additives. These food products are generally packed with salt and sugar, as well as trans fats. Like any health issue and diet, it’s all about choosing the right foods.
A study including 70,000 menopausal women was published in The American journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that a diet high in refined carbs may lead to an increased risk of new-onset depression among postmenopausal women. In comparison, those who consumed dietary fiber, whole grains, non-juice fruits and vegetables experienced a decreased risk.
At the end of the day, diet is a huge deciding factor in terms of how women feel when they go through menopause. When consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, for instance, researchers found that women have reduced hot flashes and improve their overall health, but they also avoid weight gain associated with menopause.
It’s also vital that you choose the right types of fat. New research suggests that when consuming healthy fats, women can cut their risk of night sweats and hot flashes by 20 percent. In comparison, those who consume plenty of saturated and trans fats increase their risk by 23 percent. Avoid processed and fast foods, eating more olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish.
4. Being lazy
Hey, I get it. When I have my period, the last thing I want to do is be active. But I always have my mom in the back of my head. In the good old days, when I was still living under her roof, she would always encourage me to go for a walk when my cramps started. And let me tell you, exercise really does help.
When it comes to menopause, the same rules apply. The more active you are, the better prepared your body will be when imbalances occur. Not only will exercise improve symptoms of menopause, but it will also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased bone density, depression, obesity and osteoporosis.
In fact, a new study found that women who live a sedentary lifestyle will likely suffer from more severe menopause symptoms in comparison to physically active women. Researchers found that when women exercised less than three times weekly, they were 28 percent more likely to experience “severe” menopause.
Not surprisingly, these women were also 52 percent more likely to be obese. Also, researchers found that sedentary women were 21 percent more likely to experience hot flashes and 17 percent more likely to feel sad or depressed. When exercise increases, women experience an increase in brain chemicals that benefit mood, alertness and sleep quality.
If want help for menopause symptoms, you can take personal action. All of the tips above are easy to implement into your current lifestyle. Although they may seem simple, they can produce a dramatic effect. Reduce the frequency and severity of your menopausal symptoms today, all while improving overall well-being and quality of life.
— Krista Hillis