Menopause symptoms can be stressful when first noticed. Many women have a bittersweet outlook towards menopause. Some women look forward to it because it means the cessation of their menses. Since menopause symptoms include the cessation of menses, this can be a positive. Most females feel discomfort during their monthly periods, with bloating, cramping, dysmenorrhea, and leakage. Thus, having these red days gone for good is convenient and cost-efficient because you can say goodbye to tampons and pads.
However, menopause is also a sign of ageing, as it usually happens to women 50 years of age and older. Some women view the onset of menopause symptoms as symbolizing the end of their youth, and of course the end of their child-bearing capabilities. In addition, many women get menopause symptoms in the form of hot flashes, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, especially if you end up with unsightly wet marks in your armpits. On top of that, women as young as 40 may also experience perimenopause symptoms such as mood swings and disrupted sleep.
That being said, menopause is not something to fear because it is a natural part of your biological process as a female. You experience complete menopause when your ovaries cease producing reproductive hormones, and you do not have a monthly period for 12 months straight. Find out more about menopause below:
Menopause Symptoms and Common Signs of Menopause
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. Your monthly period will usually change and wane in occurrence before it completely stops. In the months or years leading to menopause (with the earlier years of the perimenopause stage), you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Highly irregular menses
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sudden mood swings
- Sleep issues
- Dryness in the vagina
- Sluggish metabolism
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- The feeling of lost breast fullness
- Tingling extremities
These signs and symptoms will vary from person to person. The changes in the menstrual pattern also don’t follow an exact course, so anticipate period irregularities before its complete cessation. Your period can skip for a month, then return after several months. The cycles can even confuse you because of how erratic they become.
However, it is important to note that you can still get pregnant when your periods are irregular. If you’ve skipped a period and feel unsure, consider taking a pregnancy test. If you do not want to have another child, speaking with your gynaecologist about contraceptives while in perimenopause or menopause would be advisable.
How to Cope With Menopause Symptoms
Menopause usually occurs in the late 40s or early 50s for most women, lasting for several years. During this stage, ⅔ or 75% of women will experience signs and symptoms of menopause. Apart from hot flashes, tiredness, moodiness, and irritability, menopausal women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Thus, you must take a proactive approach to manage your health in menopause. The good news is you also don’t have to endure and suffer through the symptoms. You can find relief with prescription hormone therapy under the supervision of your gynaecologist. On top of that, you can effectively cope with menopause symptoms by trying the following:
Establish an Exercise Routine
Studies show that most women in menopause gain weight due to hormonal changes and declining metabolism. Unfortunately, this extra weight will increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart diseases. If you want to combat this problem and prevent chronic diseases, establish an exercise routine to help you increase your heart rate and burn calories and fat.
Moreover, you must also incorporate strength training to help increase lean muscle mass. The more muscles you have, the better your metabolic rate because it means you burn more calories at rest. Besides, one particular study showed that women who drop extra weight are more likely to eliminate night sweats and hot flashes. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight via exercise can also help you sleep better, promote a good mood, and help you manage stress.
Consume More “Glow” Foods
Make smarter food choices by eating more “glow foods,” aka vegetables and fruits. A diet rich in these can help you fight menopause symptoms. For starters, fruits and veggies are fibre-rich and lower in calories, so they can help you prevent weight gain.
Apart from that, these nutrient-dense foods can help combat the onset of diseases common with menopause. Low estrogen levels tend to make you more at risk for hypertension and diabetes, so it is even more important to watch the things you put inside your mouth.
Eat More Foods with Phytoestrogen
Phytoestrogens are compounds that naturally occur in plants. They are beneficial for you because they mimic the effects of estrogen in your body. Hence, consuming foods with more phytoestrogen can help balance hormones.
Most women in Asia have a high intake of phytoestrogen in their diet. For this reason, many of them rarely experience hot flashes because of their cuisine. To help you manage menopausal symptoms, you must consume more of the following food:
- Sesame seeds
- Flax seeds
Studies suggest that foods rich in phytoestrogen help reduce bad cholesterol, blood, pressure, hot flashes, and night sweats. Make sure that you purchase good quality ingredients with the safest processing methods.
Increase Water Intake
You must drink at least 8 glasses of water during menopause to combat the dryness in your vagina and skin. This is associated with a significant decrease in estrogen levels. In addition, if you live in a hot climate, exercise, or drink diuretics, you must increase your water intake.
Apart from helping your body equalize and stay moist, drinking can help minimize bloating that’s often associated with hormonal changes. For best results, start a new habit of drinking water at least 30 minutes before your meal, as this can also help you consume fewer calories and prevent menopausal weight gain.
Focus on Good Protein
Now is the time to cut on sugary foods and processed junk food. All of these are also loaded with sodium and preservatives that will make you feel even more bloated. Some peri and menopausal women also become more sensitive to MSG and additives in processed food, leading to headaches and extreme thirst.
For best results, eat more lean protein to prevent the loss of muscles that naturally occur with ageing. Besides, eating protein helps satiate hunger and reduce cravings. When you feel full longer, you reduce succumbing to tempting treats that have poor nutritional value. Eat more of the following items instead:
- Lean meat
- Healthy nuts like almond
Consume More Calcium and Vitamin D
Avoid feeling even more lethargic, tingling fingers, or muscle cramps by watching your calcium and vitamin D intake. All those mentioned are signs of calcium deficiency, which may be aggravated by menopause.
Besides, hormonal changes will lead to the weakening of bones or osteoporosis, especially if you have a family history of this disease. Calcium and vitamin D go hand-in-hand because the latter ensures your bones absorb calcium from foods, drinks, and supplements. Menopausal women must eat more of the following:
- Dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese
- Leafy greens like spinach, collard, greens, and kale
- Tofu and beans
- Calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and cereal
As for vitamin D, you must get enough sun exposure and eat oily fish, eggs, or take a supplement (especially for those who live in temperate zones). Both nutrients will prevent symptoms of calcium deficiency and bone density loss associated with menopause.
Avoid Certain Triggers
Smokers experience more hot flashes because nicotine is a vasoconstrictor (constricts blood vessels), making your blood pressure and heart rate increase. On top of that, you breathe in warm smoke, making you feel even hotter. So kick this habit for good if you want to avoid the dreaded menopausal hot flashes.
Moreover, certain foods and drinks may trigger hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. Examples of these are:
- Caffeine rich drinks like tea, coffee, energy drinks, or soda
- Various alcohol and mixed drinks
- Foods that are super spicy or rich in sugar
Most trigger food and beverage stimulates the onset of symptoms, especially if you ingest them at night. So, it would help to keep a diary of your symptoms to determine your specific triggers. Then, avoid consumption of these items to help you manage your menopause symptoms.
Consult Your Doctor for Menopausal Support and Preventive Health Checks
If you feel as if your menopause symptoms are out of hand, consult your doctor for advice. Even if you don’t suffer through any unbearable signs of menopause, it is still a good idea to see your doctor for preventive health care.
As you age, you become more prone to chronic diseases, so screening tests like mammograms, colonoscopy, fasting blood sugar, or triglyceride screening will help. It is always the best idea to seek medical advice so you can stay proactive with your health. After all, the goal is prevention and not treatment.
Your overall health plays a role in how well you cope with menopause symptoms. If you feel concerned about your health, you can also try genetic testing like CircleDNA. The DNA test results will reveal your susceptibility to certain health conditions and diseases based on your DNA. Remember, health is the true measure of wealth because a healthy mind and body are assets that far outweigh material riches.