Menopause, Symptoms or Messages?
October 2, 2023
by Anabela Souto (www.nutriessence.ca)
A New Cycle Begins …
Perimenopause, is a transitional period in a woman’s life, and is the stage immediately before menopause which typically starts with changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Periods may occur closer together, be irregular, or may be heavier than normal. During perimenopause the ovaries do not ovulate regularly.
Menopause marks the entrance into the third major cycle in a woman’s life and the natural end of the menstrual and reproductive cycle. When this major cycle is not supported or embraced in a nourishing environment, or with an understanding support system, much of what women experience can be painful and stressful. In Chinese medicine, the symptoms of menopause implies a deficiency in yin fluid, specifically the yin fluids which supports the liver. The yang is also said to surface giving women a new fire to create something new and powerful.
Because the adrenal glands take over the biological function of the ovaries, many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with menopause are quite similar to those of adrenal stress. The adrenal glands which sit directly above the kidneys continue to produce small amounts of estrogen once menopause begins and continues to do so until about the age of 70.
Some of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include mood swings, a thick waistline, low energy levels, insomnia, stubborn weight, itching, anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory loss, joint pain or stiffness, hair loss, sore breasts, leg cramps, migraines, recurrent bladder infection and decreased libido which can last for years.
An estimated 75% of women endure hot flashes for approximately 2 years, another 25% have them for 5 or more years.
Risk Factors are often a result of unhealthy eating patterns, dietary imbalances, and can be one of the causes of symptoms related to menopause. Also, our North American diet is typically deficient in essential fatty acids, which are important for reducing inflammation, PMS and menopausal symptoms. A woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke may significantly increase after menopause.
An imbalanced lifestyle can also contribute to hormonal imbalances, and this being the result of women working too much, worrying too much, and working out too hard, which may lead to feelings of exhaustion from all this activity.
It has been postulated that menopause can be delayed with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet and lifestyle can support an easier transition into the menopausal years. It is crucial to choose foods containing all the necessary nutrients needed that can be absorbed by your body.
What can you do to support this transition?
Support your hormones with good digestion and proper nutrients…
Savour your food by slowing down and chewing your food properly. Digestion begins in the mouth and can greatly impact the absorption and digestion of the foods we eat and can also impact our hormonal balance. The liver plays a key role in breaking down hormones such as estrogen, but when the liver is overburdened, and not detoxing efficiently conditions such as hot flashes may occur.
Incorporating freshly ground flax seeds or chia seeds for example provide essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation, aid with constipation and elimination which will help support the liver.
Be sure your diet includes plenty of vitamin C, zinc, and B complex foods such as mung beans, seaweed, and spirulina for example.
Calcium rich foods are essential during menopause to prevent osteoporosis and may help prevent hot flashes. Getting adequate levels of magnesium and vitamin D from the sun may aid in calcium metabolism. Often Vitamin E is overlooked but is a key nutrient because it stimulates estrogen production, calms nervousness, and strengthens adrenal and kidney function.
Sleep is seriously underrated. The quality and quantity of sleep is vital for optimal health. It is near impossible to function if the mind and body are not supported the way it was designed. To reduce insomnia, train your brain to anticipate sleep. Create a bedtime routine. Avoid stimulating activities. Keep phones, laptops or tablets out of your bedroom. Keep your bedroom cool.
Have a warm Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to help you relax, unwind to anticipate, and prepare for sleep.
Rather than reach for a glass of wine, which is known to trigger hot flashes, why not enjoy some chamomile, holy basil, lemon verbena, holy basil, or passionflower as you prepare dinner instead?
Manage Your Stress
It’s an incredibly powerful practice to align the body, mind, and spirit. Adding simple meditative practices is such an effective way to start and end your day. Allowing space for nature’s rhythms can help you reset your body.
Make time in your day for stress releasing activities such as yoga, mediation, and journaling.
Pause at least 3 times a day to take deep breaths. Deep breathing exercise or singing at the top of your lungs are great ways to relieve stress. Choose whatever helps you relax and feels good to your mind body and soul.
Choosing resistance training exercises help build stronger bones.
Get outdoors whenever possible to be in touch with nature. We were not designed to spend 90% of our life indoors. The sun is a life force and crucial for our mental health and well being.
Moderate exercise is another great way to help release stress. You can go for a hike on the weekend, or a brisk walk at lunch time or after dinner. Adrenal fatigue is often linked to anxiety and not taking care of yourself. Focus on loving yourself and self-care. Avoid high cardio activities at least 3 hours before bed. Try to get your work out as early in the day as possible. Work with your circadian rhythm to promote deep sleep.
Our societal model of the older woman leaves much to be desired – a culture that places importance on youth and stereotyping the older women as being past her prime, an old crone, unsexy, and impossible to live with.
When all is said and done, you can take all the right supplements, and eat all the right foods, but it is the thoughts and beliefs that you hold near and dear that will ultimately have the biggest impact on your well being and how you will transition into menopause and beyond. How you view this final transition in your life will directly impact your health. With menopause comes a certain wisdom and can be a time when our hidden fire surfaces bringing about an energy which may be exactly what we need to start a new business/career, give back to the community, travel the world or focus on whatever it is that we have been putting off. Menopause can also be the perfect time to go inward and listen to what your psyche is whispering to you at night about what your heart has been longing for.
Bio: Anabela Souto has been working in the fitness and health care industry for over 15 years.
Anabela studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutriton where she received her diploma in Natural Nutrition. Anabela also has a passion for physical wellness and has a background as Certified Personal Trainer, Small Group Trainer, Fitness Kickboxing and Yoga.
Anabela continues to use exercise to improve strength, longevity and enhance mental health. She is an avid lifelong learner and is always striving to expand her knowledge and skill sets through continuing education to better serve her clients. She has a special interest in women’s health, weight loss, mental wellbeing, stress, and sleep concerns.
Anabela uses a powerful whole-istic approach incorporating the 4 pillars of health principles to ensure the mind, body and spirit connection addressing the body as a whole.
Anabela is a member of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition Alumni Association and Quebec Naturotherapist Association (l’Association des Naturothérapeutes du Québec).