Women’s bodies are constantly changing. One of the biggest hormonal shifts occurs during menopause. Typically, menopause begins in the late 40s or early 50s, and usually lasts for a few years.
During this time, at least two-thirds of women experience symptoms of menopause. Symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability and tiredness are typical, but there are ways you can manage these symptoms (possibly even eliminate them!) for yourself.
In addition, menopausal women are at a higher risk of several diseases including osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes (source).
If you’re in this age range you might find that your body feels, looks and behaves differently despite keeping up the same type of routine you’ve had for years.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 natural ways to reduce the symptoms of menopause and support your body so you can thrive through this hormonal shift.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
One of the common complaints during menopause is dryness. This is likely due to decreased estrogen levels, though the amount of water you drink plays a role.
It’s recommended to drink 8–12 glasses of water a day to help with these symptoms.
As a bonus, drinking water can also reduce the bloating that can occur with hormonal changes.
Drinking enough water daily will also help you to eat appropriately since you won’t mistake hunger for thirst.
Tips for drinking more water: Before you go to bed, leave a tall glass of water next to your bed so you drink it first thing when you wake up (when your body needs it the most). Keep a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day so you remember to drink water as you go about your day.
2. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D in Your Diet
Calcium and vitamin D are linked to bone health, which is important since hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken.
Reduce your risk of osteoporosis by getting enough calcium in your diet. Leafy greens like kale, collard greens and spinach have plenty of calcium. Other plant foods like prunes and almonds contain calcium and have been linked to bone health as well. It’s also plentiful in tofu, beans, sardines and of course is available in dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese.
Additionally, calcium-fortified foods are also good sources, including certain cereals, fruit juice or milk alternatives.
Getting enough vitamin D can also help lower the risk of hip fractures due to weak bones, which is important so you can keep your mobility up as you age.
Sunlight remains the main source of vitamin D. However, as you age your skin becomes less efficient at making vitamin D, so it’s important to get your levels checked regularly. This is especially true if you aren’t out in the sun as much.
You might consider taking a supplement or increasing food sources of vitamin D may be important.
There are dietary sources of vitamin D as well – eggs, fish, cod liver oil and foods that are fortified with Vitamin D. You might even find that Vitamin D is available in your protein powder.
Just make sure it’s a D3 source, which is more absorbable than D2.
3. Find a Weight That’s Healthy for You
With all the hormonal changes during menopause, it’s common for women to gain weight. This can also be due to a decrease in physical activity, a change in lifestyle or genetics.
It’s important to monitor your weight, especially body fat around the waist because it increases your risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
In addition, your body weight may affect your menopause symptoms.
One study of 17,473 postmenopausal women found that those who lost at least 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of weight or 10% of their body weight over a year were more likely to eliminate hot flashes and night sweats (source).
Staying active and focusing on a whole food diet are two ways you can support yourself in maintaining a healthy weight. Every body is unique, so if this is a challenge for you, talk with a holistic nutritionist about how you can keep a healthy weight.
4. Don’t Skip Meals
It may be tempting to skip meals if you’re starting to see changes in your body during menopause. However, eating regular meals is important to supporting your body when you’re going through menopause.
Eating irregularly may make certain symptoms of menopause worse, and can even hinder weight loss efforts.
A year-long weight management program for postmenopausal women found that skipping meals was associated with 4.3% less weight loss (source).
5. Move it, move it!
Exercise has many benefits at any age and menopause years are no different.
Staying active will help regulate your metabolism, promote healthy joints and bones, decrease stress and improve sleep.
For example, one study found that exercising three hours per week for one year improved physical and mental health and overall quality of life in a group of menopausal women (source).
Let’s not forget that regular exercise is associated with better health and protection against diseases like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and even osteoporosis.
6. Eat Protein-Rich Foods
Protein is a powerful macronutrient. Many women don’t eat enough protein throughout the day. However, regularly eating protein throughout the day can help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age.
In addition to helping prevent muscle loss, high-protein diets can help with weight loss because your meals will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time and increase the amount of calories burned.
Some protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy. Foods rich in protein include meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and dairy.
Here is a list of 20 healthy high-protein foods.
7. Eat Your Vegetables (every day!)
Ok, so you’ve heard this one before. But that’s because it’s important. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent a number of menopause symptoms.
Focusing on vegetables and fruit in your diet will give you essential vitamins and minerals as well as the fibre you need to feel full. When you fill up on healthy foods that nourish your body, you won’t need to reach for treat foods as often, so this is a great tip to help with weight management.
The nutrients in vegetables may also help prevent a number of diseases, including heart disease which increases in risk after menopause. This could be due to factors such as age, weight gain or possibly reduced estrogen levels.
Finally, fruits and vegetables may also help prevent bone loss. One observational study of 3,236 women aged 50–59 found that diets high in fruit and vegetables may lead to less bone breakdown (source).
8. Reduce Processed Foods & Trigger Foods
Regulating your blood sugar will help your hormones to stay as stable as possible.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar will cause sharp blood sugar fluctuations, leading to fatigue and irritability. In addition, processed foods are stripped of many of the nutrients your body needs to fuel itself properly during this important time.
Did you know that certain foods may also trigger hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings? This can be different for everyone, but common triggers include alcohol, caffeine, and foods that are spicy or high in sugar.
They may be even more likely to trigger you when you eat them at night.
Keep a symptom diary. If you feel that particular foods trigger your menopause symptoms, try to reduce your consumption or avoid them completely.
BONUS: Take Natural Supplements
Many women take natural products and remedies to relieve their menopause symptoms. The scientific evidence behind many of them is inconclusive, however some women do feel they help manage their symptoms.
Here are the most common natural supplements for reducing symptoms of menopause:
Phytoestrogens: These can be consumed through natural food sources like flax seeds or soy beans, or supplements such as red clover extract. There is currently not enough evidence to recommend them for alleviating menopause symptoms.
Black cohosh: Although some studies found that black cohosh may effectively alleviate hot flashes, the evidence is mixed. In addition, there is a lack of long-term data on the supplement’s safety.
Other supplements: Evidence is scarce for the effectiveness of other commonly used supplements such as probiotics, kava, DHEA-S, dong quai and evening primrose oil.
As with any supplement protocol, discuss your options with your health care provider to avoid any contraindications and for best results.
A Quick Recap
Check your attitude about menopause – it’s not an illness. It’s a natural part of life.
Yes, its symptoms can be difficult to deal with for some people, but there are plenty of things you can do to support your body in feeling your best. Eating the right diet and exercising regularly may help alleviate and prevent symptoms for you.
Try out the tips above to make your time during menopause and beyond easier and more enjoyable.