Menopause need not be a time of pain and suffering.
You can manage symptoms of menopause by following a few key tips, including getting enough of the right kinds of nutrients in your daily diet.
Exercising regularly, even with short daily walks or brief yoga stretches, can help relieve menopause symptoms.
This is the first article in a series by menopause expert Maryon Stewart.
Almost every day of my life, I hear horror stories about women who are at their wits' end when they reach menopause.
Instead of being a time of celebration, menopause is largely associated with a host of negatives, including weight gain, brain fog, hot flashes, and plummeting sex drive. How did menopause get immersed in such negativity? For a start, 100 years or so ago, women weren't living much past 50, so what happened after menopause wasn't really an issue. Women 50+ were considered old ladies.
Now that we can expect to live so much longer, we need to seriously revisit conversations we are both witnessing and taking part in on the subject of our menopause.
The good news: published medical research clearly shows that menopause doesn't have to be the beginning of the end of quality of life but instead can start a whole new, fulfilling chapter in a woman's life.
For 28 years, I have been successfully helping women become symptom-free and feel better than they can remember. Here are my top tips for managing your menopause and enjoying this time of your life to the fullest.
How diet can support women during and after menopause
Few women reach their mid-40s in a good place nutritionally, which leaves them running in what I call 'economy mode'—feeling flat, tired, and unmotivated. Studies show up to 80% of women are short of important nutrients1,2 including:
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamin D and B vitamins
Because hormonal balance can be affected by the levels of nutrients in our body, upping your intake of these often-shortchanged vitamins and minerals can go a long way toward helping during menopause and beyond. Magnesium, for example, when taken together with other essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, Vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and fatty acids, has shown a positive influence on brain chemistry and hormone function.3 Good sources of magnesium include fresh fruit and vegetables, especially leafy green ones.
Essential fatty acids like those found in vegetable oils and oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines, also play a big role in hormone health. Diets rich in omega-3s might help lessen mood swings and boost libido and energy.4,5
Harness phytoestrogens during menopause
Consume Mother Nature’s phytoestrogens throughout the day and evening to satisfy the needs of the estrogen receptors in our cells. Including foods such as barley, sesame, lentils, flaxseed, soybeans, and tofu into our meal plans can help. These plant foods have a molecular structure so similar to our own estrogen, we can fool the brain into thinking we have balanced estrogen levels again, resulting in the thermal surges we know as hot flashes and night sweats disappearing altogether.
Phytoestrogen has been hailed by many as the natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy, and can be found in everyday foods like soybeans, flaxseed, and supplements of red clover.6
Supplements may help bridge our nutritional gaps
As much as we try, it’s not always possible to consume all the nutrients we need by diet alone. That’s why I recommend scientifically based supplements that support your body nutritionally.
Not all supplements contain what they say on the label, so it’s important to make wise and informed choices, taking products that have been through clinical trials and have been shown to be both safe and effective. Look for products that have been certified by a third-party testing company, like NSF (National Science Foundation) or USP (United States Pharmacopeia).
(Editor's note: Before you include a supplement in your routine, check with your health care team to ensure that it does not interfere with any medications you are taking or any health conditions you have. If your health care team prescribes a new medication, always inform them of all the supplements you are taking.)
Consider exercise for easing menopausal symptoms
Exercising regularly can release the happy hormones called endorphins, which helps relieve menopause symptoms, making irritability and mood swings easier to cope with. Even going for short daily walks or doing some yoga stretches can help keep your body functioning well.
As a bonus, exercise helps to speed up our flagging metabolism at midlife, burning up fat rather than allowing it to settle around our middle.
Relaxation might lessen anxiety, other menopause symptoms
Another often-overlooked way to manage menopause that almost everyone can benefit from: finding time in the day for relaxation.
Practice relaxation techniques such as:
- Deep breathing
- Visual imagery
Such techniques can help to significantly reduce hot flashes and relieve other menopausal symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.
Taking these tips to heart can help relieve your symptoms, leaving you feeling happier, more focused, less irritable, and much more like your old self.
Maryon Stewart is the author of Manage Your Menopause Naturally and 27 other books. A world-renowned health care expert, she has helped tens of thousands of women around the world overcome PMS and menopause symptoms without using drugs or hormones. Visit her online at http://www.maryonstewart.com/book.
Excerpted from the book Manage Your Menopause Naturally. Copyright ©2020 by Maryon Stewart. Printed with permission from New World Library—www.newworldlibrary.com.
1. Shelley McGuire, Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Washington, DC: US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, 2015, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 7, Issue 1, January 2016. Found on the internet at https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.011684
2. Oregon State University. Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: An Overview. Found on the internet at https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrient-inadequacies/overview
3. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders. Nutrients. 2018 Jun 6;10(6):730. doi: 10.3390/nu10060730. PMID: 29882776; PMCID: PMC6024559. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024559/
4. Ekong MB, Iniodu CF. Nutritional therapy can reduce the burden of depression management in low income countries: A review. IBRO Neurosci Rep. 2021 Jun 26;11:15-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ibneur.2021.06.002. PMID: 34939062; PMCID: PMC8664701. Found on the internet at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34939062/
5. DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 4;12(8):2333. doi: 10.3390/nu12082333. PMID: 32759851; PMCID: PMC7468918. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468918/
6. Desmawati D, Sulastri D. Phytoestrogens and Their Health Effect. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019 Feb 14;7(3):495-499. doi: 10.3889/oamjms.2019.044. PMID: 30834024; PMCID: PMC6390141. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6390141/