9 Natural Menopause Strategies That Can Work for You
There is no magic cure when it comes to menopause symptoms. Every human body is unique and experiences the midlife transition differently. However, many treatment options can help you manage menopause symptoms and improve your well-being, from holistic strategies to prescription medications. A treatment strategy is a personal choice but ideally guided by facts and science, not misinformation. It’s also helpful to remember that what works for one woman may not work for you.
Lifestyle choices play an important role in keeping your body and mind feeling great as you go through all the changes that menopause brings and lower your risk of chronic diseases from cardiovascular disease to dementia to osteoporosis. Menopause is the perfect time to recommit to healthy behaviors you already have and develop new habits that you might be lacking.
Healthy food choices, regular exercise and movement, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco, and mental and physical self-care are the five core health habits that support your well-being as you move into the second half of life. Beyond the core five, several other effective science-backed natural strategies can work for you.
Eat Foods Rich in Phytoestrogens
Who knew your food choices could affect your hot flashes? They do. Research has shown that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens can lessen the intensity and frequency of hot flashes.
There is inconsistent data about whether dietary phytoestrogens can offer other benefits, such as improving sleep quality and mental clarity, minimizing vaginal atrophy, and protecting bone health. Although some results are promising, more research is needed to determine if phytoestrogens can cause significant improvements in these areas.
Foods high in phytoestrogens include soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame,) legumes, flax seeds, sesame seeds, whole grains, berries, apples, carrots, wheat germ, and rice bran.
Get More Calcium and Vitamin D
Experts agree that vitamin D and calcium play important roles in maintaining bone strength and health. Low estrogen in menopause puts your bone health at risk, and it’s important to supply your body with all the tools it needs to keep your bones healthy.
Some foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D are dairy products, fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines,) egg yolks, mushrooms, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and fortified cereals and juices.
If you aren’t keen on eating fatty fish every week, taste and smell-free fish oil supplements are also effective. Vitamin D supplementation is also beneficial.
Add More Plants and Protein
Eating a variety of plants has consistently proven to be a valuable component of physical health. It provides your body with fiber and many vitamins and minerals and helps keep your gut biome strong and healthy.
Studies have been performed on Blue Zone communities where people enjoy the longest and healthiest lives in the world, and it was found that they all shared commonalities in eating a mostly plant-based diet.
Muscle mass decreases as we age. Protein is important to maintain muscle in menopause, and you can still get plenty in a plant-based diet. Legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein. You can also supplement with a protein powder.
When you do choose to eat meat, choose wisely. Salmon and other fatty fish and free-range, locally sourced, hormone-free chicken, eggs, and beef are excellent choices.
There are several reasons to be mindful of alcohol consumption in menopause. For one, as we age, our ability to metabolize alcohol decreases. Beware of that second or third drink. You may wake up with a surprise hangover.
A big complaint about menopause is unwanted weight gain. Alcohol is chock full of calories, and a few drinks can easily add up, making weight maintenance more challenging.
Of course, you don’t have to stop drinking entirely if you enjoy a cocktail from time to time. You might want to rethink your drink choices and pick lower carbohydrate and calorie options.
Manage Your Sleep
Hot flashes and night sweats disturb the sleep of about half of all people going through menopause. When you don’t sleep well, you become mentally and physically exhausted, and your quality of life can decrease.
Poor sleep also increases your stress hormones, which can worsen menopause-related weight gain and make it harder for your immune system to protect you. Poor sleep may lead to worsening anxiety and depression.
Aside from the more common strategies for dealing with insomnia and hot flashes, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to offer some relief. Therapy can also be helpful for developing coping strategies.
Exercise and Move More
Exercise can feel like a loaded word in our culture, but what this really means is movement. Regular, daily movement. You don’t need to run a marathon or do CrossFit to reap health benefits from movement. Walking the dog or spending an hour weeding the garden is just as valuable. Moving throughout the day was another characteristic of the long-lived people in the Blue Zones.
All forms of regular movement protect your bones and heart and help minimize weight gain during menopause. The best exercise is the one that you can and will do consistently.
If you want to lose some of that menopause weight, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a quick way to start seeing some results. Adding a few HIIT sessions to your weekly regimen can stimulate fat loss and build muscle. Cycling 30 seconds of intense activity (for example, mountain climbers or jumping jacks) with 30 seconds of rest for 20-30 minutes a few times a week is all you need.
If you’ve never exercised before, starting a new movement-filled life may feel daunting. There are plenty of tried and true strategies that can support you in your exercise goals. Once you start exercising regularly, you might find that you feel better, stronger, happier, and more comfortable in your body, and it might become a habit you don’t want to break.
Hypnotherapy is a heightened state of concentration and focused attention. It’s a science-backed technique that allows you to be more open to suggestions for making healthful changes in your perceptions, sensations, emotions, memories, thoughts, or behaviors.
Hypnotherapy has been shown effective for hot flashes and can help with mild depression and anxiety. The technique can help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes and may prevent them altogether. In fact, hypnosis has been shown to reduce hot flashes and night sweats by up to 74%, showing it to be as effective as hormone therapy.
Engage in Mindfulness
Research shows that meditation offers multiple benefits to menopausal women. It lowers irritability and depression and can minimize the vasomotor symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes.
There is no one right way to meditate. Like exercise, find the way that works best for you and that you can do regularly. You can focus on your breath, learn kundalini meditation, do tai chi or walking meditations, or any other form of meditation that helps you focus your attention and soothe your mind and body.
Relaxation is a type of therapy that helps reduce muscle tension and stress, lowers blood pressure, and controls pain. It may involve tensing and relaxing muscles throughout the body. It may be used with guided imagery (focusing the mind on positive images) and meditation (focusing thoughts). While typically a strategy used for stress and anxiety, researchers recently presented data that suggests that relaxation strategies such as body scan and progressive muscle relaxation have reasonable evidence that the technique may be helpful with hot flashes.
You can choose to give your body what it needs to thrive in its new way of being. With a few lifestyle adjustments and the adoption of holistic science-backed strategies, you can set yourself up for the healthiest and happiest mid-life possible.
The Midday app has a broad range of science-backed hypnotherapy, mindfulness, and relaxation programs designed specifically for menopause symptoms. Join us for a free trial. Download Midday from the App Store or visit us at Midday.Health.
Jennifer Turkyilmaz, RN, BSN, is a medical writer who worked for many years in women’s health as a high-risk pregnancy nurse. She is also a newly menopausal woman who wishes she had known more about what to expect before it happened to her.
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