As women reach their late 30s to early 40s, the reproductive tract begins to show signs of aging. Estrogen begins to fluctuate between low and high levels of production, lasting through the menopause transition and continuing for one to seven years. This stage is called perimenopause.
The subsequent imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels can leave women vulnerable to many health problems. Uterine fibroids may be triggered, PMS symptoms can escalate and the menstrual cycle changes. Women with lowered estrogen levels tend to have longer intervals between periods, with lighter bleeding, before stopping entirely. Women with estrogen surges prior to menopause without the secretion of progesterone many have increasingly heavy and more frequent menstrual bleeding. The irregular menstrual cycle can cause fibroid growth.
As the follicles become exhausted, estrogen production drops sufficiently so that there is not enough of the hormone to produce a lining in the uterus. Without a lining, menstruation does not occur. A woman is not considered officially menopausal until she has had no menstrual period for one year. For most women this occurs between ages 46 to 53, though some many experience it in their 30s or as late as age 59; the average age is 52.
How Do I Know it is Menopause?
You can determine whether or not your symptoms are due to menopause by completing a simple blood test to check your hormone level. The FSH test is a universally accepted test to determine your level of follicular stimulating hormone. Hormones are produced by your pituitary gland, which is under ‘negative influence,’ meaning that if it detects that your ovaries are not working, it will secrete follicular stimulating hormone, hence raising your FSH levels. So the higher your FSH level, the more likely it is that you’re in menopause. Typically the “normal” range of FSH is considered to be between 5 to 20 IU/L, with levels above that indicating that you’re moving into menopause.1
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
In the early post-menopausal years, common symptoms of diminished hormonal output include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal and bladder atrophy, mood swings and fatigue. The lack of hormonal support can increase the risk of osteoporosis, heart attacks, adverse lipid and vessel wall changes and stroke.Menopause is usually “official” after one year of missed periods, but these symptoms can begin before that time.
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbances
- Thinning hair
- Irregular periods
- Decreased fertility
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Increased abdominal fat
What is the Best Diet for Menopause?
For some, diet and supplementation can mitigate menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms. For others, bioidentical hormones might be the solution: speak with your health care provider to determine whether this is right for you. Due to many existing problems with estrogen replacement therapy, we do not recommend any form of synthetic hormones.
Diet plays a critical role in determining the health of the women throughout the menopausal spectrum. The foods you choose may trigger hot flashes and other unpleasant menopausal symptoms, as well risk as increase your developing such serious diseases as heartattacks, strokes, cancer, and arthritis.
Refined carbohydrates, trans-fats, and nutrient-empty foods all serve to raise your estrogen to abnormal levels, as much as twice the normal, which are maintained for the majority of adult lives in most American women. This is a significant contributing cause of menopausal symptoms in the first place.2
Alcohol will intensify almost every type of menopausal symptom. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so its intake can increase menopausal fatigue and depression. This is particularly pronounced in women with night sweats and insomnia whose sleep quality is already poor. If an occasional glass of wine is consumed, stick with organic brands that do not contain added sulfites. Two good brands are Frey’s and Bonterra.
Coffee has many effects on the central nervous system including nervousness, irritability, insomnia, and fatigue. Anxiety and panic attacks may also occur. There is considerable evidence that caffeine consumption is strongly related to the presence and severity of PMS. To kick the habit, b-complex, choline, vitamin E and chamomile (4-5 cups a day) for up to 20 days will give your system a reboot.
Menopause Relief Foods (all organic) and Exercise
Nutrient dense foods in the form of leafy greens, vegetables, pastured meats, fruits and raw/sprouted nuts and seeds will help you avoid weight gain, eliminate digestive issues, balance your hormones, nourish your adrenal and thyroid glands, and more.
Flaxseeds: The lignins in flaxseed are important modulators of hormone metabolism. Grind flaxseeds fresh with a coffee grinder and consume 1-2 TB daily.
Healthy Fats: Eat good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil and pastured organic butter , and avoid trans-fats such as canola and soybean oil to increase energy, support hormone production, and reduce degenerative disease.
Probiotics: Use a good probiotic and lacto-fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and yogurt for digestive health. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are beneficial bacteria that reduce free radicals and prevent intestinal infections. They also manufacture some B vitamins and protect the walls of the intestine. Bifidobacteria are affected by the foods you eat. They also need certain substances from the diet in order to thrive. These substances are called fructooligosaccharides, or FOS and are found in onions, asparagus and bananas.3
*Exercise in vital, especially during the menopause and post-menopause years. Weight-bearing exercise keeps bones strong and insulin levels regulated, and yoga is a wonderful way to promote circulation and oxygenation of cells and tissues. Yoga improves the mental state as well, providing a sense of health and well-being for the whole body. Pilates is another form of exercise that engages both the muscles and the mind. We recommend an exercise regime of three to four hours per week to maximize benefits.
Foods to Limit/Avoid during Menopause
- Black Tea
- Soft Drinks
- Sugar (use stevia or raw honey)
- Refined salt (use Himalayan Salt or Sea Salt)
- Non-organic meats
- Pasteurized dairy products
The Best Supplementation Program for Menopause
Black cohosh has been used in Europe for more than 40 years and may help moderate hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia, and has proven to be effective in several studies.
A natural form of progesterone, Progonol Cream has been proven especially effective for women suffering from any of the following symptoms: Severe PMS, anxiety, irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia, heavy bleeding, severe cramping, fibrocystic breasts/breast tenderness, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, estrogen dominance, mood swings, irritability, depression.
The entire range of B vitamins is needed to modulate estrogen, avoid anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress symptoms.
A deficiency of omega fatty acids is partially responsible for the drying of the vaginal and bladder mucosa as well as skin and hair. Contains vitamin D, EPA and DHA. Vitamin D levels are often critically low in women in the menopausal spectrum.
- 1. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/02/28/Winning-Tactics-for-Surviving-Menopause-And-What-You-Should-Know-about-Hormone-Replacement.aspx
- 2. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menopause/DS00119/DSECTION=symptoms
- 3. http://www.natural-approaches-to-menopause.com/menopause-diets.html