The New York Times recently published an article stating we have been misled about menopause. I can agree with that, but I think what may be more true is that we just don't talk about it. It seems as if it is such a taboo topic that most women shy away from and the truth of the matter is, we all go through puberty and if we have the luxury of living long enough, we all go through menopause. So, can we FINALLY agree to talk about it?
Before we can talk about it, I think we need to identify what menopause is.
DID YOU KNOW that menopause is actually just one day? Wait, what? That sounds ridiculous. Menopause is defined as the point in time when your ovaries stop producing hormones and you do not have a period for 12 consecutive months. So, guess what? You do not even know when you hit menopause until you are past it.
So, if this is true, why do we hear so much about hot flashes, mood swings, and all the lovely conditions associated with menopause going on for years? Well, these symptoms are actually a part of peri-menopause which is the natural transition that begins several years before menopause.
DID YOU KNOW that you can actually begin to have fluctuating hormones 10 years before you actually go through menopause? The average age of menopause is 51 years. Peri-menopause can begin 5-10 years before that and for some people, we are talking late 30s to early 40s. So, if you think about it, women are actually going through some stage of menopause for over a third of their life and yet we never talk about it.
There are many symptoms that can come with this fluctuation of hormones. We often hear about hot flashes and mood swings, but also weight gain, lack of energy, anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, an increased risk in heart disease, osteoporosis, auto-immune
disease and Alzheimers all occur once women hit those menopausal years.
In fact, peri-menopause is actually identified by symptoms. Due to the intense hormone fluctuations during this time, testing your hormones only tells you what your hormones are doing at that exact moment, not the fluctuations that are occurring day in and day out and week in and week out.
All of this does not sound very encouraging, right? Well, DID YOU KNOW these symptoms are not inevitable? You do not have to suffer through symptoms. One avenue is looking into hormone replacement therapy which can often help during this time, this is something you can speak to your doctor about and decide if it could benefit your individual concerns.
But DID YOU KNOW that your overall health status, specifically your metabolic health, going into peri-menopause can affect how easy or hard your next few years will be? It is absolutely true. The more you focus on your overall health and well being the easier it will be to glide through these sometimes tumultuous years and get to the other side of menopause relatively unaffected.
When I say overall health, I am talking about focusing on your nutrition, dialing in your activity or training load to reach that goldilocks ideal (not too little, not too much, but just right for you), regulating your stress levels and getting optimal sleep. Your overall health status earlier in your life will help predict how easy or hard those menopause years are for you. And once you do hit those peri-menopause years; how you eat, the types of training or exercise you focus on and your ability to manage your level of stress and optimize sleep turn into a fork in the road for you. Will you sail through the next 5-10 years relatively symptom and disease free or are you headed towards stress, weight gain, anxiety, increased stress perception, terrible mood swings and a risk towards many modern-day diseases? You are in control here.
Here are a few quick pointers to help you get on the right path for those menopausal years:
NUTRITION & HYDRATION-
Limit or avoid processed foods, make sure to include plenty of whole/natural foods.
Include at least 30 grams of protein at each meal.
Ensure you are eating enough, try and reach at least 500 calories at each meal & ensure you have a mix of protein/carbs/fats at each meal.
Eat a variety of plant foods daily, focus on eating a rainbow of colors each day.
Decrease your intake of simple carbohydrates, especially late in the day. Focus on complex carbohydrates with plenty of fiber. Try not to eat carbohydrates by themselves, always ensure you pair them with protein &/or fat.
Drink at least 1/2 of your body weight in fluid ounces per day. Start each day with at least 8 oz of water before you do anything else.
Include resistance/weight training 2-3 times per week.
Ensure you are lifting heavy, really feel that muscle exhaustion your last couple of reps.
Limit long steady-state endurance training to 1-2 times per week, maximum.
Include HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or SIT (Sprint Interval Training) 1-2 times per week. And when I say this, I mean true high intensity, you are truly working as hard as possible for a short amount of time, resting and doing it again.
Include rest/recovery days at least 1-2 times per week.
Include active recovery most days- walking, mobility work, yoga, stretching
If you are sitting all day, get up and move around every hour for at least 5 minutes.
MANAGING STRESS LEVELS-
Mediation, breath work, gratitude journaling, yoga, & pilates all assist with lowering stress and creating minfullness.
Do something you enjoy just for you every day. If that seems impossible, aim for 3 days per week and move towards daily as you can.
Get outside as much as you can.
Try adaptogenic herbs to assist with modulating stress hormones. Work with a healthcare provider to determine a protocol for herbs like ashwagandha, Schisandra, Rhodiola rosacea and supplements like phosphatidyl serine, glycine, magnesium & taurine. All these have been shown to help regulate stress response.
Try an Epsom salt bath.
Focus on 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule.
Get sunlight first thing in the morning to set your circadian rhythm and stop blue-light exposure an hour or 2 before bed.
Lower the temperature of your bedroom to about 68 degrees F.
Stop eating 2-4 hours before going to bed.
If you would like more information about any of these helpful steps, click here to get to my Free Handouts page under my resources tab for more details on how to implement these tips. There is a ton of information available to you, free of charge.
And, if you would like a more personalized approach to navigating these menopausal years or if you want to do whatever you can to set yourself up to sail through these years once you get there, book your 15-minute FREE evaluation call to discuss your goals and how I can help.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog post is not to act as a personal healthcare professional to any reader and is not meant to directly or indirectly diagnose disease, dispense medical advice, or prescribe the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only. You should always cooperate with a licensed health professional of your choice to create optimal health. Please consult your physician before implementing any of the strategies mentioned in this or starting any diet, exercise, or health program—especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Any application or use of the information, resources, or recommendations contained here is at your own risk