Menopause, the change of life for women, arrives as early as the early 40s for some women, and not until the late 50s for others. It is defined as that time when the monthly menstrual cycle ceases, and stays stopped for at least a year. For some women, it can be a trying time of life as one's hormones change and adjust.
Vitamins & Supplements
When our ovaries no longer produce estrogen and progesterone and pregnancy is no longer possible, in some ways life becomes more stable. There is not a monthly fluctuation every time we ovulate, we don't have to worry about getting pregnant - in many ways it is the beginning of a new kind of freedom. However, many women worry about approaching menopause have experiences that come with the new status that are quite uncomfortable. The most difficult time for most women is the transition period, perimenopause, when our reproductive system seems to be in a state of constant flux with unstable hormone levels and periods coming and going - sometimes quite irregularly.
As it is with our monthly menstrual cycle, women's experiences can vary a great deal - from not particularly intense to quite intense.
- Gradual or abrupt ceasing of monthly menstrual cycle.
- Hot flashes which vary in frequency, intensity and duration, and which may continue from time to time long after the menstruation no longer occurs.
- Strong emotional reactions: easily irritated, upset, frightened, angry, or depressed.
- Increased or changed allergies and sensitivities.
- Some women have greater difficulty sleeping through the night, sometimes with night sweats.
- Greater risk of vaginal and/or urinary problems. Not only does estrogen moderate the thickness of the vaginal wall tissue - wihch becomes thinner and dryer - but estrogen helps protect urethra and bladder health so that bladder infections are more common.
- Osteoporosis comes with aging, but menopause is a factor as well.
- Redistribution of body weight. Many women suddenly find their waist expanding and a diet that kept them slender in the past no longer does so.
- Your body might not be as effective in absorbing and metabolizing these nutrients and making them available to the entire body.
- Many vision conditions are more common with aging, and so, while not directly caused by menopause, they become an added liability at this time of life.
- Similarly, increased weight and nutritional changes make us more at risk for health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and arthritis.
What You Can Do
The post-menopause years don't have to be problematic. Attention to important lifestyle and diet points can make this a very comfortable time of life.
- Exercise - At no other time of life has exercise been more important. It supports every system of the body. Researchers have found, other things being equal,
that getting adequate exercise is more important than body mass index. In other words, they found that people who were overweight but got lots of exercise were more healthy than
thinner people who were sedentary.
- You should get a minimum of 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, or low impact NIA dance.
- Or, 1 1/4 hour of more vigorous exercise such as jogging or aerobics.
- In either case the emphasis is to keep moving rather than spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV or computer. Even small amounts of exercise have been found to have measurable benefits - just not as much.
- Weight bearing exercise. You can work out weekly at the gym or do simple upper and lower body exercises at home. These help to build and maintain bone integrity.
- Stop Smoking - this is one of the most important thing you can do - it will add years to your life and avoid the miseries of emphysema and other chronic respiratory conditions. Smoking damages the heart, the vision, the brain, the bones - pretty much every part of your body.
- Diet - During these post-menopausal years you don't need as many calories as you did earlier in life, but you need the benefit of
complete and balanced nutrients.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Ideally, 2/3 of your meal could be fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Enjoy cold fish for their omega-3 benefit once a week, but be careful about fish at the top of the food chain such as tuna which have a lot of mercury. Your preference should be for wild (not farm) salmon, and small fish like sardines and herring, which are found at the bottom of the food chain.
- Soy foods help to regulate estrogen in your body, but does inhibit thyroid hormone, and should not be eaten unless it is organic and non-GMO.
- Cut down on sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which contribute to the ill results of inflammation in the joints and elsewhere in the body.
- You may need supplemental vitamin B12 and B6 which act synergistically with other enzymes and nutrients to support your vision, your heart, your circulatory system, the skeletal system, your brain functioning and the process of elimination.
- You may need supplemental vitamin D which supports vision, the immune system, the heart and circulatory system and healthy bones.
- You may need supplemental calcium for bone health if your diet does not include enough calcium.
- Hot flashes may be addressed through diet, nutrition, and integrative treatments.
Important Herbs & Nutrients
- Black Cohosh is helpful for short term use moderating the body's response to menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, especially when combined with other herbs such as ginseng.
- Ginseng supports the immune system, relief from fatigue and helpful in lessening anxiety that contributes to insomnia.
- Vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant that helps the body get rid of toxins and waste products.
- Green tea
- B complex vitamins - B1, B2, Niacinamide, B6, Folate, B12 Biotin, Pantothenate