Menopause is a word many women fear as it can usher in some rather unpleasant harbingers of aging, including mood swings, hot flashes, changes in sleep quality, bone density, muscle mass and weight gain–especially stubborn belly fat. Changing hormones can lead to feeling out of balance. This time can be a wake-up call to take inventory of your current health habits and make a few changes to help manage menopause symptoms.
Here are some healthy tips to help keep your health on track and reduce some negative side effects associated with hormonal shifts. Reach out to the Yes Health coaches for additional tips and support and certainly talk with your medical practitioner if you have more serious concerns.
- Drink plenty of water. Increasing your water intake can help flush out toxins and reduce bloating. Keep in mind that caffeine can have the opposite effect by dehydrating you. If you’re not a fan of plain water, consider adding some flavor with fresh fruit or veggies, such as strawberries, lime or cucumber. Herbal teas, including hibiscus and mint are great choices as well. If you buy water at the store, choose glass over plastic and read labels to avoid sweeteners, as sugar can promote inflammation and exacerbate symptoms.
- Get good sleep. We recommend 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. This can be challenging as estrogen drops and other hormones shift. Good sleep hygiene habits can help you create a bedtime routine and stick to it. Plan to eat your last meal 2-3 hours before you go to sleep to give your gut time to rest and digest. Reduce or eliminate alcohol or tobacco before bed. Give yourself time to wind down with a book or bath. Maintain a cool, dark room–this can be especially helpful if you are experiencing night sweats. Keeping a cloth and a bucket of ice near your bed can come in handy if you do find yourself waking up drenched in sweat.
- Include protein with your meals & snacks. Maintain blood sugar balance by including protein at your meals and avoid over-consuming added sugars. We recommend fish, chicken, eggs, yogurt, nuts, seeds, edamame beans and tempeh paired with high fiber produce or whole grains. Also, batch cooking and freezing extras will give you ready-to- go healthy meals.
- Include healthy fats in your diet. Think salmon, mackerel, algae, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, olive oil and avocado. These healthy fats not only keep you feeling full longer and balance your blood sugar, but they also help support the body’s inflammatory response. These fats aid optimal fat soluble vitamin absorption, such as A,D,E and K. Pairing an omega-3 rich food like salmon with a vitamin k rich food like kale can help ensure a hormone supportive meal. Seeds like flax, chia, hemp, and oils like borage and evening primrose also contain gamma linolenic acid or GLA, which has been linked to a reduction in inflammation benefitting skin and cardiovascular health. Aim for 1-2 servings a day of omega-3 rich foods and include omega-9 rich foods daily.
- Support healthy bones. During menopause, hormonal shifts decrease bone density and increase the risk for osteoporosis. To slow this decline, maintain adequate levels of vitamin D to help with calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common, even before menopause. Be sure to ask your physician to check your vitamin D levels at your annual check up. If you take a vitamin D supplement, ask your practitioner about the appropriate dosage. Salmon is a great source of vitamin D and calcium. In addition to dairy, include calcium rich foods: dark leafy greens, bok choy, broccoli, almonds, sardines, salmon, sesame seeds and chia seeds.
- Balance your calcium and magnesium intake. Calcium helps muscles contract and magnesium aids as a relaxer to turn off the stress response. Aim for a 1:1 balance of calcium and magnesium. Include magnesium rich sources of magnesium from nuts such as cashews, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, leafy greens like spinach and chard, and whole grains and legumes. Try to get magnesium in your diet first. Additional magnesium in the form of bisglycinate can help improve sleep quality if needed.
- Maintain a healthy weight. With hormonal shifts, many women find that weight comes on easier, and stays–particularly stubborn belly fat. A 7-10% reduction in body weight can help reduce the health risks of being overweight. To improve weight and health status, focus on eating nutrient-dense, whole foods that are minimally processed and rich in fiber, protein and water. This will help keep you feeling fuller longer with fewer calories. Keep the pantry stocked with nuts and seeds– Brazil nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax and chia seeds. Other great choices include legumes, such as black beans, lentils, kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Eggs with black beans and leafy greens makes a great high fiber breakfast. Be sure to combine your healthy eating with cardio and weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises like strength training are not only essential to maintaining bone density, but also increase muscle mass to help you burn more calories at rest. As metabolism starts to slow, it’s essential to keep moving and combine cardio with weight training. Remember, health is a lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you add more movement to your everyday life.
- Limit your exposure to environmental toxins. Xenoestrogens have been found to mimic estrogen and cause imbalances. Some common sources include parabens in skincare products, phthalates and bisphenol A, found in plastics as well as chemicals in food preservatives, building supplies and insecticides. One great swap is to opt for glass instead of plastic. This is especially important with liquids and reheating food. Check labels on your skincare products and choose chemical-free biodegradable options. Also, look for minimally processed whole foods free of dyes, preservatives, hormones and pesticides.
- Lower your stress. While we can’t control the many environmental stressors we encounter, we can control our response to them. Stress reduction can come in many forms. Enjoy some deep breathing for a couple of minutes, quiet meditations, time in nature, emotional freedom tapping or an epsom salt bath. Other ways to reduce stress include positive affirmations, visualization exercises for the mind and body or getting the blood pumping with a 10-minute power walk. No matter what you choose, you’re giving your body a break to interrupt the fight or flight response to promote rest and digest instead.
- Talk with your healthcare provider. While many women can deal with the hot flashes and mood swings without medical intervention, if for example, symptoms worsen or you’re at high risk for osteoporosis or already has had some fractures or breaks, estrogen therapy may be in order. Since the age you enter menopause varies, your health provider can test reproductive hormone levels and verify that you are entering menopause. If your hormone levels are low, you and your provider can decide if treatment options, including hormone replacement may be helpful for you.
Menopause is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to slow you down. Remember, keeping your body healthy is one of the best ways to minimize symptoms. Before you self treat, make sure you visit your health care provider for appropriate blood work to verify the cause or your symptoms. (Many menopause symptoms can mimic other health conditions, most commonly thyroid disorders.) As always, the best advice comes from your own health care team.
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