By the year 2025, 12% of women globally—approximately 1 billion women—will be in menopause. And while 85% of these women will experience symptoms during this change, 12% will experience symptoms that are so debilitating that they’ll interfere with daily life. Our nutritionist Andrea Donsky is experiencing the symptoms first-hand, and is on a mission to offer natural ways to other women to relieve their symptoms.
Through research over the last 4½ years, it’s been discovered that there are over 85 different signs and symptoms of menopause. Today we’re going to talk about some of the more common ones, like hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, sleep issues, anxiety and mood disruptions.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Approximately 75% of women in perimenopause and menopause experience hot flashes and night sweats. They are the most widely reported symptom of menopause and can last for years. From a diet and lifestyle perspective, you can try these tricks to reduce them:
- Identifying and decreasing triggers of hot flashes and night sweats. Often these are alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.
- Managing stress by going for walks in nature, exercising, reading, meditating, or just finding your calm.
- Wearing light, breathable materials and dressing in layers to adapt to any sudden hot flashes.
- Exposure to hot water, even on your hands, can trigger a hot flash. Using room temperature or cold water instead can help avoid this unpleasant sensation.
- Eating a whole foods diet (including veggies, certain fruits, protein and good fats) and avoiding ultra-processed foods, additives and sugar are key, especially when it comes to managing blood sugar levels. This is important because women with higher blood sugar levels have been shown to have more hot flashes, lower estrogen and progesterone cells that become less responsive to insulin, putting you at risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
When it comes to diet, we want to make sure we’re minimizing sugar and simple carbs, and getting enough:
- Protein (either from animal and/or plant-based sources) as protein has a smaller impact on blood sugar and is important for energy.
- Fats, which have no impact on blood sugar. It’s important to eat good fats like olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil, and avocados.
- Fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar and stops blood sugar from spiking, so be sure to a variety of veggies.
The key is to avoid the spikes because when blood sugar rises, insulin spikes as well, and it causes fat to be stored in the body.
Anxiety and Mood Disruptions
This can be a big one for some people, who can go from being happy, to sad, to anxious, to irritated, to angry all within minutes of each other. Ugh. One step you can take is balancing your blood sugar (like we just talked about). You can also benefit greatly from taking care of your gut!
Research shows there’s a strong connection between our gut and our brain, and when one is upset, so is the other. When it comes to mood and anxiety, 90% of our serotonin, that’s a feel-good neurotransmitter, is made in our gut, so focusing on gut health is crucial for managing these two symptoms. We can do that by:
- Eating fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, which contain probiotics
- Taking prebiotics and probiotics
- Exercising – even going for a walk around the block helps
- Lowering stress levels by doing deep breathing exercises, going for walks in nature, or anything that helps you
- And eating whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding ultra-processed foods and junk foo
Sleeping disorders are huge for women in menopause, as we know a lack of sleep leads to a cascade of issues like anxiety, depression, weight gain, mood fluctuations, and memory loss. Some things you can try to get a good night’s sleep are:
- Make sure the temperature in your room is 65-68 degrees (18-20 degrees Celsius). If that’s not possible, you can keep an ice pack or two next to your bed, and put it on your chest or behind your neck to keep you cool.
- Use a cooling blanket. Companies like Hush Blanket make blankets for those who struggle to keep cool at night! They manufacture weighted blankets, which helps to relax your nervous system while you sleep.
- Wear cooling PJ’s, like one’s from Lusomé. They use a special technology that quickly pulls sweat and moisture away from your body when you’re sleeping, keeping you dry. They’re super soft, and come in beautiful styles including pants and tops, as well as tanks and nightgowns.
- Take an amino acid supplement called Suntheanine, which is L-theanine, about 30 to 40 minutes before you go to sleep. This helps you relax, and its calming effects last anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. There are over 90 human clinical trials on Suntheanine, and all you need is anywhere from 50 to 200mg a day.
This one is not so much a symptom, but rather an issue that can lead to different symptoms. There are certain nutrients most women in this phase of life need more of. For example, magnesium, vitamins B and D, probiotics, as well as omega 3’s are all important to menopausal women. Making sure to get enough of these nutrients can make a difference when it comes to managing menopausal symptoms.
For more from Andrea on menopause, visit her website.
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