Menopause is a natural part of aging; and yet it’s often clouded with misconceptions and dread. Knowing what to expect, and how to prevent or minimize the symptoms of menopause can help make it more manageable.
As the body changes, so do your nutrient and lifestyle needs. Let’s take a look at what happens during this transition and five ways to promote good health during and after menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause marks the end of your reproductive years. During menopause, your egg supply begins to decline and the body starts to produce lower levels of estrogen and progesterone. As a result, most women experience several physical and emotional changes throughout the three stages of menopause.1 Let’s briefly identify what typically happens during each of these stages.
Perimenopause: This is the transition leading up to menopause when the body starts to have unpredictable patterns of ovulation and menstruation.The average duration of perimenopause is three to four years, however perimenopause can last for up to ten years.2
Menopause: Someone officially enters menopause when they haven’t had their period for one consecutive year. At this point, ovaries are no longer releasing eggs and you cannot get pregnant.
Postmenopause: The years following menopause when hormone levels remain low, and you’ll no longer be able to get pregnant and you will not experience monthly menstrual cycles. Because estrogen plays an important role in protecting your heart and bones, you are more at risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis. During this time it’s important to prioritize your health and proactively consult with a doctor.3
What age does menopause start?
For most women, menopause happens around age 50. But every body is different. Some begin perimenopause as early as their late 30s while others won’t feel signs until their 50s.4 By age 45, 95% of women enter menopause.5
The common signs of menopause
No two individuals experience menopause in the same way. Yet the changing hormone levels will likely bring a varied range of the following physical and mental symptoms.
5 physical signs of menopause
Here are the primary physical symptoms that accompany menopause:6
- Hot flashes: This is one of the earliest and most common signs of menopause. Around 60-80% of individuals will experience hot flashes and night sweats during menopause.
- Vaginal dryness: Changing hormone levels might impact the tissues, glands and functions of the vagina and urinary tract, potentially reducing vaginal lubrication.
- Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night might happen during menopause, especially if you’re waking up due to hot flashes.
- Weight gain: On average, women gain 4.5 lb during menopause which is commonly attributed to declining estrogen levels, age-related loss of muscle tissue, and lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise.
- Joint pain: Both menopause and aging can cause joint pain or aching in the knees, shoulders, neck, elbows or hands.
3 mental signs of menopause
Some of the primary mental signs of menopause are:
- Mood changes: The shift in hormones and physical changes may contribute to mood fluctuations during menopause (this can lead to fatigue and/or irritability), but these mood changes will most likely ease over time.7
- Difficulty concentrating: Changes in hormones, mood swings, sleep issues and hot flashes all contribute to challenges in focus and concentration for most individuals going through menopause.
- Anxiety: Symptoms of anxiety, such as tension, nervousness, and worry, are reported most frequently during perimenopause.8
Although all the changes due to menopause may not be welcome, knowing what to expect can help you manage through the transition and find support to feel your best.
Five ways to support your body and mind during menopause
1. Stay connected to others
With all the changes during menopause, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Connecting to others who can relate and sharing feelings can be an empowering transformative experience.
Talking to friends who have experienced menopause or joining a menopause support group online or in-person can help you to feel less alone throughout the physical and mental changes.
Research to see what local menopausal support groups may be in your area. You can also sign up for something like Menopause Chit Chat, which is an online forum to discuss various topics pertaining to menopause.
2. Eat a nutritious diet
The foods you eat can help mitigate the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
A balanced diet during menopause consists of the following:9
- a variety of fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- calcium and vitamin D-rich foods, such as kale, yogurt, and fish
- low- or non-fat dairy
- high-quality protein foods (eg. eggs, fish, nuts)
Generally, it’s advised to:
- limit food and drinks with added sugars
- reduce your intake of red and processed meats
- only have alcohol and caffeine in moderation
Lower estrogen levels can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis during menopause. To promote good bone health, incorporate more calcium and vitamin D in your diet.10 Calcium-rich foods include kale, spinach, yogurt, milk, and cheese; and good sources of vitamin D include fish, egg yolk, and fortified dairy ingredients.11
3. Exercise regularly
Maintaining an active lifestyle is good for your health at any age, but during menopause, it’s a natural way to manage many of the physical and mental symptoms. Exercise also improves energy and metabolism, and promotes healthier joints and better sleep.
It’s recommended to incorporate 150 minutes of moderate physical activity into each week.12 One study found that exercising three hours per week for one year improved the physical and mental health in a group of menopausal women.13
Try to find a way to exercise that feels good for you and your body. A few different ways you can get your body moving include:
- endurance exercises such as walking, running, dancing, biking, or swimming
- flexibility exercises such as yoga, pilates, or tai chi
- strength exercises such as lifting weights, climbing stairs, yoga, or a combination of push-ups, sit-ups, and squats
Supporting your mental health during menopause is just as important as supporting your physical health. Menopause is a big life transition; it’s normal to experience mood shifts and anxiety around the various changes.
Fluctuating hormones can affect the chemicals in your brain, and therefore, your mood. The physical symptoms of menopause might also induce more stress, anxiety, fatigue or irritability.14
Even though you can’t fully control how menopause will affect you, start prioritizing practices that can help you thrive once it arises.
Tips for managing stress during menopause
- Practice good sleep hygiene by putting electronics away and getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
- Take time to engage in deep-breathing exercises throughout the day.
- Get a massage to help relax your body and mind.
- Eat a nutritious diet of healthy food and supplements.
- Exercise regularly.
- Talk to someone, whether that’s a friend or a counsellor.
5. Take a supplement
Taking a multivitamin or supplement can help to promote good health and relieve the symptoms of menopause. Let’s take a look at some of our favourites:
Sisu MenoEase helps relieve the symptoms associated with menopause, including: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vertigo, fatigue, nervousness, paresthesia, joint pain, and vaginal dryness.
Sisu Supreme Multivitamin 50+ provides a complex of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to promote good health, especially for men and women aged 50 or older. Taking this daily supplement, which includes CoQ10, also helps to support and maintain cardiovascular health.
Sisu Calcium Magnesium 1:1 is a low-potency, easy-to-digest supplement that helps in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth. When combined with sufficient vitamin D, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, this formula may help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It’s also non-GMO, gluten-free and dairy-free!
Sisu Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy immune function, and builds strong bones and teeth. It offers 1000 IU of vitamin D in a tiny, fast-dissolving tablet. And, it’s free from lactose, sweeteners, and added colours or flavours.
Making menopause easier
Regardless of where you are in your menopause journey, it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself and prioritizing your well-being. Integrating healthy practices into your lifestyle can help you feel like your most vibrant self at any age.
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