"There’s no way to avoid menopause, but you can prepare yourself, and learn ways to relieve symptoms associated with the process."
It happens to all women, so it's worth talking about. In today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, we'll clear up many of the mysteries and myths around the topic of menopause.
We'll talk about the common symptoms associated with menopause—including how the production of specific hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone—change during the process. We'll also take a look at how the body changes and what this means for your overall health and wellbeing. Then we'll discuss what natural measures you should take to minimize the many challenging symptoms of menopause.
- 00:42: Menopause affects everyone
- 04:47: What is menopause
- 06:14: Symptoms of menopause
- 10:08: Hormones associated with menopause
- 12:59: Associated health issues
- 16:27: Ways to manage symptoms
- 16:36: Healthy diet
- 17:55: Supplementation
- 19:40: Removing harmful foods
- 20:15: Stay hydrated
- 20:50: Increase collagen intake
- 21:58: Regular exercise
- 24:28: Fun exercise suggestions
- 27:46: Bridge pose
- 29:29: Squats
- 32:20: Summary
Menopause Affects Everyone... Even Men
Today we are going to be talking about managing hormonal changes: specifically menopause. But gentlemen, don't leave just yet. This topic affects you too.
This is a topic that many people don’t know as much about as they should. Considering how many tend to shy away from the conversation altogether, it makes sense that for many people, menopause can be confusing, and their healthcare provider may even be the first one to talk to them about it.
That's part of why this isn't just a conversation for the women. The conversation about menopause is very important for any men who live with women or have female loved ones. This is a team effort! Today’s discussion will help you understand what the women in your life are going through, and maybe help develop empathy for how they feel as a result of the hormone shifts, mood swings, and physical changes. Menopause is something women dread but it's a part of life, and it affects husbands, partners, boyfriends, and significant others.
This information may be the key to helping you live harmoniously with someone who is going through menopause, and be a help and support to them.
What is Menopause
Menopause is the time that marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle. It occurs as a result of decreasing reproductive hormones. Menopause doesn't just happen all in one day though. It’s a very long process. In fact it’s not even officially diagnosed until after you've gone twelve months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen any time in your 40s or 50s but the average age of menopause in the United States is 52 years old.
It's important to point out that menopause is not a taboo subject. It's not a bad or dangerous condition. It's a natural biological process that is a part of every woman's life. Women going through menopause or pre-menopause, which is known as perimenopause, often experience a wide range of physical symptoms.
Symptoms of Menopause
The most common and widely-known symptom of menopause is hot flashes. As many as 75% of women are going to experience hot flashes during menopause. They are most common during the year before periods stop, and the year after periods have stopped. However recent studies show that hot flashes can continue up to 14 years after menopause!
The changing hormones associated with menopause are also responsible for a number of mental and emotional symptoms as well. Physical changes are accompanied by major emotional changes, such as rapid and intense mood swings, increased anxiety or worry, brain fog, fatigue, listlessness, and even periods of depression and sadness.
Many women described transitioning through menopause as more like riding a roller coaster than a natural biological process. It's tumultuous at times, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, or if you're living with someone going through menopause, be kind to them.
As you approach your late 30s, or if you are in your mid- to late 30s, your ovaries are going to start to make less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible for regulating menstruation. As a result fertility will start to decline, and it continues to do so until menopause where it stops entirely.
Now in your 40s, your menstrual periods may become more irregular. They could become longer or shorter, or heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent until eventually, at the age of 52 on average, your ovaries stop producing eggs and you have no more periods. This is the good silver lining of menopause for most of us.
As we discussed earlier, hormonal changes are really responsible for the symptoms experienced during menopause. Hormones are the messengers in the body that travel through the bloodstream to start, stop, speed up, or slow down your physical and chemical functions and processes across all body systems. They are kind of like the traffic cops of the body. Each of these hormones has a specific responsibility within the body.
Hormones that Impact Menopause
So let’s take a look at the different female sex hormones and what they are responsible for.
Estrogen is probably the most well-known sex hormone and plays a crucial role in reproductive and sexual development prior to perimenopause and menopause. Estrogen stimulates growth of the breast tissue, and maintains vaginal blood flow and lubrication, and is involved in many other functions including preserving bone mass and density which is really big. During perimenopause and menopause, estrogen levels tend to fluctuate and become unpredictable. Eventually estrogen levels fall off to a very low level and these low levels often result in the hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, headaches, and other symptoms including bone loss and vaginal dryness.
Progesterone levels increase during ovulation and peak during pregnancy. Progesterone also helps stabilize menstrual cycles and prepares the body for pregnancy. During perimenopause and menopause, progesterone levels decrease, which results in irregularity in the menstrual cycle. This results in headaches, migraines, and significant mood changes including anxiety, worry, depression, and sadness.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males, and it's also present in women but in lower amounts. In women, testosterone affects fertility, menstruation, tissue, bone mass, and red blood cell production. A decrease in testosterone production during menopause often results in a few symptoms like sluggishness, muscle fatigue, muscle weakness, sleep disturbances, reduced sex drive, weight gain, loss of bone density, hormonal changes experienced during menopause, and especially decreased levels of estrogen are associated with an increase in the risk of cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks and strokes. In fact, the risk of stroke in women actually doubled in the first 10 years after menopause. That’s a big deal.
Health Issues Associated with Menopause
Menopause also increases your risk for low bone and mineral density, also known as osteoporosis or osteopenia. For 5 to 10 years after menopause, this bone density loss accelerates into a gradual weakening of your bones, because you're losing a lot of the calcium from your bones. This can lead to an increase in the risk for fractures and other injuries, especially if you fall. This is why you should be taking a good plant-based 5,000 IU Vitamin D3 every single day.
Interestingly, most post-menopausal women also demonstrate a sudden dramatic increase in lead in their blood. Levels can rise, on average, 30%, an increase that also raises the risk of hypertension and heart attacks. This rise of lead in the bloodstream in women is due to their bodies losing bone minerals and releasing lead that has been stored in the bones for years, often since childhood. So if you've gone through or are going through menopause and continue to experience adverse health issues, it may be a good idea to have your lead levels tested.
Your skin also goes through significant changes during menopause. The reduction of estrogen at menopause decreases the plasticity and the collagen in your skin, which can lead to dryness and itching, and an increase in wrinkling and sagging. Your skin also becomes more susceptible to injury such as bruising.
The tissues of the vagina and urethra lose elasticity as well, making it common to experience frequent sudden strong urges to urinate, followed by involuntary loss of urine, known as urge incontinence, or the loss of urine with coughing, laughing, sneezing, and lifting having things. This is known as stress incontinence.
Now you're aware that these symptoms could occur, and you should be prepared. There’s no way to avoid menopause, but you can prepare yourself, and learn ways to relieve symptoms associated with the process.
Relieving Symptoms of Menopause
Follow a healthy diet
There’s just no way to get away from this one. As your body is continuously changing, it is absolutely essential to fuel your body properly. You have to replace the nutrients your body is losing naturally. Start eating more natural foods by following Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory e-guide. An anti-inflammatory diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as increasing your calcium through non-dairy sources. This can help with maintaining a proper weight, and maintaining proper bone mass (as it naturally decreases), diminishing your hot flashes, and managing inflammation in the body. Eating more cooling foods and drinking more cooling liquids is going to help with hot flashes as well. For example, coconut water, cucumber, and Summer salads are great hydrating and cooling foods. Watermelon also helps cool your central nervous system.
Remember to take Curcumin every single day as well to help promote normal inflammation responses. Also increase your intake of Vitamin D, as we mentioned previously, as well as your calcium intake. Over 70% of adults are deficient in vitamin D, since it's hard to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. The Smarter Vitamin D3 formula also includes Vitamin K2, which aids absorption and is essential for directing the calcium to your bones, to help avoid bone loss, and away from joints and arteries, where it can calcify and cause serious health problems. Take that every day as you enter menopause. Vitamin D can also help discourage physical discomfort, improve your mood, and increase cognitive performance.
Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars
Cut back on your intake of caffeine, and alcohol, and cut out refined sugars and processed foods. Studies show that caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars all increase hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and insomnia, all of which are symptoms experienced during menopause. You can actually prevent them better by taking out the things that inflame your body and contribute to the symptoms.
Drink plenty of water
This is a really big one. Hydration is crucial. As you go through menopause, the decreased estrogen affects collagen and skin elasticity. You want to aim for at least 8 to 12 glasses of filtered water (not tap water) per day. Tap water could have fluoride and chlorine and all kinds of gunk in it that is inflammatory to body, so drink a clean source: spring water or filtered water.
Increase your collagen intake
Collagen can drop as much as 30% during menopause, leading to thin and dry skin. You can increase your collagen intake with organic bone broth, which is very easy to do if you have an instant pot. Just take any kind of meat with the bone intact: chicken, turkey, or beef, and put it in your instant pot, or a regular pot, with a couple cups of water to fully submerge the meat. Then simmer it for at least an hour in the instant pot, or about 6 hours if you're working with a regular pot. Bone broth contains tons of bioavailable collagen, and it's really good for replacing all of the elasticity and collagen that is lost through menopause.
It’s really important to exercise on a regular basis. Body movement, and especially strength training, will promote more bone growth, and it'll make you feel better to exercise. It will produce endorphins in your body that make you feel really good. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is also really important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing bone loss associated with menopause. Studies consistently show that regular exercise reduces other common symptoms of menopause by decreasing stress, and elevating your mood. Exercise also results in better sleep! Physical activity doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. It can actually even be fun. We recommend at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week, which is 30 minutes or more per day. Go for a walk, a jog, a swim, or a bike ride, or take a yoga class. Make sure to incorporate regular, vigorous aerobic activity, as well as exercises that build muscle and strengthen bones.
Simple and fun exercise suggestions
In addition to exercising and strength training, there are really great ways to strengthen your pelvic muscles, which is important during menopause. As your estrogen drops, your collagen, and elasticity decreases, making your skin and muscles sag, leading to urinary incontinence for some women. To help with incontinence, it is very important that you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Using a hula hoop engages your entire core! You can use a regular hula hoop, or buy a weighted one. You can do Kegels while you do this to strengthen your pelvic floor. Simply hold your pelvic muscles as if you were trying not to pee. Then release, and then tighten the muscles, and repeat. This activates and strengthens your whole core. You can also do Kegels while watching tv, or standing in line at the grocery store.
The bridge exercise is going to strengthen your gluteus maximus, as well as help with pelvic floor muscles. People can do this in three steps. First, lie down with knees bent so they’re pointing toward the ceiling and feet are flat on the ground. Then as you inhale, contract your buttocks and pelvic floor as you raise up your hips. Hold this position for 3-8 seconds. Your hands should be flat next to you, your glutes relaxed. Then relax down, vertebrae by vertebrae, and then go back up. Do this about 10 times.
You can do assisted modified squats, or squats with weights (or water jugs if you don’t have weights) in your hand.
Assisted modified squat
Stand behind a chair, or hold onto the wall, and open your feet so they are hip distance apart. Then bend your knees and sit back until your legs are as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Do 15 - 20 of these. When you stand up, squeeze your buttocks, and tilt your pelvis forward. Keep your torso vertical and try not to lean.
Grab a kettlebell, or some kind of weight, and hold it up to your chin. This is called a chalice or goblet squats. Again, feet are hip distance apart., and sit back and your torso is high. Your gaze is up to the ceiling. Just like with the other squat, you want to squeeze your glutes and tilt your pelvis forward. Inhale as you squat, exhale as you stand back up. Do as many of these as you can.
You can toggle between the bridge pose, squats, and hula hooping to change things up.
Menopause is a time that marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle and occurs as a result of decreasing reproductive hormones. It's usually it usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average being around 52.
All women will experience menopause, and the symptoms can last anywhere from 4 to 8 years. Menopause occurs as the levels of reproductive hormones, specifically estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone produced by the body start to decrease.
Physical symptoms associated with menopause often include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep issues, and weight gain. But the hormonal changes can also cause a wide range of other mental and emotional symptoms like rapid mood swings, fatigue, brain fog, increased anxiety, and depression. Your risk of experiencing cardiovascular health issues, weakened bones, weight gain, urinary incontinence, and changes in the skin dramatically increase during and after menopause. While you aren't able to avoid all of these, there are several things that can help you prepare and reduce the severity of the symptoms. Maintain a healthy diet rich in natural anti-inflammatory foods with key supplements support like vitamin D and Curcumin; increase your intake of calcium through non-dairy food sources to minimize bone loss; reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar; stay hydrated; and finally, exercise on a regular consistent basis. Make sure you are strength-training for muscle and bone health, and using pelvic floor exercises to keep your pelvic and bladder muscles as strong as they can be.