What to Know About Menopause: Signs, Symptoms and Natural Remedies
Menopause can be a confusing time in a woman’s life, when hormonal fluctuations can cause changes not only to the reproductive system but to the body as a whole. What’s more, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women are often not given the tools they need to navigate this transition with confidence—leading to confusion, frustration, and in some cases, worsening symptoms. Understand the signs and symptoms of menopause, and how you can begin natural remedies and lifestyle changes to feel better.
What are the stages of menopause?
While you may know menopause as the decrease in hormone production that happens to women 40 to 50 years of age, these hormonal shifts do not happen overnight. There are three phases to the transition:
- Perimenopause: when a woman’s body begins the transition
- Menopause: when you have experienced 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period
- Postmenopause: generally 24 to 36 months after your last period, when your symptoms begin to subside
Throughout this transition, your levels of sex hormones continue to decline and symptoms, like hot flashes, appear or increase as your period becomes more infrequent. No matter what stage of menopause you are experiencing, it is important to fully understand the changes your body is undergoing, how to adjust your lifestyle, and what it takes to stay healthy during this phase of your life.
What are common signs and symptoms of menopause?
Perhaps the most stereotypical symptom of menopause is experiencing a hot flash. Some women may have a few hot flashes and other symptoms like fatigue that are manageable with a healthy diet and lifestyle adjustments. Others may experience worsening or frustrating symptoms that need more attention. Common symptoms you may feel during this transition in your life include:
- Weight gain (especially around the stomach and waist)
- Mood changes (like anxiety, depression, or irritability)
- Low sex drive
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Hot flashes
- Hair loss
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
Although these symptoms may be common, it doesn’t mean they are easy to deal with. If you feel frustrated with your menopause symptoms, we recommend speaking with your doctor or a functional medicine practitioner. There are natural remedies and steps you can take to stay healthy during the menopausal transition.
Menopause and chronic disease risk
While you may be familiar with the common symptoms of menopause, less well-known is the relationship between menopause and chronic disease. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that early menopause is related to rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Fluctuations in estrogen levels have also been linked to illnesses like cancer, endometriosis, and cardiovascular disease.
However, growing research is supporting the claim that lifestyle and nutrition choices can positively impact health during menopause and decrease your risk for chronic disease.
Unfortunately, most conventional doctors focus on hormone replacement therapy as an answer to the question of menopause. They are not taking into consideration how each woman is hormonally unique or the non-prescription solutions available.
For example, anti-inflammatory foods can aid in hormone balancing and reducing the severity of symptoms during menopause. Foods like tomatoes, berries, fatty fish, and nuts can help reduce inflammation and fight chronic disease risk. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower contain compounds shown to prevent hormone-influenced female cancers.
Through adopting sustainable lifestyle and diet changes tailored to you, it’s possible to feel better during menopause, avoid complications, and stop relying on medication to “fix” your hormone levels.
Functional medicine approach
The key difference between conventional and functional medicine is identification of the “root cause” of an ailment. In functional medicine, lab testing looks closer at a person’s physiology, pinpointing disrupted pathways that may have created the symptom(s) or illness, such as hot flashes or menopause.
Therefore, functional medicine practitioners look at the body holistically, with the ability to identify modifiable lifestyle factors to heal symptoms and rebalance hormones.
Why are peri- and post-menopausal women one of the largest populations that seek functional medicine? Most other methods of healthcare do not address their top two concerns: improving symptoms with personalized solutions (not one-size-fits-all approaches) and reducing disease risks with the safest options. Women are biochemically and genetically different from one another. Plus, an individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their menopause symptoms.
To address symptoms of menopause, functional medicine practitioners identify what modifiable lifestyle factors can be adjusted to heal and rebalance hormones, as well as tailor supplements and bio-identical hormones to fit that woman’s unique needs.
Learn more about Ciba Health’s personalized, data-driven functional medicine approach to menopause. Chat with a care advisor today to see if our approach is right for you.
Lifestyle changes to start with
If you are dealing with perimenopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal symptoms, there are simple diet and lifestyle adjustments you can make to feel some relief.
Because managing any major life change can be complicated, we recommend speaking with a functional medicine doctor before making any drastic alterations to your routine. They will be able to identify the root cause(s) of your symptoms, order lab tests, and create a personalized healthcare plan.
- Strive to eat a balanced diet, consisting mainly of cruciferous vegetables, fresh fruits, whole non-gluten grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins. This type of meal plan can reduce inflammation, menopause symptoms, and risk of chronic disease.
- Avoid “empty-calorie” foods (without real nutrients), such as cake, cookies, donuts, processed meats (cold cuts), energy drinks and sodas, fruit juices with added sugar, ice cream, potato chips, and french fries.
- Do not exceed the recommended alcohol intake for women, which is no more than 1 drink per day (ie, 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits).
- Incorporate more exercise into your daily routine by taking 30-minute walks or bike rides, joining an online group fitness class, or practicing yoga, which can increase strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.