Supporting Oneself During Menopause and Thereafter
Are you nearing or experiencing Menopause? Learn how to support yourself during this transition.
Menopause is a significant physical and emotional transition period in one’s life, so it is important to give yourself permission to slow down and fully experience this change. Not only is the body changing, but often the lifestyle is changing simultaneously – whether it be with children moving out of the house or transitions in career. For this reason, it is a great time to check-in on one’s physical and mental health and make adjustments as needed.
Below are some steps you can take to support yourself during this period:
- Nourish your body with:
- Movement – weight-bearing exercises like yoga, tai chi, qigong, walking and dancing are all great; also include some strength-training such as free weights or resistance bands (as-appropriate) for improved bone health and fracture prevention.
- Food – include fresh, whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Your body operates best with this fuel. Conversely, packaged/processed/sugar-laden foods act as anti-nutrients in the body – stealing your energy reserves, rather than feeding them.
- Modified anti–inflammatory diet – include plenty of fresh, organic produce and high quality fats (olive oil, fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds) and protein (fish, organic soy, pastured eggs, some grass-fed/pastured meat and poultry.
- Seed cycling to support hormone levels – 2 Tbs of freshly ground seeds per day (flax or pumpkin seeds from new moon to full moon; sesame or sunflower seeds from full moon to new moon).
- Water – aim for about 1.5-2 liters/day of spring or filtered water
- Reduce or eliminate soda, caffeine and alcohol
- Supplement with minerals and Vitamins D & K as-needed for bone health.
- Make time for yourself and be kind to yourself – Keep in mind that previous lifestyle habits may not serve you at this time and you may find you need to adapt or change old habits. Try to look at this as an opportunity to let go of that which no longer serves you – this can be a very freeing experience! Consider this transition as an opportunity to look at new interests or step outside your normal routine.
- Sleep – Sleep is very important for allowing the body sufficient time to recover and heal. You may find sleep is more difficult during this time, but your need for it is still high. Be gentle with yourself and try developing a new bedtime routine to mentally and physically ready yourself for sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours each night, in a cool, quiet and dark room. Avoid screens emitting blue light at least 1 hour prior to bed. Go to bed and rise at approximately the same time each day – the body loves routine! Also helpful – not eating at least 2 hours before bed, reducing alcohol intake and taking relaxing herbs such as chamomile, valerian, skullcap and passionflower.
- Stress management – This is extremely important for hormone and nervous system regulation! Dedicate some time each day to focus and calm the body and mind – guided meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and walking outside are all great options.
- Self-care – This is often the hardest thing for women to do because it sometimes feels “selfish” to take time out for oneself. However, if you don’t care for yourself first and foremost, than you simply will not be well enough to take care of others. Think of it as serving both yourself and others when you take care of yourself. Schedule self-care into your routine. Whether it is 5 minutes or 5 hours – do this EVERY DAY. It could be anything from quietly sipping a cup of tea to dry skin brushing or taking a bath – anything that is healthful, enjoyable and just for you.
- Additional support:
- Adrenal health is key before, during and after the menopause transition. The adrenal glands take over for the ovaries regarding the majority of sex hormone production during and after menopause. It is therefore very important to nourish the adrenal glands as much as possible to maintain hormone levels, as well as keep unwanted symptoms, such as hot flashes, at bay. This can be accomplished by managing stress, getting proper rest, maintaining a healthful diet and stable blood sugar. Additional support can be gained from using herbal therapies such as “adaptogenic” herbs, as well as homeopathy and nutritional supplements.
- Liver and digestive health should be addressed as this is essential for regulating hormone levels as well as detoxification capabilities and overall inflammation.
- Along with the above recommendations, it is crucial to quit smoking to greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (the number one cause of death in women).
- Nourish your mind – Consider sharing your wisdom by engaging with your community; also, keep your mind sharp by reading, doing crossword puzzles, using Lumosity.com, etc.
- Nourish your spirit – Connect to that inner, knowing part of yourself. Try lighting candles, praying, meditating, diffusing essential oils – anything that feels fulfilling to you.
- Know your limits and ask for help when you need it – This is especially important when in the position of caretaker + parent + spouse, etc. We cannot expect to maintain our health if we consistently put ourselves last. If you find yourself overwhelmed with responsibilities, do not push through it, but rather take a step back and consider prioritizing tasks and asking for help.
In addition, as women age, the risks for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and breast cancer greatly increase. Taking steps to care for yourself now can also help prevent the onset of these diseases.
Finally, here are some physician authors you may find interesting with regard to information on menopause: Christiane Northrup, MD; Sara Gottfried, MD; Tori Hudson, ND.
I hope these insights prove useful for you. We are always happy to work with women during any phase of their reproductive journey, from menarche to menopause, so do not hesitate to come see us at Richmond Natural Medicine if you would like a personalized plan.
About the Author:
Dr. Bridget Casey is a Naturopathic Doctor at Richmond Natural Medicine, where she enjoys seeing patients of all ages and a variety of conditions, including hormone dysregulation and chronic digestive disorders. Dr. Casey utilizes various forms of natural medicine, including herbs, nutrition, homeopathy and lifestyle counseling. She received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), in Portland, OR and completed her residency in family practice right here at RNM. Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Casey.