Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when menstrual cycles have permanently ceased for one year, marking the end of her ability to conceive. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 48-55, however menopause can also occur earlier or later in a woman’s life. Before menopause occurs, women go through a menopausal transition period, called perimenopause, that can last anywhere from a few months to ten years. However, the average length of time is four years. During this natural transition in a woman’s life, changes in reproductive hormones and other reasons unknown can cause symptoms in many women. These symptoms can occur in women during the perimenopause period and they can continue after menopause into postmenopause. Not all women experience the symptoms of menopause the same way nor for the same duration. For those experiencing menopausal symptoms, luckily there are solutions available to help ease any discomfort.
Symptom: Mood changes such as feelings of irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Solution: A healthy lifestyle that promotes physical and mental health can help women with the emotional aspects that may be experienced during menopause. For some women, supplements or medications are the answer. Talk to your healthcare provider about your moods and get information about how to:
- Maintain a regular exercise schedule.
- Practice relaxation, deep-breathing exercises, and stress-reduction techniques such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation.
- Schedule self-nurturing activities, such as a massage therapy appointment.
- Eat nutritious foods as part of a well-balance diet and avoid sugars, caffeine, saturated fats and trans fats.
- Take St. John’s wort, which has proven effective for some people with mild-to-moderate depression. Consult your doctor before taking supplements. St. John’s wort can interfere with many medications and cause serious side effects.
- Take Vitamin B6 to help alleviate mood swings and menopausal stress.
- Use prescription antidepressant medications to help correct a chemical imbalance.
- Go to counseling or psychotherapy.
Symptom: Insomnia, fatigue, trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep.
Solution: Sleep problems can often be caused by other symptoms experienced during menopause, such as hot flashes, depression, night sweats, and urinary incontinence. However, if other symptoms are not the culprit interfering with your sleep schedule, there are many things you can do to help get a good night’s sleep:
- Establish a sleep schedule and routine so that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Experiment with avoiding certain foods and drinks known to diminish sleep, such as caffeine and alcohol.
- Try consuming certain food and drinks known to promote relaxation and sleep such as chamomile tea, warm milk, and foods high in tryptophan such as pumpkin seeds and turkey.
- Exercise regularly. Many experts recommend exercising in the morning for better sleep, however some experts believe exercising in the evening doesn’t affect people’s ability to sleep. Pay attention to how exercise affects your sleep and do what is right for your body.
- Take melatoninsupplements to help control your sleep and wake cycles.
- Relax and wind down before going to sleep by taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music, or writing in a journal.
- Avoid looking at anything with a screen at least one hour before bed time.
- Dim the lights one hour before bedtime and keep noise and temperature levels at a comfortable level to promote sleep.
- Use the bedroom for sleeping only. Any electronics should be placed in another room.
- Keep your feet warm and wear socks. Some research has shown that it takes less time to fall asleep when hands and feet are warm.
Symptom: Hot Flashes
Solution: Menopausal women who have hot flashes may experience sweating, sudden warmness on their skin, flushed red skin, tingling in their fingers, and a rapid heartbeat. Every woman has different triggers for their hot flashes, therefore it’s important to experiment with what might be causing them for you. Track what you were eating, drinking, wearing, and doing in a journal when the hot flashes occurred to help you discover a pattern. Some common triggers you might try to avoid are: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, spicy foods, stress or anxiety, tight clothing, cigarettes, and hot rooms. Knowing your triggers will help you to ward off hot flashes, however there are also things you can gravitate towards:
- Plant estrogens, like isoflavones found in soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils are believed to help reduce hot flashes.
- Dressing in layers can help control body temperature.
- Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
- Hormones, like estrogen are effective at relieving the discomfort of hot flashes.
- Antidepressants such as a low-dose form of paroxetine (Brisdelle).
- Techniques such as acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Symptom: Night Sweats
Solution: Night sweats are hot flashes or excessive sweating that happen during sleep and can cause some women to wake up. Keep cool throughout the night by following some simple techniques:
- Wear lightweight cotton nightclothes to bed.
- Keep a glass of cool water on your nightstand to drink throughout the night.
- Cool down with an electric fan.
- Keep a frozen cold pack under your pillow or at your feet.
Symptom: Urinary incontinence
Solution: Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on a number of factors, including how severe it is and its underlying cause. Stress incontinence is when pressure from sneezing, coughing, or lifting can cause urine to push through the weakened muscle. Urge incontinence is when bladder muscles squeeze uncontrollably. Nocturia is the need to urinate several times throughout the night. Fortunately, there are a number of options to help treat bladder control problems:
- Drink adequate amounts of water to keep urine diluted.
- Avoid foods or beverages with a high acid or caffeine content.
- Avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
- Practice Kegel exercises tostrengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Practice bladder training therapy and increase the amount of time between emptying your bladder.
- Talk to your doctor about Medications that might work for you.
- Use absorbent pads and catheters.