Are you experiencing hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, or mood swings? Chances are you are on “the menopause spectrum.”
Of course, menopause doesn’t happen from one day to the next. The months or years leading up to it are known as perimenopause, a time during which you experience menstrual changes and irregularities. You may also experience a roller coaster of symptoms. Declining estrogen and other hormonal fluctuations can be tiresome, frustrating, and anxiety-producing.
This menopause journey is a rocky road! I’m going through perimenopause myself, so I know how you feel. Everything started changing when I turned 46. At 51, I still go through plenty of ups and downs with symptoms coming and going erratically on my journey to menopause.
However, I have some good news for you! By supporting your health with changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can ease the transition to menopause. Follow these tips to decrease uncomfortable symptoms during your journey to the next stage of life
When Does Menopause Start?
Most people think of menopause as the time when a woman begins to transition out of her fertile period when she can conceive and bear children. However, that time is actually perimenopause.
During perimenopause, your ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone slows and eventually stops. This marks the end of your menstrual cycle. When you experience 12 months without a period, you have officially finished perimenopause and reached menopause. Perimenopause can begin in your 40s or 50s; usually, it begins after age 45.
How Long Does Menopause Last?
On average, perimenopause lasts about four years. However, in some women, it can take as little as ten months. In other women, the perimenopause period is as long as ten years. For most women, however, menopause is reached by the age of 55.
One recent study showed that women who have children later in life have delayed menopause. For some women, menopause may not happen until they reach their 60s. The postmenopausal period then extends for the rest of your life.
Signs You Are Approaching Menopause
For those who experience symptoms during perimenopause — and not everyone does! — they tend to accelerate or worsen as menopause gets closer.
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
- Bone loss
Menopause may also increase your risk of thyroid dysfunction and autoimmune conditions.1 Many of my female patients experienced an onset of these conditions during this turning point in their lives.
While perimenopause and menopause are natural parts of your life, it doesn’t mean that you have to deal with uncomfortable menopause symptoms and other health issues during and after this time. The following lifestyle strategies and powerful supplements can reduce or even eliminate your perimenopause symptoms and support your hormonal and overall health during menopause.
If you want to test your hormone levels at home, I recommend using the female hormone test from Lets Get Checked. It tests for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, and estradiol through a simple finger prick blood test. You can do the test in the privacy of your own home and then take your results to your functional medicine doctor.
What is the Best Treatment for Menopause?
Because menopause is a life stage, not an illness, there is no “treatment” for it. However, you can manage the uncomfortable perimenopause symptoms and side effects by taking the functional medicine approach and supporting your body and mind during this period.
10 Tips to Support Your Health During Perimenopause and Menopause
1. Repair Your Gut
Your gut is the gateway to health. An imbalance of gut flora, known as dysbiosis, and gut infections such as SIBO and Candida overgrowth, can lead to a leaky gut. Leaky gut increases inflammation and compromises your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This can lead to hormonal imbalance, exacerbating the hormonal changes you are already experiencing due to menopause. All this imbalance leads to increased menopause symptoms.
Repairing your gut is essential to reducing inflammation and improving your ability to absorb nutrients properly, and as a result, reducing your menopause symptoms and support your overall health.
To repair your gut, I recommend using the 4R approach, which I discuss extensively on my blog.
2. Remove Toxic & Trigger Foods
If you eat a diet high in refined sugar and processed foods, it can lead to sharp rises and dips in blood sugar. This leads to fatigue and irritability. Eating too many refined carbohydrates can even increase depression in postmenopausal women.2 Processed foods can also lead to poor bone quality among women aged 50 to 59.3
These toxic foods increase inflammation in your body that disrupts your hormonal health and increases your menopause symptoms. Certain foods, including sugary and spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine, can also trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.
In addition to the above toxic foods, I also recommend eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet. These highly inflammatory foods can trigger an autoimmune condition or thyroid dysfunction and should be avoided at all costs.
There are also many seemingly harmless foods (such as nightshades, seeds, or eggs) that could cause a reaction if you develop a food sensitivity during this time. Keeping a food journal to track the food you eat, and your symptoms can help you identify your personal trigger foods. Once you identify your triggers, remove them from your diet. An elimination diet can help you discover underlying food sensitivities and foods that are triggering your menopause symptoms.
3. Eat Regular Meals
Many women experience weight gain or difficulty losing weight during menopause. This is not the time to restrict and skip meals, however. Irregular eating can hinder your weight loss efforts and may make your other symptoms worse as well.4 Eating regular meals is very important to keep your body in balance, energized, and healthy. Taking digestive enzymes can help improve the slowed digestion you may be experiencing.
Eating protein throughout the day will keep you full and satisfied, and can help you achieve your weight loss goals and slow down muscle loss that comes with aging. 5,6
I recommend grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and wild-caught fish to ensure you get plenty of high-quality protein. My Paleo Protein Powder is another quick, convenient way to meet your protein needs. You can easily add it to your smoothies, shakes, and recipes.
4. Choose Hormone-Supporting Foods
During this time, your body is going through some major hormonal changes that can lead to hot flashes and other uncomfortable menopause symptoms.
Some of your menopause symptoms may also be a result of thyroid dysfunction, which, as I mentioned above, is very common during menopause. Your thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones that control your metabolism. These hormones also support essential body functions, including breathing, heart rate, muscle strength, and your menstrual cycle. 7 It is your body’s engine that powers you and helps keep everything working smoothly. When your thyroid is not functioning optimally, your metabolism slows way down, and you can experience weight gain, fatigue, low libido, and brain fog.
Many women also experience estrogen dominance during the years leading up to menopause. This is when your progesterone levels have dropped significantly, and your estrogen levels have not yet decreased, causing an imbalance of these key reproductive hormones. You can read more about estrogen dominance here.
Eating hormone-balancing foods and supplementing with essential nutrients that may be depleted during this time is a simple, surefire way to reduce or even prevent uncomfortable menopause symptoms. 8
Hormone-balancing foods to eat before and during menopause:
- Healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, coconut butter, and olive oil
- High-quality proteins, such as grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and wild-caught fish
- Fiber-rich vegetables
- Leafy greens, such as kale
Nutrients that support your thyroid health before and during menopause:
My Organic Greens powder is an easy way to get plenty of these hormone-supporting foods into your diet. This superfood juice powder is filled with hormone-balancing foods such as kale and maca, along with 12 other powerful, certified organic plant foods.
If you are dealing with estrogen dominance, you may also benefit from taking EstroProtect, a supplement I designed to support healthy estrogen balance and immunity. I find it particularly helpful during the perimenopause period.
5. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce menopause symptoms, build strong bones, and prevent bone loss, a common occurrence during menopause. A nutrient-dense diet can help you maintain a healthy weight while effectively fighting menopausal weight gain. It can also prevent heart disease, which is much more common among women after menopause than before due to reduced estrogen, weight gain, and age. 9,10
For simple yet delicious recipe ideas to support your health during menopause, I recommend my Autoimmune Solution Cookbook. It is filled with delicious, nutrient-dense, autoimmune-friendly, and thyroid-supporting recipes.
6. Supplement with Vitamin D and Calcium
Hormonal changes due to menopause can weaken your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin D and calcium are both essential for bone health. An adequate level of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of weak bones and hip fractures in postmenopausal women.11
A daily dose of sunlight ideally should be your main source of vitamin D. Yet if you spend a lot of time indoors or live in a less sunny climate, the chances are that you are not getting enough.
I have done nutritional testing on thousands of patients. Virtually all of those who were not supplementing were deficient in vitamin D. For this reason, I recommend a vitamin D supplement, such as my Vitamin D3/K2 Liquid, which includes vitamin D3 and K2. These two nutrients work together to ensure that calcium finds its way into your bones where it’s needed, rather than remaining in your bloodstream.
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that dairy products are the best source of dietary calcium. However, considering dairy is chock-full of hormones that would only exacerbate your menopause symptoms (among other harmful side effects), I don’t recommend eating dairy for your calcium.
However, unless you are eating tons of leafy greens, it can be challenging to get enough calcium levels from diet alone. To ensure optimal calcium levels, most women need to supplement. My Bone Health Kit features OsteoDura™, a full-spectrum bone-health formula that features calcium sourced from red marine algae for optimal bioavailability. It also includes my Spectrum 5 Collagen™, which includes five types of collagen from four real food sources to support optimal skeletal health. Begin boosting these two essentials before you reach menopause.
7. Drink Plenty of Water
Women in menopause often experience dryness as a result of decreased estrogen levels. You may also experience bloating due to hormonal changes. Drinking eight to twelve glasses of filtered water each day can help with these menopause symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can also speed up your metabolism, increase the feeling of fullness, reduce overeating, and consequently help you maintain a healthy weight. 12,13
8. Exercise Regularly
Exercising just three hours a week for one year improves the physical and mental health, as well as the overall quality of life of menopausal women.14 Further research has found that yoga is particularly beneficial for reducing menopause symptoms.15
Exercise provides many health benefits, including reduced stress, better sleep, and healthier bones and joints. 16,17 Staying active can also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer. 18,19,20
9. Support Your Mood and Mental Health
The hormonal changes associated with menopause can lead to mood imbalances. The good news is that you can support your mood and mental health with food and lifestyle strategies.
Nutrients and food that support your mood before and during menopause:
- Vitamin D: fatty fish; grass-fed, pasture-raised meat; organ meats; spirulina; wild mushrooms; and bee pollen
- Omega-3s: grass-fed meats, wild-caught salmon, flax and chia oils
- B Vitamins: leafy greens, root veggies, fresh and dried fruits, seafood, and avocados
- Magnesium: dark leafy greens, seaweed, figs, fish, avocados, and bananas
- Amino Acids: Paleo Protein and collagen
- Zinc: oysters, seafood, lamb, grass-fed beef
- Iron: red meat, shellfish, organ meat, dark leafy greens
- Selenium: garlic, turkey, liver, red meat, spinach, and bananas
In addition to nutrients in food, some supplements contain nutrients to help support your mood and mental health. I recommend supplementing with Complete Omega-3 Softgels and Methylation Support for promoting optimal stress relief. The Ashwagandha in my Organic Greens Superfood Juice Powder also encourages stress relief by enhancing relaxation and supporting your mood. In addition, Organic Greens is also rich in nutrient-dense vegetables and superfoods that can support your mental and physical health.
Lifestyle changes that support your mood before and during menopause:
- Exercise regularly.
Those who embrace this period as a time of possibility and positive change often fare the best in managing the emotional aspect of menopause.
10. Support Your Sleep
I can’t stress enough how important sleep is for lowering your stress levels, supporting your mood, and maintaining a healthy weight. These are areas in which menopausal women often struggle. Getting regular sleep of seven to eight hours a night is important to support your health through menopause and to reduce your menopause symptoms. 21
You can read about my personal evening routine here for some ideas on how to support your own sleep. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, try the original Rest and Restore™. For those who need even more support, Rest and Restore Max™, which includes melatonin and valerian root, could be the right choice for you.
Waking up tired even after getting a full night’s sleep may be the result of your diet, stress, or adrenal fatigue.
Eating processed sugar and drinking coffee throughout the day can lead to sugar crashes and fatigue. If you are not eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats, your body won’t be able to support you for a full-day activity.
Chronic stress can also be to blame for low mood and tiredness. Aromatherapy can be a powerful ally to combat stress and encourage restorative sleep. Lavender has been shown to be an effective treatment for menopause symptoms that can keep you up at night, such as hot flashes and depression. Using lavender as aromatherapy reduces restlessness and disturbed sleep, and can enhance your general well-being and quality of life.22
I’ve also found that the sauna, particularly the infrared variety, can be extremely helpful in relaxing. I have an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas in my home. Infrared sauna therapy promotes relaxation by helping to balance your body’s level of cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. The heat generated by the sauna will also help to relax muscles and relieve tension throughout the body, allowing you to relax and de-stress.
Finally, if you think you might be dealing with adrenal fatigue, I recommend my Adrenal Support supplement. It contains a cutting-edge blend of adaptogenic herbs to support a healthy stress response, mood, sleep, libido, immune system, blood sugar, and more.
A Final Word on Menopause
Perimenopause and menopause are natural parts of a women’s life that come with many changes and challenges. Fortunately, by following these ten hormone-supporting dietary and lifestyle strategies, you can reduce or even eliminate your menopause symptoms. Rest assured, you can achieve optimal health now, and for the rest of your life.