I like to think of Menopause as the wisdom years. This is the time when we truly get to learn about our bodies. And if we refuse to do so, our body finds a way to send us alarm signals in the form of hot flushes, mood fluctuations, night sweats, weight gain, aches and pains, low energy, low libido, and a host of other red flags. When your body finally finds a way to get your attention, here are a few secrets to learn from the wisdom years, and implement some changes you probably should have done years before. This is written by someone who is currently in Menopause. This can be a time of grace and great learning about ourselves. This change in our hormones causes us to reflect on ourselves. For the first 50 years, our hormones cause us to focus on everyone else’s needs. The next 50 years cause us to focus on our own needs as a matter of top priority.
Reduce Sugar and Alcohol
Please don’t cry! It’s simple really. Sugar creates heat inside the body. More heat means more symptoms of Menopause such as hot flashes, and night sweats and will further dry you out thus aggravating all of your menopausal symptoms. Rather favor getting your sugar hit from fruit and starchy vegetables. Unfortunately, alcohol is jam-packed with sugar and it will give you a concentrated strong hot flush. This extra heat consumes more blood and will leave you with poor sleep that night. This will further perpetuate making less blood so all your menopause symptoms will worsen the following day.
To make matters worse, a diet high in refined carbs makes all perimenopausal problems worse because of its adverse effect on hormone balance. In addition, it reinforces the tendency towards excess fat around the waist and belly. This abdominal fat puts women at risk for premature death. Ok, I am crying now.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
According to Chinese Medicine, a healthy diet is the most effective way to relieve many symptoms. Eliminate all heat-producing foods and substances like caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar, food coloring, preservatives, and additives (including antibiotics and hormones fed to animals during the production of most meat, chicken, and eggs). These will not only produce more heat, in the process of trying to cool the body down with what little blood you have left, but you will also be consuming more of your blood. Red meat should be consumed in small quantities.
Favor a diet rich in fish, especially during the heat phase of your Menopause. Protein is important to building blood. Two-thirds of your plate should be covered with plants and one-third with plants (vegetables). It is also helpful to limit spicy, pungent foods such as curries or chilies and greasy, fried, or oily foods as these generate more heat inside. Foods should be lightly cooked, not raw or cold. The body has to work harder to digest raw food which creates more heat internally. Reduce other foods which are commonly known to be inflammatory until your symptoms stabilize, after which time you can slowly test reintroducing them. These are dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts, and nightshades.
Drop the Morning Cup of Coffee and Say No to Chocolate
Reduce your cup of coffee to as weak as possible or eliminate it together. Caffeine from coffee or chocolate slightly raises the heart rate, which increases the speed of blood pumping through the body. This creates a surge of heat which will trigger hot flushes. Caffeine can also interfere with your sleep as it takes your liver about seven or eight hours to process that cup of tea or coffee, which means that caffeine at any point during that time could still have an impact on your nervous system. Caffeine can trigger palpitations which during Menopause years are often on the increase. on their own. Caffeine also exacerbates sleep disturbances which may already be one of the symptoms of Menopause, negatively affecting your quality of life.
Exercise Must Become Nonnegotiable
It’s now widely recognized that exercise evokes hormonal responses from the body. Aerobic exercise reduces your insulin level and elevates your glucagon level which promotes the expansion of blood vessels so that more nutritious and oxygen-rich blood can reach muscle tissues. Anaerobic exercise, such as strength training, causes the body to secrete human growth hormones. This hormone is the builder and repairer of muscle tissue and is a fat burner. Muscles are loaded with insulin receptors. More muscles mean that you will burn carbs and fat more efficiently.
Physical activity is one of the healthiest and most effective ways to combat depression or stress because it releases endorphins which are the happy chemical messages that your body makes to elevate your mood. Exercise helps about every symptom of perimenopause, Menopause, and post-menopause. It helps weight control, manages stress, and lessens the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Exercise enables your metabolism to work faster, so all the healthy nutrients you are eating are absorbed faster which will then alleviate hormonal symptoms faster.
The most important question is not whether to exercise but rather how much and what type of exercise to incorporate into daily life. Try and tap into being present every day and do what feels good. If you are starting from zero exercises, set a goal to take a walk every day for 5 to 10 min. When you feel good doing this, increase your aerobic activity a little more until you are walking vigorously for at least 30 min 5 times a week. Walking a mile a day has been found to reduce women’s risk of losing bone density as they get older.
I have had a patient’s hot flash frequency reduce and sleep quality improve just by making sure she walked every day. When she didn’t walk her hot flashes came back and sleep was worse. I guarantee you will feel better and look better in a matter of weeks. To prevent osteoporosis, you must lift heavy things to increase bone mineral density. Find some dumbbells and simply do 10-12 squats, lunges, and bridges two to three times a week. Even heavy gardening will do. Find a personal trainer or go on YouTube and look for weight lifting for menopausal women. Start with light dumbells and increase to heavier ones as they get too light.
If your exercise can be fun, that would be even better. Playing tennis, pickleball, dancing or even gardening will give you an excuse to move and have fun at the same time. As your hormones change you will find resistance to doing things that you don’t enjoy doing. A bonus benefit of regular exercise is that it helps to alleviate unwelcome mood swings, reduces bone loss, and decreases the gain of weight during Menopause.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been treating menopausal women for more than 3000 years as an alternative medical treatment. TCM is a holistic alternative therapy and offers personalized care for the body, mind, spirit, and emotions. As you age, you lose some of the blood in your body from a lifetime of periods, pregnancies, breastfeeding, and being overworked superstars that never say no. Usually, our blood acts as an internal fire hydrant and nourishes every cell in our body. When you have less blood, you have blazing fires in the form of hot flushes and suffer from many blood deficiency symptoms like dry skin, dry vagina, aching joints, restlessness, and anxiety. This lack of blood also means fewer hormones and less blood going to the brain and bones. Say hello brain fog and creaky bones. Acupuncture and herbal supplements work to normalize the hormonal imbalance. It is extremely effective for relieving hot flash severity, insomnia, night sweats, mood disturbances, brain fog, and many other menopausal symptoms. There aren’t the same health risks to receiving acupuncture and other Chinese Medicine techniques as you may find with the dangerous side effects of bioidentical hormones.
We can help you experience your menopausal and post-menopausal years more gently. You do not need to suffer. Consider booking acupuncture treatments or a telemedicine appointment where we will take a more functional medicine approach to restore harmony to your hormones. We will not get rid of Menopause. We will make the transition more gentle. Using a combination of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and lifestyle changes allows you to feel better quickly.
Contact Healing Elephant to book an appointment with Dr. Corbin and her team. We’ll evaluate your history and medical conditions and work to find a solution to ensure you have healthy Menopause.