Menopause. That really fun time in a woman's life where thing start...changing. Many women suffer from hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, skin changes and weight fluctuations. Menopause is caused from the ovaries essentially "shutting down", causing a decrease in the production of sex hormones and an end to a monthly hormonal cycle. This fluctuation in hormones during the menopausal transition can cause the unwanted side effects that can linger for years in some women. But did you know you don't necessarily have to deal with these side effects?
Here are my top simple, most effective tips that you can start doing today to lessen the frequency and severity of some of the most annoying side effects.
Cut the Sugar (and even the carbs)
I can't tell you the number of times I've seen menopausal hot flashes disappear after women reduce their sugar and carbohydrate intake. Sugar converts into glucose quickly in our system, causing insulin fluctuations. And with insulin being a hormone, can cause direct fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone in our bodies. Carbohydrates also convert quicker into glucose in our bodies and when sugar alone doesn't help with the hot flashes, limiting carbohydrate intake can make a difference. Cutting sugar and carbs is also a smart way to transition your body into ketosis, a fat-burning mode that can help with weight loss/maintenance and improved energy levels in many.
Aim for less than 25g/day of sugar in your diet, including fruit sources. And for carbs, limit them to starchy root veggies over grain products and no more than 1/4 cup per meal.
Pump Out the Cardio
There's no better time than the present to try out a spinning class or go for a run - cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help mitigate menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. While the exact mechanism isn't known, there are countless studies out there that show regular cardiovascular exercise improves the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flashes. Regular cardiovascular exercise can also help boost circulation to the skin and keep weight in check, two other well-known and unpleasant side effects women can experience in menopause.
Aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily or make sure you're going to 3-4 hour-long cardio-focused fitness classes per week. It pays to have a membership to a studio to hold yourself a little more accountable in ensuring you're getting regular exercise in. And there are tons of options to choose from in the HRM!
Support Your Liver
Your liver is involved in the natural detoxification and elimination of hormones in your body. Without these important pathways in your liver, hormones would never be properly eliminated from the body, causing them to course continuously through our bodies and increasing our risk of inflammation, cancers and hormonal-related issues like menopausal hot flashes and night sweats.
There are a number of herbs and foods out there that can help support these natural detox pathways, from medicinal herbs like Milk Thistle and Dandelion root to bitter, dark leafy greens like arugula to warm lemon water in the mornings. Applying a combination of these techniques to your day is a great first step. There are also a number of "detox" and "cleanse" kits on the market but what's important to look out for when choosing one of these kits is that it's not primarily a bunch of laxative that make you think you're detoxing because you're eliminating so much. Good liver supporting "detox" kits will be gentle, contain smart herbs and nutrients that have the research to back up their safe and effective use, and not cause you to feel completely deprived and depleted. I highly recommend talking to your local naturopathic doctor about an appropriate cleanse kit for you to try out a couple times a year. Not only can a proper cleanse help support your body's already existing detox pathways but it can also help reset dietary habits and get you back on track when it comes to taking care of yourself and being mindful of your diet.
When All Else Fails..
Talk to your naturopathic doctor. There are a number of products on the market that can make a major difference in menopause. It's all about finding the product that's going to work best for you and your lifestyle.