Menopause usually occurs between ages 45 and 50 and is exactly what it sounds like – your menstrual flow stops. This might be a relief on some level, but when menopause begins, your body may go haywire. Women often experience hot flashes, sweating, aches, mood swings, and other symptoms. Fortunately, there are a few key things you can do to lessen the hassle of menopause.
Most menopausal women have hot flashes, and everyone’s triggers are different. Some women can drink coffee without feeling a thing, while for others, stepping into Starbucks turns up the heat. Others can’t eat spicy foods or even relax in warm rooms. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing discreetly if you need to. Avoid trigger foods, especially anything with caffeine or chicory, and alcohol. Turn on inside fans, particularly at night.
If you’re menopausal, don’t be embarrassed to tell your doctor or spouse about vaginal discomfort. Your doctor can prescribe over-the-counter lubricants or supplements to help with dryness, itchiness, or pain. Don’t use any scented lubricants; the chemicals can irritate your vagina more. Ask your doctor for exercises to help keep your pelvic floor strong, and indulge in intercourse – it helps alleviate symptoms.
Some women feel the same emotions – extreme sadness or anger – in menopause that they did with PMS. Prepare yourself with meditation and breathing exercises, such as breathing in and out slowly on counts of seven. Read a fun book or take a bath in mild, unscented water. Play soothing music during a stressful day and before bed. Make sure you get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a night, and avoid caffeine and sugar after dinner. Don’t exercise in the evenings if you can help it. This will keep your body revved up, hot, and uncomfortable, which will adversely affect your mood.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone treatments are very effective in assisting women transition through menopause. These treatments replace hormones your body no longer makes which can significantly help with symptoms. There can be some risk to hormone therapy so it’s important that you talk with your doctor to understand the pros and cons based on your medical history.
Some menopause days are so bad, all you want to do is stay in your pajamas and eat junk food. Resist this temptation. If you crave salty or sweet junk, see if you can satisfy the craving with something healthy like nuts, fruit, or yogurt. Exercise regularly, and do the workouts you like best. Zumba and cardio classes are great if you’re extraverted. If you’d rather compete with yourself, try the stationery bike, elliptical, or treadmill. Drink as much water as you can, which will also reduce hot flashes. Keep your meals as healthy as possible, but don’t be afraid to splurge on dessert 1-2 times a week. Dark chocolate, fruit-flavored ice cream and sorbet, or cookies with nuts are all good choices.
For more questions about menopause and treatment options, please contact Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville.