Tips for Menopause Care with Diet, Yoga and other Exercises
Menopause is the termination of menstrual periods in a woman. With the termination of menstruation a woman's reproductive ability also ends. A woman's body changes during various ages such as at puberty, at pregnancy and at menopause. Menopause means that one cannot get pregnant after that. The woman feels a lot of symptoms during and before menopause which can be mild or severe in different women. The uncomfortable symptoms and health risks that arise from menopause can be managed with diet, yoga and exercise. This article contains information about menopause and its phases, and includes tips on how to ease the menopausal symptoms and discomfort in women by dietary modifications supported by yoga along with other forms of exercise.
Introduction To Menopause
‘Meno’ stands for menstruation and pause stands for pause or complete stop. Therefore menopause is a phase of reproduction in women where they stop getting their menstrual period. Menopause is a normal biological process. It simply means that the woman from now on will not be able to reproduce. Usually women get menopause when they are somewhere between 47 to 55 years old. Menopause can be natural i.e. when the woman’s reproductive organs are no more capable of carrying out reproduction or its preparation. Menopause can also be surgical; it is when a woman has to get her reproductive glands removed surgically due to any abnormalities or malignant growths occurring in the reproductive system. In some cases menopause is not considered when there is a temporary discontinuation of bleeding due to hormonal disturbance or birth control.
Menopause is a normal change that comes with age. The reproductive cycle has been working continuously since the woman reached puberty. It prepares itself to stop working by the age the woman enters her fifties. The ovaries start producing lesser hormones which first cause the menstrual bleeding to reduce and become irregular before it stops completely. This process takes different time for different women. The body starts adapting to the changes in menstruation.
The Role Of Hormones
The ovaries are female reproductive glands responsible for secretion of female reproductive hormones. As a woman approaches her menopausal age her ovaries start producing less than normal of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone, and a small quantity of testosterone. Estrogen and progesterone keep becoming high and low throughout the menstrual cycle and decide the phases of menstruation. When the ovaries decrease the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, the menstruation becomes lighter in bleeding. Then this transition leads to a complete discontinuation of menstrual bleeding. When a year has passed with no menstrual periods, menopause is confirmed.
Menopause occurs in three phases: Perimenopause, Menopause and Postmenopause.
- Perimenopause is the transitional period. It is considered to start 5-7 years before the actual menopause. It is so because before the ovaries actually stop working their activity is gradually decreased. Perimenopause starts when a woman is in her forties. The reduction in secretion of hormones by the ovaries is gradual and is the maximum during the last few months before menopause. If a woman is approaching menopause it doesn’t mean that she cannot get pregnant during this time. The hormonal activity has reduced but not completely ceased. Symptoms of menopause are most severe during this time.
- Menopause is the point of time where menstrual bleeding has completely ceased. Menopause is considered to be confirmed if a woman has not had her menstrual period for a complete year.
- Postmenopause is the time after menopause is confirmed. Postmenopausal period lasts for the entire life of a woman who has had her menopause. The body has changed a lot during menopause and therefore extra care of health and nutrition should be taken because one’s metabolism and physical activity is reduced greatly after menopause. Symptoms of menopause have eased by this time.
Body Symptoms During Menopause
Although everybody is different and every woman may feel differently but the following symptoms are usually felt more or less by women during or close to their menopause:
- Irregular periods
- Light bleeding during menstruation
- Growth of facial hair
- Soreness and tenderness in the breasts
- Extreme symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
- Extreme menstrual cramps
- High heart rate
- Dry eyes, dry mouth and dry skin and hair
- Emotional irritability
- They are cranky and get annoyed easily
- Changed sleep pattern
- Pain during sex
- Lack of lubrication during sex
- Lack of interest in sex
- Hot flashes i.e. feeling hot all over the body
- Profuse sweating during night
- Cold flashes
- Unable to hold urine
- Unable to concentrate
- Weight gained around the waist
- Headache and migraine
- Sensitivity towards smells
- Fatigue and weakness
- Joint pain
- Changes in blood pressure
- Changes in blood cholesterol
- Changes in eyesight
- Anxiety and tension
Not all women face all symptoms, and some may have those not listed here. Changes in the body are normal during and before menopause. These should not be stressed about.
Diet For Normal Menopause
Modifying your diet and eating habits can support the natural processes going on in your body. It can help ease the discomfort associated with menopause. Diet is also important at this time because menopause puts you at a higher risk of getting some problems, which can be prevented or at least relieved with proper diet. One should try to include the following items in their diet:
- Milk and Milk Products - Milk and milk products are rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. These vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy bones and therefore help prevent the risk of decreased bone density in postmenopausal women. Milk and milk products can also prevent early menopause.
- Good Quality Fats - Yes, fats can be good or bad quality. The fats that are obtained from nuts, seeds, oily fish etc. are considered good quality fats. The components of good quality fats are fatty acids, which reduce night sweats and hot or cold flashes in women. Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies etc. are good sources of good quality fats.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables - Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of all vitamins and minerals. They are also major sources of water and fiber. Including fresh fruits and vegetables whole or as salads in the diet can reduce hot flashes and also help maintain weight. Especially berries can help keep women’s moods normal and help them sleep better.
- Whole Grains - Whole grains contain many minerals, and they are especially good sources of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5, which are essential for the body. Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat roti and bread, barley, etc. are all examples of whole grain food items.
- Protein Rich Foods - The hormonal decrease during menopause also causes loss of muscle mass in women. With reduced muscle mass the bone density also reduces. Women in their menopause should try to eat more protein from good sources such as pulses and legumes, dairy products, eggs, meat and fish.
- Estrogen Foods - Yes, foods can also contain estrogen, but because it comes from plants it is called ‘phytoestrogen’. The foods containing phytoestrogen are soybeans and soy products. Chickpeas and peanuts also contain phytoestrogen, along with some fruits such as plums, grapes, some berries, etc.
- Besides adding the above mentioned foods in one’s diet, some foods should be avoided or at least reduced, such as alcohol, spicy, fried, refined and processed foods, and those high in added salt and sugar.
Yoga And Exercise For Normal Menopause
The symptoms of menopause can be greatly reduced with yoga and other forms of exercise. It is because our mind is affected by how our body is feeling. We suggest that some kind of physical exercise should be done by women in their perimenopausal phase as well as during and after menopause because it can help maintain their fitness and energy.
- Surya Namaskara is a practice that benefits everyone but especially the women who are transitioning from their reproductive years to menopause. It is a complete workout in itself.
- Cardio exercises such as swimming, cycling, hiking, jogging and running can be done as pleasurable activities with friends and they improve heart and digestive health.
- Dancing is not only a mood lifting activity for women but it is also a great workout in itself. Dancing doesn’t have to be properly choreographed. Recreational dancing as well as joining a dance class as a new hobby can help improve women’s fitness as well as their mood.
- Other activities such as Pilates and Zumba can also be learnt and joined as daily sessions.
All activities that involve physical movements and are enjoyable are recommended for women in or nearing their menopause. They would be especially good if done with friends.
The phases of transition are very important in our lives because bodily changes are always accompanied by changes in the mood, habits and energy level. The menstrual processes of a woman control many areas of their lives such as the ability to bear children, their health regarding bone health, heart health and digestive health. A woman’s sex life is also greatly dependent on her menstrual cycle. Therefore it is very important to take care of the body as well as the mind during the transition from reproductive life to menopausal life. This time should be spent taking care of oneself and health. Diet and Yoga are the best ways to take care of health and mood especially during menopause.