Ladies, you know that menopause is inevitable. So if you can’t stop it, you might as well enjoy it.
Wait! did that sound like a sugarcoated doomsday notice? We hope not!
Because there is such a thing as post-menopausal zest! And if you knew the kind of energy and feeling of well-being and freedom it brings along, you’d happily trade PMS for PMZ!
Sure, pop culture would have you believe otherwise. “Menopausal” is a cuss-word for women who are irrationally angry or unreasonable. But that’s just not fair.
If you look through a less-tainted lens, menopause is more like a second youth with more stability and fewer restrictions. Your periods are over, you have a more consistent mood and energy through the month, and you are at a juncture in life where you can focus on your own interests.
- Perimenopause is about 8–10 years before menopause. It’s when your estrogen levels start going down and you notice the typical “menopause” symptoms.
- Menopause is the absence of periods for 12 months. In the US, the average age of menopause is 51 years.
- Postmenopause is the time after menopause when your hormone levels are at a constant low.
Of course, with the levels of three important hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, fluctuating, menopause is not without symptoms. Some feel it hard, some barely, but the fact remains that your body is going through change.
That said, some of the symptoms like hot flashes, anxiety, or depression are temporary. You stop experiencing them as soon as your body adjusts to the new normal. Some however, like bone loss, increase – bone loss is an age-related phenomenon that even men experience. You could get timely check-ups and stop it from getting worse.
Menopause will not hit you hard if your health has been in balance so far.
Yes, we return to good ol’ balance, because like everything else, your menopause symptoms also depend on your metabolic personality.
For instance, if your body heats up quickly, you’d experience more hot flashes during menopause. If you have been a brooding soul, menopause could usher in depression. Or if you’ve generally struggled to keep your bowels regular, menopause could make you strain harder on the toilet bowl (no, don’t!).
Basically, if you know your metabolic personality, you could predict the symptoms and one-up menopause. Just by getting back to balance in time.
Start early, like in your 30s. If your menstrual cycle is still not smooth, pain-free, and hassle-free, you need to work on that imbalance. Make peace with your periods by living according to your metabolic personality.
Now in your 40s? You are probably experiencing some of the symptoms already. It’s not menopause yet, it’s perimenopause, the preamble to it.
It’s time to breathe some order into your life for a smooth transition. Let’s go by each metabolic personality type and see what you could do.
Some ground rules first
- Fix a routine. Eat, sleep, work, work out, and relax by the clock, your body clock. Time management not your forte? Plan in advance, rope in your friends and family, make a weekly list of priorities, and delegate responsibilities.
- Care for your bones. Some bone loss is natural, accept it, but don’t let it become osteoporosis. Give your bones 30 minutes of moderate activity every day – nothing too strenuous, think brisk walk, light strength training, yoga, and pilates. Quit smoking. Reduce salt, caffeine, and fatty cuts of meat.
- Eat smart. Your diet doesn’t need a complete overhaul. You don’t need to lug back uber-healthy-sounding foods from health food stores. Nor do you need to cut out any food group. Just control your portions and proportions. Your digestion is slower than before, so reduce the amount of whole grains you have, fill up the majority of your plate with colorful fruits and veggies. You can do with the antioxidants now. Get proteins, healthy fats (lower the saturated fat quotient), and more vitamin D. Don’t skip meals, and have something every 4 hours, as long as you are awake.
- Ask for help. There will be days when you feel yourself conforming to the “menopausal” stereotypes. It’s but natural, you are after all going through a transition. Be kind to yourself, take a deep breath, and reach out to your friends. Tell them how you feel, ask them what helped them through it. Just the idea that you have someone to turn to, someone who understands what you’re going through can cut your stress by half.
Now take a look at what to expect according to your metabolic personality.
Light, Quick, and Worried
- Irregular periods
- Cold flashes (you get sudden chills, even in a warm room where others are sweating. This happens when estrogen levels drop and your brain, misinterpreting it as your body overheating, tries to release heat immediately.)
- Constipation (due to high stress and low progesterone)
- Dry and loose skin (due to the lack of estrogen which keeps your skin supple and moist)
- **Vaginal dryness (**the lack of estrogen again)
- Anxiety, nervousness, and mood swings (due to hormonal fluctuations as well as several other factors like infertility, changing body image, and changing life situations)
What you can do
- Add warming spices to your meals, like cinnamon and ginger. You can try herbs like ashwagandha and shatavari. Drink warm water and teas through the day.
- Don’t reach out for a warm, sugar-laced cup of coffee or a glass of brandy when you are feeling the chills. Both caffeine and alcohol could fan your anxiety and worsen digestion. Keep a warm wrap handy. When you are feeling the chills, wrap yourself up, get up, and move around.
- While you do not have to sweat it out at a gym, walk every day, if possible, in nature.
- It’ll help to show your body some extra love, like with a nourishing, warming oil massage. Use light oils like almond and olive oil.
Anxiety is cunning. It can creep up on you when you are least expecting it. But you can handle it. Take a few deep breaths when you feel worrying thoughts crowding your head. When your breathing has slowed down, think rationally, step by step. What are the chances of the feared event actually happening? Then think if the fear is justified. Maybe it really isn’t all that bad and even if it should happen, you have what it takes to cope.
Of course, thinking so coolly isn’t always possible. But if you’ve been meditating twice a day, it certainly becomes easier.
Slow, Steady, and Sad
- Weight gain
- Lethargy and depression (lack of estrogen in turn lowers serotonin and other happy hormones)
- Slower digestion
What you can do
- Menopause makes you feel heavy, body and mind. So you need to eat foods that would make you feel lighter. That would be warm, dry, and light foods like mild-tasting fruits and bitter veggies. Rather than using salt and sugar to flavor your dishes, use spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, and garlic. Since you don’t have hot flashes, you can easily skip cooling foods.
- A warm oil massage daily with mustard oil could remove the sluggishness from your bones. Anything that gets your heart pumping is a good thing.
- When you work out, do it in the morning sun. Vitamin D is an antidote for depression and bone problems.
More than anything, you need to one-up depression. That’s easier said than done, because you probably want to simply stay in a corner hidden from human sight and do nothing till you’ve crossed over to the other side.
Okay, do nothing then, but do nothing in a park. Maybe just sit there looking at nature and at people running, jogging, playing, laughing. Soon enough, you’ll be tempted to stretch your legs and take a short stroll.
Intense and Irritated
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Anger and irritability (probably due to the drop in estrogen levels)
- Heavy periods (when you have more estrogen than progesterone or because you missed the last period)
- Skin rashes and acne (when you have more male hormone than estrogen)
- Urinary tract infections: Vaginal dryness makes urinary tract infections more likely.
What you can do
- You’ve always had trouble coping with heat. Hot flashes make it worse. You’d find yourself naturally drawn to anything that cools you down – juicy fruits and watery veggies and cooling herbal teas with fennel and chamomile – and averse to hot soups, hot drinks, and alcohol. Also try out herbs like aloe vera, shatavari, and fenugreek.
- Hot flashes can ambush you anywhere. Stay prepared with a bottle of cold water, wet wipes, and a portable fan.
- Before every bath, massage yourself with cooling oils like coconut oil and sesame oil.
- Work out, but not as hard as you like to. Instead of going to a gym or a sports club, go on nature walks and treks, maybe with your kids or with your dog.
The hot flashes can be managed. But what about your anger which seems to bubble up at the slightest provocation? Mostly, you are angry with yourself because of your lack of control.
Breathe, you can put a lid on your anger. Start spending more time with yourself, doing things you like to do – since you like to make lists, why not a list of all the places you could visit, or all the books you’d like to read this year, gifts you could give people, new restaurants you could check out. Then start ticking the lists.
That and daily meditation could help you ride out this transitory phase with elan.