Women’s life stages are based on the reproductive cycle. From menstruation to postmenopause, it’s important to keep your hormone health at the top of your priority list.
From the moment we reach adulthood, we’re taught that we will be forced to “live with” inevitable symptoms, like hot flashes, depression, and weight gain during the final phase of our reproductive cycle.
But your hormones (and your happiness) shouldn’t have an expiration date! The key to easing the symptoms of menopause is understanding all stages of your reproductive cycle. Knowing what to expect and addressing the symptoms head-on with nutrition, fitness, and superfoods, may help ease the transition into menopause.
Beginning your cycle: The reproductive years
Technically, the average woman’s reproductive years are between the ages of 12 and 50 – however, this phase typically refers to women in their 20’s and 30s.
Women have monthly periods, regularly produce estrogen, and ovulate each month during the reproductive years. This is when symptoms of PMS occur – such as cramps, headaches, fatigue, acne, and mood swings.
As you inch closer to your 40s, your periods may become irregular, your hormones can become off-balance, and you may notice changes in your physical, mental, and emotional health – these are common signs you’re entering perimenopause.
In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, there are natural ways to relieve the common symptoms that come with perimenopause and menopause.
When does perimenopause begin?
Before you enter menopause, you enter perimenopause. But how long does perimenopause last? And more importantly, what are the symptoms of early menopause? Here is everything you need to know.
Perimenopause means “around menopause” and refers to the time leading up to your last period. Because menopause doesn’t happen all at once, this phase can last anywhere between several months to a decade, but typically lasts around four years.
Women usually experience perimenopause between the ages of 40-50 years old. Estrogen production decreases substantially, which isn’t exactly easy on your body during this time. Your ovaries have been making estrogen since your first period, so this transition can take quite a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Some women experience mild symptoms, without even knowing they’re in perimenopause. But for most women, perimenopause is a hormonal roller coaster ride accompanied by some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Trouble sleeping
- Brain fog
- Poor memory
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Weight gain
- Mood Swings
- Heavy bleeding
- Vaginal dryness
- Uncomfortable or painful sex
- Dry skin and hair
While you may not experience each of these symptoms, it’s important to be aware of any changes in your body or mood during this phase of life. Luckily, it is possible to sidestep some perimenopause symptoms by adopting new lifestyle habits and changing your diet. (More on that later!) The quicker you tackle perimenopause symptoms, the easier it may be to transition into menopause.
What to expect when entering menopause?
Maybe you experienced symptoms of perimenopause or perhaps you stood on the sidelines and watched as your friends and loved ones entered menopause. Entering this phase of life is different for every woman.
Once you’ve gone a full year without a period you've officially reached menopause. In this stage, your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and making the female hormone estrogen. If you’re going through menopause naturally, meaning you haven’t had a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, your body has been preparing you for this change for a few years.
Genetics, environmental factors, and your overall health determine when you start menopause, however, the average age is 51 years old. The symptoms that come with menopause are similar to those of perimenopause, but usually last for 4-5 years and are often lower in intensity and frequency.
Luckily, there are a handful of natural ways to support your health and ease perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
Natural remedies for perimenopause and menopause
Hormones fluctuate through every reproductive cycle, and with them comes a smorgasbord of symptoms. In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, there are natural ways to relieve the common symptoms that come with perimenopause and menopause.
Eating whole foods rich in nutrients and adaptogens are a wonderful way to balance your hormones and improve your health! Here’s what we recommend...
1. For depression and anxiety
Lion’s mane mushrooms, baobab fruit and hibiscus have been shown to have antidepressant effects and promote Hippocampal Neurogenesis — aka the stuff that controls our good moods and emotions! (Plus, lion’s mane helps increase cognitive function, which can help with brain fog and memory loss.)
2. For low libido
Shatavari and maca are two adaptogenic herbs EVERY woman should have in their diet. Both are loved for their ability to fight symptoms of menopause and increase libido!
3. For stress and irritability
What do chocolate and beets have in common? They’re both powerful mood-boosters! Cacao and beetroot contain psychoactive compounds which have been shown to improve your mood. In addition, ashwagandha – an ancient ayurvedic herb, is best known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
How to stay healthy post menopause
After menopause symptoms have ceased, post-menopause may bring its own set of health issues. Although some of these symptoms are age-related, others may be caused by a lack of estrogen.
According to the American Heart Association, menopausal women are at a greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease, which is attributed to a change in estrogen levels, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
In addition to heart disease, research shows that you may be at an increased risk of osteoporosis – especially if it runs in your family. During the first few years of menopause, you’re more susceptible to bone density loss. In fact, 20 percent of bone loss can occur in the first five years of menopause.
So what’s the best way to keep your health in tip-top shape postmenopause? Exercise regularly, consume less alcohol and caffeine and eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. You should also keep up with regular health check-ups and screenings, and consult your doctor about family medical history.
The stages of menopause are a natural part of a woman’s life cycle. And it’s never too early, or late, to address menopausal symptoms naturally. As long as you keep your hormone health at the top of your priority list, you can live a happy, healthy life.