Inescapably, half of the world’s population, around mid-life, will experience the transition called menopause. Just as puberty ushers in reproductive fertility, so menopause marks its end.

Menopause technically begins when the ovaries cease releasing eggs, and it technically concludes when 12 consecutive menstrual periods have been skipped. Practically speaking though, these two events might be the least noteworthy occurrences of menopause.

The path to menopause can be bumpy

The time of biological transition to menopause is often referred to as perimenopause. Like puberty, which brings mood swings, acne, body remodeling, and other changes, perimenopause is generally accompanied by several inconvenient, even unpleasant, physiological adjustments.

For many women, menstruation becomes unpredictable, body temperature regulation is impossible, sleep is interrupted by a body trying to find its new normal, and decreased metabolism leads to weight gain and waning energy. Perhaps understandably, mood swings often occur during this time.  

The end of fertility is primarily driven by a decreasing ability of the ovaries to produce estrogen, which, in conjunction with other hormones, orchestrates the maturation and release of a woman’s eggs. This is not the only role this hormone plays in the body. The decreasing estrogen levels that accompany perimenopause and the low levels that occur in menopause can impact:

  • The circulatory system – an increased risk of heart disease
  • The skeletal system – decreased bone density and increased risk of fracture and osteoporosis
  • The urinary tract – an increased risk of infection and incontinence
  • Vaginal health – dryness, discomfort
  • Libido – reduced interest
  • Mood – decreased emotional control, motivation, concentration; increased irritability, anxiety
  • Metabolic rate – low energy; weight gain or difficulty losing weight

Smoothing out the bumps

Menopause is not a hopeless gauntlet that must be traversed alone. There are steps that can be taken to minimize its unpleasantness. 

1. Eat a healthy diet – Providing your body with all the raw materials it needs to function optimally is the foundation of good health. Adequate water intake is vital. Although there are many opinions about what constitutes a “healthy” diet, it is generally agreed that fresh and whole foods tend to be healthier than foods that are heavily processed or stored with preservatives.

An appropriate quantity of nutritious food is also important to healthful eating. A healthy diet not only provides needed nutrition, it also helps with weight loss. And being at a healthy weight can help reduce the bothersome symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes.

2. Get regular exercise – Whether you walk frequently, work out at a gym, or find other ways to have vigorous physical activity in your week, getting your body moving and active regularly will provide global benefits to health, including reducing the symptoms associated with menopause. Feeling more energized, possibly losing some excess body fat, and supporting healthy bones are all nice bonuses!

3. Engage in de-stressing activities – Like diet and exercise, reducing stress is a tried and tested method to improve health – and reducing menopause symptoms by reducing stress is no exception.

Whether you join a yoga or tai chi class, meditate daily, or just carve out some quiet time to decompress and relax, developing and practicing strategies for coping with and reducing stress can achieve better health and reduce the discomforts of menopause.

4. Reduce or avoid hot flash triggers – Hot flashes are a common and disruptive symptom of perimenopause. They are essentially the result of the body misinterpreting a heat signal and responding with a cooling over-reaction.

For example, just drinking a warm beverage can be enough to trick the body into thinking it is over-heating and needs to cool, causing sweating and a hot flash. If hot flashes are especially bothersome, then avoiding the following common triggers can reduce their number and severity (and other menopause symptoms as well):

  • Spicy foods and alcohol – well known for creating a warming effect in the body
  • Nicotine and caffeine – have a stimulant effect on the body
  •  Extremes of temperature, especially rapidly varying external temperatures – such as transitioning between a hot outdoor temperature and an air-conditioned indoor temperature 
  • Warm environments, beverages, and clothing – drinking cool beverages (especially water) and dressing in layers can help you make quick adjustments to minimize the effects of temperature changes you can’t control

5. Take a quality multi-vitamin/mineral formula for women over 40 – Even with a healthy diet, today’s food supply leaves nutritional gaps. A quality multi-vitamin/mineral supplement like Thorne’s Meta-Fem is formulated to provide critical nutrients in appropriate quantities for this later phase of life.*

Unlike generic multi-vitamin/mineral formulas, in addition to the basics this targeted formula provides highly absorbable calcium plus vitamins D and K to support bone density,* while leaving out iron, which can cause digestive upset and is typically no longer required in supplemental quantities because the loss of iron with menstrual flow declines.

6. Investigate supportive botanicals – Although the above strategies might be sufficient to relieve the symptoms some women experience with menopause, additional support is often needed. For those women who suffer from more severe disruptions to daily life, botanicals can offer the added relief needed to avoid more risky treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy. 

Although a targeted multi-vitamin/mineral like Meta-Fem offers several botanicals that provide effective menopause support,* many women who require an extra boost will add Thorne’s Meta-Balance, which is formulated to be taken with Meta-Fem, for optimal effectiveness. Meta-Balance contains botanicals like wild yam and black cohosh that support hormone-related changes, as well as hesperidin methyl chalcone that supports healthy blood vessels.*

Taken together, these two supplements can further mitigate the occurrence of hot flashes, mood swings, and the other disruptive consequences of menopause.*

Aside from the benefits that come with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing stress, there is no one-size-fits all solution for dealing with the symptoms of menopause.

There are many options available to help regulate the negative effects associated with this process. Working with your health-care practitioner to select the remedies most well-suited to your individual needs can bring order to the chaos until it passes.

Special considerations

Although most women experience menopause naturally as a result of age, there are events that can cause a woman to begin menopause prematurely. Surgery to remove the ovaries, cancer therapy that impairs the ability of the ovaries to produce hormones, or any other disease or event that interferes with the normal functioning of the ovaries can trigger menopause.

Support for non-age-related menopause might need to be managed differently, because certain options might not be safe or effective under these circumstances. A health-care practitioner should be consulted before trying any menopause symptom support strategy, but it is especially important for women who experience menopause for reasons other than age.