It's the middle of the night and it's starting up again. No need to check the thermostat. The heat is radiating from within, thanks to menopause and those dreaded hot flashes.
“Some women say, 'I'm having day flashes, I'm having night flashes, I'm hot all the time and I can't get a good night's sleep,'” said Annette Dillon, a menopause practitioner at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center. “Everything from hot flashes to changes in mood, sleep patterns and sexual libido is as individual as each woman who experiences menopause.”
The transition time before menopause, or perimenopause, usually begins when a woman is in her 40s. During this time, ovulation becomes irregular and the production of estrogen and progesterone decreases. This drop in hormone levels causes most of the symptoms associated with menopause. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a menstrual period for one year.
“Some women go through this change quickly, causing their menopause symptoms to escalate. Others may transition very slowly and smoothly,” Dillon said. “Every woman's symptoms and how they respond to treatment is different.”
So what can you do if your symptoms are greatly impacting your quality of life? Dillon says any discussion about menopause symptoms should begin with lifestyle factors:
Get a good night's sleep.
Sleep is key for all women, regardless of the severity of their symptoms. Sleep disruption effects cognitive thinking, mood, eating habits, and causes fatigue. Sometimes just getting good sleep can help ease the symptoms of menopause.
Add exercise to your day.
Regular exercise for 30 to 45 minutes each day can help slow muscle loss and increase your metabolism. In fact, the metabolic rate we increase during exercise lasts throughout the day, even while we rest. Walking, jogging, swimming or even yoga are all good choices.
Eat a balanced diet.
Because our metabolism slows as we age, proper nutrition is important. Cut out fatty foods and carbs and incorporate whole grain fiber and green leafy vegetables to your diet. Increase the amount of calcium to fight osteoporosis and build bone density. It might also be good to steer clear of foods known to increase menopausal symptoms such as spicy foods and foods containing lots of sugar, white flour, salt, caffeine and alcohol.
Supplement diet with estrogen-rich foods.
Research shows adding phytoestrogen foods to a woman's diet three or four times a day can help relieve menopause symptoms. These foods, such as soy, apples, alfalfa, rice, wheat and yams, promote healthy estrogen levels naturally.
There are many options for women who have menopausal concerns, including hormone replacement therapies. If anything has changed for a woman that is creating a problem with her quality of life, she should talk to her health care provider.
The Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center Menopause clinic offers specialized care in menopause treatment. To learn more call (402) 815-8942 or visit www.mpcmenopause.com.
Katina Gordon is a public relations and social media specialist for Methodist Health System. She guest blogs occasionally for livewellnebraska.com.