WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHAT DO I DO?
SURVIVING – AND THRIVING – DURING MENOPAUSE
What can you do about menopause. First, let go of whatever pessimism you’ve heard. Menopause is a challenge but need not be an overwhelming one. A menopause program is drawn from the four areas of lifestyle, nutrition, supplements and herbs and (sometimes) prescription medications.
Lifestyle: Menopause resets women’s thermostats. Often someone who has felt cold most of her life, starts to feel hot. Now it’s her husband, not her, who wants to turn up the thermostat. If this is happening, it’s best just to accept it. Your wardrobe may have to change toward lighter clothes and perhaps, if you can persuade your family to accept a cooler house temperature, they may need more sweaters. If you have night sweats, you may have to be prepared to change nightgowns during the night.
Exercise is just as valuable at this life stage as it is before. The better shape you keep yourself in , the better you will feel. However, exercise while good for you, will not take all symptoms away, nor will it completely protect your bones.
Nutrition: Some women tend to flush when they eat spicy foods. If so, you may need to avoid these or save them for situations in which sweating and flushing will not be embarrassing, for example, when you are having lunch with your best friend who is having the same experience.
Adequate calcium is key. Too little calcium can make bone loss worse. You need about 1,500 mg of calcium daily. Calcium citrate is a good choice. Also, your body cannot absorb calcium unless it has enough vitamin D. You need 600 to 800 units a day - more than used to be thought. You can get this by taking two rather than one multiple vitamins a day or by getting calcium tablets which have D in them.
Nutrition is essential for maintaining bone health but not always sufficient by itself. Some women continue to lose bone despite adequate calcium and D intake and regular exercise.
Supplements and vitamins: However there are some alternative possibilities to try first. One is soy. Lately some have tried to cast doubt on its safety but this is part of the prejudice in our culture against using nutrition to prevent disease. Considering that Japanese women eat gobs of the stuff and are among the world’s healthiest with very low rates of breast cancer, it must be doing something good. However you need real soy, not capsules or powders, many of which do not have the healthy substances in them. Two ways to get it are tofu (1 ounce per day) and fresh soy milk ( one glass per day); both are available in dairy areas of supermarkets.
Various herbs have been tried for hot flashes; the best studied is black cohosh. There is also good evidence that soy can the edge off hot flashes and other symptoms. Both can be used in combination. The herbal approach gives adequate relief for some but not for all. Or it may work better at first when your ovaries are still making some estrogen. They seem to work best for women whose symptoms are relatively mild but that does not mean you shouldn’t try them if your symptoms are more severe. You probably need to use them consistently for at least two months to see how well they will work for you.
When these measures are not enough by themselves, HRT becomes a consideration.
What is Menopause?
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