The Ultimate Guide To Menopause
This article is alive. It's updated regularly based on feedback from my clients about what they want to know about menopause. If something is missing, be sure to ask for it in the comments below.
Click Here to get my top tips for balancing your hormones and getting relief from all your peri and menopausal symptoms and for feeling your best after menopause.
What if menopause wasn't confusing, scary, or frustrating?
Some women go through the whole menopausal transition with little or no symptoms, while others get every symptom in the book and their lives are taken over by symptoms they can’t control. These symptoms can take over their body, their mind, their life, and sometimes their relationships.
My passion and my work are about finding out - What’s the difference? And how can I help more women experience a practically symptom-free menopause.
So if you want to know what menopause is, why it happens, and what you can do to get relief from menopause symptoms naturally, READ ON.
In this article we'll explore:
How to read this article
If you’re just curious about menopause but not dealing with it directly:
- Feel free to skim and learn whatever you like
If menopause is coming down the road and you want to prepare for it:
- Pay special attention to the section on preparing for an easier menopause
- Be sure to at least skim over the section on how to control menopause symptoms, so you’ll have an idea what you’re going to do if they start
If you’re suffering from menopausal symptoms right now want relief:
- You don’t need all the science behind why this is happening…
- Pay special attention to the sections on what to do to control the symptoms of menopause
If you’re past menopause and want to know how to stay healthy:
- Pay special attention to the section on what to do post menopause
If you're a healthcare professional, you want to geek out and really dive deep, or you just want to know more about one section..
- Dive deeper into any aspect of what we're covering with the video links in each section in the gray boxes
What is menopause, when does it start, and why does it happen?
What is menopause?
The menopausal transition is a change in your hormone levels, especially estrogen and progesterone leading to the end of your menstrual cycle.
Your hormone levels go through different stages during your lifetime.
Until the age of 10 or 11, your sex hormone levels are present but low, and you’re not having your period.
At puberty, your sex hormone levels rise and stay high all during your fertile years. You’re having your menstrual cycle, and you can have children.
When your sex hormone levels start to decline again, you are in perimenopause. During perimenopause your sex hormone levels steadily decline, you may experience symptoms, and your period may become irregular. You’re still fertile, but it can be harder to get pregnant and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
When your sex hormone levels decline to a certain level, your period stops completely. When you have not had menstrual bleeding for 12 consecutive months, that is the moment you officially reach menopause. Right around this time is usually when menopausal symptoms are at their peak,
After this moment, you are postmenopausal, and your hormones do their best to even out and stabilize at these new, lower levels.
If you’re healthy your hormone levels will remain at about the same levels they were at when you were 10 years old - just before puberty. Any symptoms you had will subside and you can experience great health with strong bones, a healthy metabolism and a great libido
If you’re not that healthy, your hormone levels may go much lower than this, which can lead to lingering symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
When does the menopausal transition start?
The first phase of menopausal changes is perimenopause, and it starts when your hormone levels start to decline from their highest levels when you were most fertile.
The average age for perimenopause to start is sometime in your 40s, but it can start as early as your mid 30s or as late as your 50s.
Why does the menopausal transition happen?
Just like a young woman growing up and entering puberty, the end of your fertile years is a natural part of your life progression. It’s the beginning of a new cycle or phase of your life.
If you’re healthy it happens naturally.
Menopause can also be caused earlier by certain medical conditions, surgeries, or medications. When this happens, instead of a natural menopause you experience a surgical menopause or a chemical menopause.
Let's take an even deeper look
What exactly IS menopause?
Natural menopause happens to all women and is a natural part of your life cycle.
Unless your body is forced into menopause by surgery or medication.. This is called "surgical menopause" or "chemical menopause."
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Some women experience all the symptoms of menopause, some experience none (or almost none.)
Symptoms of perimenopause
Irregular menstrual cycle
Changes in menstrual bleeding
Insomnia and night sweats
Vaginal and bladder issues
A decrease in libido or sexual function
Symptoms to watch out for during perimenopause
You should feel pretty good through perimenopause. If you experience any of the above symptoms that are more than mild, I recommend taking steps or seeking help. By balancing your hormones naturally, not only will you get symptomatic relief, you will experience better health and healthier aging.
The most urgent symptoms women experience during perimenopause is usually:
Heavy menstrual bleeding. Bleeding can be heavier, last for longer, you can have bleeding between periods, and your periods can happen much closer together.
Heavier and irregular menstrual bleeding is normal during perimenopause, but be sure to be monitored by a medical professional if your bleeding becomes too heavy or lasts for too long or both.
Bleeding is so heavy that you're changing tampons or pads every hour or two for two or more hours
Bleeding lasts longer than seven days
Bleeding occurs between periods
Periods regularly occur less than 21 days apart
Typical symptoms around actual menopause
All the symptoms of early perimenopause PLUS
Weight gain and a slower metabolism
Thinning hair and thinner, sagging skin
Loss of muscle tone
Loss of breast fullness
Changing cholesterol levels
Dry eyes or mouth or vaginal dryness
A tendency towards frozen shoulder or vertigo
Typical postmenopausal symptoms
Often your symptoms will go away after a period of adjustment that happens over about two years after actual menopause (when you have not had your periods for 12 consecutive months.) However, in some women, any or all of the symptoms listed above can persist.
The most common symptoms to experience long term during postmenopause are:
Weight gain and slower metabolism
Loss of muscle tone
Thinning hair and skin
Loss of breast fullness
Changing cholesterol levels
Dryness in the eyes, mouth or vaginal tissue
A lower libido
A tendency towards cardiovascular (heart blood vessel) disease
Verdict: Severe symptoms may be considered normal during the menopausal transition but are actually a sign that your hormones are more out of balance than they should be.
Recognize what the symptoms of hormonal imbalance are, and if they are more than “mild” take steps to relieve them, because this will also improve your health.
Recap: The possible symptoms of menopause
But remember... If you do this the right way, you don't have to have these symptoms or the degeneration of aging.
Want to dive deeper into the symptoms of menopause? You'll find what you need in this video:
What is the best way to prepare for menopause?
- Your hormone levels and
- Your body's ability to balance your hormones before they start to change dramatically during menopause,
- Your blood sugar
- Your stress level
Can help determine whether you’re one of the women who has lots of symptoms or no symptoms during the menopausal transition.
How to prepare for an easier menopausal transition
1. If any of your hormone levels or any of the energies in your body have become depleted, run down, or burned out, bring them back up to optimal levels.
- You don't want to start menopause already depleted.
2. Make sure your body is detoxifying hormones well. This means if you get too much of one hormone, like estrogen, your body can recognize that and detox it out of your body quickly and easily.
Perimenopausal symptoms are often caused by too little progesterone in relation to too much estrogen.
- If your body is able to make more progesterone and get rid of extra estrogen as needed, you'll often avoid most of the symptoms of early perimenopause.
3. Certain healthy habits allow your body to balance hormones during menopause MUCH more efficiently - reducing menopausal symptoms significantly. It turns out sugar hormones and stress hormones are what can take menopause from a gentle transition to a bit of nightmare.
Get these healthy habits in place now while you still feel well and are thinking clearly.
- Get in the habit of eating regular meals and cut down on refined sugar to keep your blood sugar and insulin healthy
- Make sure you're not burning the candle at both ends, take time to relax, make sure that you're sleeping enough, and are getting at least gentle exercise three times per week
These basic healthy habits will set the stage for an easy menopause.
If your cycle isn't great or you're having early signs of perimenopause like changes in your cycle or night sweats during PMS or you want to have a baby later in life, follow the full protocol for building and balancing your hormones in the next section of this article - How to control the symptoms of menopause.
Want to dive deeper into what to do to prepare for perimenopause before you're quite there yet? You'll find it in this video:
How can you control the symptoms of menopause?
This is where we really get into it. I'm going to show you how to make a menopausal plan that uses 3 key strategies combined to help your body build and balance hormones all the way through the menopausal transition.
There's no ONE thing you can do that will balance all your hormones naturally - it's the combination of these THREE things that works
I've seen this over and over and over again in my clinic. The women who have the least menopause symptoms are the ones combining 3 key strategies.
You need a menopausal plan that includes these three factors:
- A diet that includes certain key foods and is low in refined sugar
- A lifestyle that includes certain key elements
- A few key supplements - and if needed -additional, targeted herbs, supplements, or hormones for breakthrough menopause symptoms
Diet is part 1 of your menopause plan
Here's why you need the right diet during menopause
The right diet is the #1 most important thing you can do to get relief from menopause symptoms. It's the first step - the place to start. In fact with the right diet in place, you'll get at least twice as much benefit from everything else I'm going to recommend.
Here's why the right diet is so important:
- Your body needs the building blocks it uses to make hormones in great supply during menopause.
- Including certain key foods, superfoods, & supplements in your diet is how you get those building blocks in ample supply
- Your body needs to be able to detoxify hormones out of your system when needed, and including enough veggies, water, and foods that keep your liver functioning well in your diet are necessary for this detox to happen
- The right diet will keep your blood sugar and blood sugar hormones balanced, which is key for minimal menopause symptoms and staying healthy after menopause
If your body can't make more hormones AND get rid of extra hormones when needed, it can't keep your hormones balanced. It can't fine tune your hormones to keep them in balance with each other while they're changing during menopause.
The right diet also balances blood sugar, because high blood sugar will also throw you into a syndrome of menopause symptoms.
Here's what your best menopause diet includes
Your best diet during menopause includes these foods
- Enough servings of vegetables and fruit each day
- Enough servings of protein each day
- Enough servings of healthy fats each day
- Daily servings of what I call the menopause helper foods - they're superfoods specifically for menopause. One of my favorites is 2 Tablespoons of fresh ground flax seeds per day
Your best diet during menopause also includes
- Eating at the right times, as this keeps your metabolism and blood sugar healthy
- Drinking enough water
Your best diet during menopause also avoids the major menopause trigger foods when necessary.
Menopause trigger foods are perfectly healthy on their own, but during menopause they can trigger hot flashes and other hormonal symptoms in some women. So if you're eating the right things and still having symptoms, try avoiding the menopause trigger foods.
- My top menopause trigger foods is refined sugar, because it throws your blood sugar and insulin levels off, which in turn react with stress hormones and estrogen to create - a big mess.
Since diet is the #1 thing you can do to feel well during menopause, helping women get on the right diet for menopause is one of the things I love to do best.
But It gets complicated. A lot of really healthy diets actually don't work at all well during menopause, because women have very special needs during this time.
To save you the time and frustration of figuring out how to get the menopause diet right, I've created a free download and a free, hour-long online class that will give you a great overview and a great start on the best diet for menopause.
If you're ready to get started, I recommend grabbing the download by CLICKING HERE. The invitation to the online class is included. And by the end of the class you'll know for sure if you're ready to fully optimize your diet (and get lots of help & support making it happen) with my online course Menopause Basics: What to Eat that will walk you step by step through putting the perfect menopause diet in place in the least time on any "diet" and with any schedule.
Diet is #1 in your menopause plan
Your menopause plan needs to include
Diet is so important during menopause because:
Your best menopause diet includes:
Click Here to sign up to get all my top tips delivered straight to your email. You'll also get my free guide on the best diet for your hormones, and you'll get an invitation to a free online class on the same topic!
By the time you're done you'll know so much more about how to easily balance your hormones with certain foods each day!
Want to know more about the best menopause diet? You'll find it in these videos:
Lifestyle is part 2 of your menopause plan
Here's why you need the right lifestyle during menopause
Once you're getting your building blocks and detox in place with the right diet, the wrong lifestyle can undo all the good work you've just done. Here's how:
- The right lifestyle includes stress management. If your stress level is too high, high levels of stress hormones in your blood are eating away at your progesterone levels and poking holes in your digestive function - where a lot of your hormones are made and regulated. Even with the right building blocks, you just can make enough of the hormones you need.
- The right lifestyle includes avoiding the worst hormone-disrupting chemicals. If you're adding hormone disruptors and xenoestrogens to your body daily, your body just can't keep up with detoxing estrogen and balancing your hormones - not with all the building blocks in the world.
Here's what the right menopause lifestyle includes
- Finding a regular stress management practice that you like, and finding a way to get in the habit of practicing it every day. One of my favorites is deep breathing
- Knowing how to avoid the worst hormone-disrupting chemicals in personal care products, cleaning products, and processed foods. A few of my top ingredients to avoid are trans fats, parabens, artificial fragrances (because they almost always include phthalates,) and artificial flavorings like MSG
Without the right lifestyle, you're going to get frustrated. Nothing will seem to work.
You can eat right, exercise, take lots of herbs - or even HRT (hormone-replacement-therapy) and STILL not be able to get your menopause symptoms under control.
Since lifestyle is the #2 thing you can do to feel well during menopause, helping women get on the right lifestlye for menopause is one of the things I love to do best.
So if "practicing stress management daily" or "knowing how to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals" sounds way to complicated...
I want to help you get started with that stress management in just minutes a day and make identifying (and finding fantastic substitutes for) those hormone-disruptors quick and easy.
If you're ready to get started, you can learn more about my Menopause Basics: Lifestyle online course by CLICKING HERE. (coming soon)
Or click one of these images for a quick, easy meditation you can start using today.
Lifestyle is #2 in your menopause plan
Your menopause plan needs to include
Lifestyle is so important because:
Your best menopause lifestyle includes:
Supplements are part 3 of your menopause plan
Here's why you need the right supplements during menopause
There are a certain micronutrients it's hard to get enough of in your diet during menopause. Your need for certain - kind of obscure & unusual - hormonal building blocks is going through the roof. To get enough of these somewhat unusual substances, you usually need to use supplements to get them.
There are two types of supplements to consider during menopause
- Basic supplements everyone needs that are hard to get enough of with diet alone
- Customized specialized supplements like herbs or hormones that help your body in the area where it has the most difficulty during menopause.
How do you know what supplements you need?
- Start with the basics of the right diet
- Add in the basics of the right lifestlye
- Make sure you're getting enough of the basic supplements in your diet or with basic supplement formulations
- Then and only then do I recommend adding in herbs or hormone replacement if you're still having symptoms of menopause or hormone imbalance
The best basic menopause supplements include
The truth is, supplement programs are best when they're customized for you by a professional, and when it comes to herbs or hormones, I definitely recommend getting customized recommendations.
However, there are certain basic supplements that it's important to get enough of during menopause - here are my top 3
(and please only use the highest quality supplements you can find - the inexpensive ones are what I call "expensive pee," because not much is actually absorbed into your body.)
- Vitamin D. You can find out if you need Vitamin D with a simple blood test. It's very important to have enough Vitamin D before, during, and after menopause. CLICK HERE to learn lots more about Vitamin D for women. (A good multivitamin will include Vitamin D and possibly minerals as well.)
- Healthy fats like Omega fish oils
- Minerals like magnesium, iodine, and calcium PLUS trace minerals like selenium and zinc
- Iodine from healthy amounts of kelp or other seaweeds
The best customized menopause supplements include
If you're doing everything we've already talked about and you're still having symptoms of hormonal imbalance, you're now set up for getting fantastic results with herbs.
I'm a huge fan of Chinese Herbs for women's health - especially during the entire menopausal transition. And when they're used together with the right diet and lifestyle, the results are usually fantastic. This is also when you can use HRT with the best results and the least side effects if that is your choice.
However, it's important your herbs are sourced carefully and that they're customized for your hormones.
I recommend you find an herbalist you can work with and trust.
In my quest to help as many women as possible, I've developed a program that allows me to help women anywhere in the U.S. get on a customized program of Chinese Herbs for women's health and, if desired, the highest quality supplements available. If you're interested in learning more about working with me on an herbal program, CLICK HERE (coming soon.)
Supplements are #3 in your menopause plan
Your menopause plan needs to include
Supplements are so important because:
Your best BASIC menopause supplements include:
Your best CUSTOMIZED menopause supplements include:
Want to know more about the most important supplements for menopause? You'll find it in these videos:
What's the best way to stay healthy and feel great post menopause?
What's going on with your hormones after menopause?
- Is your body still making hormones after menopause?
- YES, and by helping your body to make more - to keep your post menopausal hormone levels as high as possible naturally - you can avoid many of the health problems usually associated with aging
- Do you need to worry about balancing your hormones after menopause?
- YES, it's harder for your body to make hormones after menopause, as your ovaries mostly shut down. However, with the right strategies you can easily increase and optimize your post menopausal hormone levels
What this means is:
Why it's important to help your body make more hormones post menopause
Chinese medicine view - menopause shouldn't happen too young and why
The best way to optimize your hormones post menopause is:
- Help your body make more female hormones. The diet, lifestlye, and supplements rich in listed above along with customized herbs are the best way to do this. Diet + Lifestyle + Hormones is also an option.
- Stress management is more important that ever, your body simply cannot make female hormones post menopause if you're too stressed - here's why:
- Your ovaries have been making your female hormones for you your whole life. After menopause your ovaries mostly shut down, and your adrenal glands step in and start making these hormones for you - in smaller amounts.
- However, the adrenal glands also make stress hormones, and they can only make one at a time. So if you're stressed too often - your adrenals can't switch over and make female hormones for you.
- Your hormone levels are more delicate now - so avoiding hormone disruptors is even more important
After menopause your hormones - ideally - will return to approximately the same levels they were at before you hit puberty - so your 10 or 11 year old levels.
However, if you’re not in good health and your body is not making hormone optimally - they can go much lower than that - almost to zero.
There are huge advantages to keeping those hormones levels as high as possible - which will max out at about those levels equivalent to what they were when you were 10.
Advantages of keeping those hormone levels on the higher side naturally:
- stronger bones
- a healthier heart & cardiovascular system
- plumper skin and better muscle tone
- more energy
- a higher libido
- better vaginal lubrication
- a healthy weight and metabolism
How to stay healthy post menopause:
Want to know more about the most important supplements for menopause? You'll find it in these videos:
What to do now:
How to put together your start-to-finish menopausal plan
You three-part menopausal plan will make sure that your body is
- Keeping blood sugar and insulin levels healthy
- Keeping stress hormone levels healthy
- Building, detoxing, and balancing hormones efficiently
Because these three things are what keep you feeling great during and after menopause. Here's how you do it:
- Start with diet. I can help you include in your diet each day the most important foods for your hormones in the quickest, simplest way possible. This is step 1.
- Start with my free download and free online class. By the time you’re done with these you’ll understand the menopause diet. CLICK HERE to get started now
- Once your work through those, if you want help implementing this more quickly and easily - or want to fully optimize your diet - you’ll know if my online course Menopause Basics : What to Eat is right for you.
- Get the most essential lifestyle factors in place… Every Day. Practice meditation (or any type of stress management,) and avoid the worst hormone-disrupting chemicals in your personal care and cleaning products and in your food.
- Check out my online course Menopause Basics: Lifestyle (coming soon) that will help you start - and maintain - your meditation practice so much more easily than you imagine is possible. It will also make avoiding the worst hormone-disrupting chemicals quick and easy with complete lists, guides, and detailed information on where to find the best alternatives fast.
- Add the most essential supplements
- Check with your doc to make sure my essential supplements - Magnesium, Vitamin D, Iodine, and healthy fats like fish oil are right for you
- Consider working with an herbalist to get the incredible power of Chinese Herbalism working for you. If you're in the U.S. you can check out the program I've created to get women customized herbal programs for hormonal support and radiant aging. (Coming soon.)
Your 3-part menopausal plan
I've given you details on how to get started with each of these three parts to your plan. Let me know below in the comments if you have questions!
I hope you've enjoyed this Ultimate Guide to Menopause. This article is always growing and changing, so please put your questions and comments - or share your story - in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
- In Peace & Wellness, Dana LaVoie, LAc
Learn how to create a 3-part plan for feeling great during & after menopause in The Ultimate Guide To Menopause - on the blog now!
Find out what exactly menopause is - and the 3 things you need to do to stay feeling great during and afterwards - The Ultimate Guide To Menopause is on the blog now!
The right diet is FOUNDATIONAL for balancing hormones and getting relief during & after menopause.
In fact, the right diet is the most important thing you can do for all your hormonal symptoms and your hormonal health.
Get started, in the easiest way possible, with the right diet for peri-menopause, menopause, and post menopause in this FREE download - the Menopausal Woman's Roadmap...
The Roadmap is filled with information that will get you started, and it's followed up by my best free resources via email including an invitation to an hour-long Online Masterclass on the same topic (also FREE via this special invite!)
Just click the pink button below to get started now.
Watch one of my favorite short guided meditations for menopause and hormonal balance. It's free - CLICK HERE to watch now.
Hi, I'm Dana, an Acupuncturist, Herbalist, & founder of Menopause Basics.
For 15 years I've been helping women use effective natural remedies to get relief from menopause symptoms and feel great afterwards. It's my passion!
My secret? Start with including the right foods in your diet. Get the building blocks your body needs to balance hormones and keep you healthy. Every other menopausal remedy works better with this foundation in place.
Here's what it takes: It's not a diet.. CLICK HERE to learn what to eat every day to supply your body with the building blocks it needs for healthy hormones & anti-aging in my FREE guide.