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.
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What if menopause wasn't confusing, scary, frustrating, or even uncomfortable?
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 seem to control.
These symptoms can take over their body, their mind, their life, and sometimes their relationships.
What's the difference??
My passion and my work are about showing you what Chinese Medicine has known for thousands of years about getting through menopause with little or no symptoms.
In ways that are easy to understand and simple to use.
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.
This article is divided into 5 sections:
- 1What is menopause, when does it happen, and why does it happen?
- 2What are the symptoms of each stage of the menopausal transition?
- 3What is the best way to prepare for menopause?
- 4What needs to be in your plan to control menopausal discomfort?
- 5What can you do you need to know about your hormones AFTER menopause?
Here are the 5 best ways to find what you need in this article (because it's pretty long!)
If you're just curious about menopause but not dealing with it directly
Feel free the skim through the article and learn whatever you like
If you're suffering and want relief from menopause right now
- You don't need the science & theory behind why this is happening...
- Jump right to the sections on what to DO to help control menopause & get relief
If you're past menopause and want to know how to stay healthy (& feel great)
Skip to the section on what to do post menopause
If you're a healthcare professional, OR, you just want to geek out, dive deep, and learn more about one section
Dive deeper into any section by following the video links in the gray boxes
AND PLEASE NOTE:
Nothing in this article is meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. And be sure to check with your healthcare practitioner before trying anything new.
LET'S GET STARTED:
What is menopause? When does it happen, and why does it happen?
What is menopause
The menopausal transition is a change in your hormone levels, especially estrogen and progesterone, that leads 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 peri-menopause. During peri-menopause your sex hormone levels steadily decline, you may experience signs of peri-menopause like night sweats, and your periods 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 the possible discomforts of menopause like hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings, and insomnia 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 discomfort you had will subside, and you can experience great health with strong bones, a healthy metabolism and a great libido.
If you’re not in optimal health, your hormone levels may go much lower than this, which can lead to lingering discomfort.
When does the menopausal transition start?
The first phase of menopausal changes is peri-menopause, and it starts when your hormone levels start to decline from their highest levels when you were most fertile.
The average age for peri-menopause to start is sometime in your late 30s, but it can start as early as your late 20s 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's progression. It’s the beginning of a new cycle or phase of your life (an awesome one!)
If you’re healthy it can happen naturally and easily with minimal discomfort.
Menopause can also be caused earlier by certain medical conditions, surgeries, or medications. When this happens, instead of a natural menopause you experience what is called a surgical menopause or a chemical menopause.
What are the "symptoms" or discomforts of menopause?
Some women experience all the discomforts of menopause, some experience none (or almost none.)
What we call menopause is actually a transition that covers many years, and I've broken the typical discomforts you might experience into three phases:
Peri-menopause: The first, early stage
Around the moment of menopause: The middle stage - a year or so on either side of the moment of menopause
Post-Menopause: All the years after menopause once your hormones have settled down & stabilized.
Typical discomforts of peri-menopause
Irregular menstrual cycle
Changes in menstrual bleeding
Insomnia and night sweats (especially during PMS)
Vaginal and bladder issues
A decrease in libido or sexual function
What to watch out for during peri-menopause
You should feel pretty good during peri-menopause.
If you experience any of the above symptoms that are more than mild, I recommend taking steps or seeking help with balancing your hormones naturally.
By balancing your hormones naturally, not only can you get symptomatic relief, you can experience better health and healthier aging.
The most urgent symptoms women experience during peri-menopause 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 are normal during peri-menopause, but be sure to be monitored by a medical professional if your bleeding becomes too heavy or lasts for too long or both, as some women can become weak due to blood loss.
Typical symptoms around the moment of menopause
(this is when you're right in the thick of it - and probably having your most intense discomfort)
All the symptoms of earlier peri-menopause 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 post-menopause 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
Summary: 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 can also improve your health!
Recap: The possible discomforts of menopause
But remember... If you do this the right way, you might not have these discomforts or many signs of aging at all!
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
- Your body's ability to balance your hormones
- Your blood sugar
- And your stress level
Before things start to change during peri-menopause...
Can help determine whether you’re one of the women who has lots of discomfort or almost no discomfort during the menopausal transition.
How to do this optimization 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. Help your body to detoxify well. This means if you get too much of one hormone, like estrogen, your body can recognize it and detox it out of your body quickly and easily.
Perimenopausal symptoms can be caused by too little progesterone in relation to too much estrogen.
- So if your body is able to make more progesterone and get rid of extra estrogen as needed, you'll often avoid much of the discomfort of early perimenopause.
3. Certain healthy habits allow your body to balance hormones during menopause MUCH more efficiently - which can reduce menopausal dicomfort 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 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 easier 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 combines 3 key strategies
- 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 best for my clients.
You want 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
- Chinese herbs, when used correctly, are a safe, wonderful addition. Total game-changers in my practice. I had a client recently who was having a lot of irritability every time she had a hot flash.
I had a client recently who was having a lot of irritability every time she had a hot flash, and she was snapping at her kids. I gave her an herbal formula, and two weeks later she said to me...
"Dana, whatever was in those Chinese herb pills you gave me - they worked! My family thanks you."
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. In Chinese medicine these building blocks are for making Yin, Blood, Qi, and Yang, which relate to your hormones.
- Making sure to include 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. In Chinese medicine this relates to heat, damp, & toxins.
- Including enough veggies, water, and foods that keep your liver functioning well in your diet are necessary to help detox to happen freely
- The right diet will keep your blood sugar and blood sugar hormones balanced, which is key for helping to reduce menopausal discomfort 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 can 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 learn more about my favorite diet for menopause, get started with my hormone-balancing smoothie recipe & other diet tips. Just CLICK HERE to get started (it's FREE.)
Diet is #1 in your menopause plan
Your want your menopause relief plan 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 hormone-balancing smoothie recipe & menopause diet tips!
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 nutrients 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. In Chinese medicine stress, known as Liver Qi Stagnation, can worsen peri-menopausal and menopausal discomfort. (And Post menopause - is the MOST important time to manage stress!)
- It translates to this: If your stress level is too high, high levels of stress hormones in your blood are eating away at your progesterone levels and reducing your digestive function - where a lot of your hormones are made and regulated. Even with the right building blocks, it's hard to make enough of the hormones you need.
- The right lifestyle includes avoiding the worst possibly 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. In Chinese medicine this relates to damp, phlegm, and toxins!
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 potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals in personal care products, cleaning products, and packaged & processed foods. A few of my top ingredients to avoid are BPA, trans fats, parabens, and artificial fragrances (because they almost always include phthalates.)
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 use 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 lifestyle 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.
<-- 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:
Herbs & 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 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
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 even better.
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 or use my online program "How To Use Chinese Herbs During & After Menopause" to learn to choose & source Chinese herbs for every stage of the menopausal transition. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Herbs are #3 in your menopause plan
Your want your menopause plan to include
Herbs & supplements can be so important because:
Your best BASIC menopause supplements include:
Your best Chinese herbs include
A note about HRT (hormone-replacement therapy.) If this is your choice, I recommend using it only with the help of an experienced professional and with the the right lab testing - and only after getting the right diet & lifestyle in place. I find this is likely to get you the best results with the least side effects.
To learn more about using Chinese Herbs during & after menopause - click here.
Want to know more about the most important basic supplements for menopause? You'll find it in these videos:
What do you need to know about your hormones after 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:
It's important to help your body make more hormones post menopause
In terms of Chinese medicine this help you feel younger for longer.
The best way to optimize your hormones post menopause is:
- Help your body make more female hormones. The diet, lifestyle, and supplements listed above along with customized herbs are the best way to do this.
- Stress management is more important than 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.
- 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 taking care of your hormones after 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.
- 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.
- Add some herbs
- 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 find the right herbs - or CLICK HERE learn more about by online program How To Use Chinese Herbs During & After Menopause.
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 the comments below
CLICK HERE to learn more about me & my Chinese Medicine practice.
- 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!
Watch one of my favorite short guided meditations for menopause and hormonal balance. It's free - CLICK HERE to watch now.