Menopause is a phase of a woman’s life when her menstruation stops, typically around the age of 45-55 years. Menopause is said to occur when a woman hasn’t had her periods in 12 consecutive months and she can not get pregnant naturally. Perimenopause occurs several years before menopause. It is a time when your body is naturally transitioning towards menopause. Ovaries shrink during menopause due to which the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) stop getting produced over time and women stop getting their menstrual cycle. Menopause can occur at different ages for every woman depending on the hormones and other genetic factors.
Symptoms of menopause include mood swings, hot flashes, cravings, irritability, low energy levels or fatigue, irregular periods, breast soreness, headaches, bloating, joint pain, hair loss, disturbed sleep, weight gain, and anxiety. However, these vary in every case. If estrogen and progesterone hormones fall drastically, the aforementioned symptoms can worsen. Whereas if the levels of these hormones reduce gradually, in a natural manner, it is usually not concerning.
Tips for a smooth menopause:
Women should follow certain dietary and lifestyle tips in their day-to-day routine to reduce the symptoms of menopause. You can start your day with a soaked fig and a walnut. It will keep your energy levels up, control bloating, hot flashes, and cravings throughout the day. Never skip breakfast since it’s the first meal that keeps us active throughout the day. Missing breakfast can lead to low energy levels, irritability, mood swings, and acidity. You can opt for some small and easy meals such as fruit smoothies, sprouts, boiled chana chaat, peanut butter sandwich, and others if you don’t get enough time to cook in the morning. Do not follow any restrictive diets or fasting patterns as your body requires a nutritionally balanced diet for the hormones to function properly. Focus on a sustainable eating pattern that includes more local, seasonal and, traditional foods. One can also incorporate millets in lunch for atleast three-four days a week, as they are extremely rich in calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, B-vitamins and fibre.
The estrogen levels decline during menopause which can decrease muscle mass and bone strength. Hence, women going through menopause should eat more good-quality proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, and soya products. Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the frequency of hot flashes and the severity of night sweats during menopause. Include fatty fishes such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna, seeds like flax, chia, and hemp seeds, and walnuts to get some good fats in your diet. Another thing that can help reduce hot flashes would be phytoestrogens- plant-based estrogens that function like natural estrogen hormone. You can get them from foods like soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums, and green tea.
Devote atleast three hours a week to exercise which focusses on increasing your flexibility, stamina and strength. Ensure that you take a small nap of about 20-25 minutes during the afternoon and sleep before 11 pm to allow proper rest to your body for its optimum recovery. Practice breathing exercises and mindfulness, and start investing time in a hobby. It can be helpful to calm down anxiety and mood swings that commonly occur during this time. One should also avoid heavy layers of clothes so that it is easier to cool down the person in case a hot flash occurs. Avoid excessive intake of alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine, and cut down on the frequency of smoking as these can worsen hot flashes.
You can also prepare some healthy laddoos at home like rajgira/amaranth laddoo, aliv laddoo, and coconut laddoo. However, prepare these using organic jaggery/ dates/ figs/ prunes instead of regular white sugar. Consuming makhanas, sesame seeds, almonds, and spinach in the diet can reduce the risk of joint disorders, osteoporosis, and loss of bone density during menopause as these foods are rich in calcium. You can also have an aliv laddoo a day to regularise your periods or in case of absence of periods (amenorrhea). However, if your period cycle lasts for long (10-12 days), then you need to stop taking aliv laddoos after the fourth day of the period as it will help reduce excessive bleeding after this day of the cycle. Another option for women who face excessive mood changes is jaggery and coconut laddoos. Coconut laddoo will relax you and help manage the altering moods. Any one laddoo a day can be taken as a mid-meal snack depending on your needs. Do not consume it after meals or combine it with the main meals like breakfast, lunch, or dinner as it will unnecessarily add to the calories.