Menopause is defined as permanent cessation of menses for 12 months due to declining ovarian function. Most women experience some symptoms as menopause approaches, and many symptoms can persist for years after menses cease. The most common symptoms called as vasomotor symptoms are usually associated with night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes. Women also experience vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness. Other common signs and symptoms in peri/postmenopausal women include memory problems, mood swings, weight gain, disturbed sleep and low libido. In addition, postmenopausal women have an increased risk for bone loss, and cardiovascular diseases as the protective effects of estrogen are diminished.

Menopause is an inevitable part of being a woman and should be treated as such. Instead of taking it as a beginning of the end, a woman must understand the changes taking place inside her body and prepare herself physically, emotionally and mentally for this major transition of her life. Many symptoms can be totally avoided and some alleviated with proper care and understanding of the physiology of change.

The role of the adrenal glands in menopause

The foremost is to understand the hormonal changes happening in the body. Before menopause, the sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are primarily produced by the ovaries. Waning ovarian function for several years preceding the cessation of menses causes estrogen to fluctuate significantly leading to menopausal symptoms. After menopause, the adrenal glands take over the function of producing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone though in reduced quantities. The better the adrenal gland functions the better is the transition with minimal symptoms. But if the adrenal glands are worn out in the production of stress hormones like cortisol, it may not have the bandwidth to keep up with the demand for sex hormone. Besides reducing the production of sex hormones, high cortisol levels cause bone loss and increase in body’s core temperature. Once the core temperature rises above the thermoneutral zone, hot flashes can be triggered as a way to get rid of excess heat. Therefore, the health of adrenal glands is vital for a smooth transition. It is also important to minimise chronic stress for adrenal glands to function at optimal level.

Other ways to prepare for menopause include eating right, exercising, meditating and taking the support of naturopathy and Ayurveda. By doing so you can prepare your body for menopause and avoid the hormonal roller coaster as well as a stack of medical bills.

Diet

Include Phytoestrogens

During menopause, your body produces less estrogen creating a hormonal imbalance and resulting in hot flushes and night sweats. Phytoestrogens are found in plant foods that help you maintain the hormonal balance. According to research, phytoestrogens help in combating menopausal symptoms as well as prevent osteoporosis, cancer and heart diseases. Soybeans, alfalfa sprouts, chickpea, lentils, and flaxseed are some of the most important sources of phytoestrogens.

Go for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

 The anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids help prevent coronary heart diseases, relieve joint pain and inflammation and help build stronger bones. As menopausal women are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis and heart diseases, it is recommended that they include these essential fatty acids in their diet. Oily fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel and vegetarian options like spinach, flaxseeds, and walnuts are considered to be good dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Increase Fibre Intake

 Aim at getting at least 21 gm of fiber every day. This means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. One of the most common symptoms of menopause is weight gain and a fiber-rich diet helps manage that. It also lowers your cholesterol and prevents constipation.

Calcium and Vitamin D

 Taking care of your bones have to be one of the top priorities as you age. Women who have given birth, already have weaker bones and as they approach menopause, they experience bone loss leading to osteoporosis. So, include calcium-rich foods like yogurt, low-fat milk, black sesame seeds and dark leafy vegetables like kale in your diet to prevent bone deterioration. Soak in the sunshine and also, supplement your diet with food rich in Vitamin K2 like dairy, kale, broccoli, cabbage as Vitamin K 2 boost the calcium absorption.

Plenty of Fluids

You can single-handedly tackle most of your menopausal symptoms simply by drinking enough water and staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water not only helps alleviate constipation and joint pain but also helps with headaches, hot flashes, night sweats and fatigue. So start your day with a warm glass of water and keep drinking at regular intervals to keep yourself hydrated.

Exercise

Including exercise in your daily routine becomes even more important as you hit your 40s. Not only does it help build muscle mass but also improves your bone density. Experts recommend two types of exercises for women nearing menopause. One is weightlifting and working your arms, legs, and torso to improve your bone health and the other is to go for resistance building exercises like walking, cycling, climbing stairs or aerobics. Always consult your physician before starting any exercise regimen to know how much your body can take on a given day or week.

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Yoga and meditation for menopause

Heal with Ayurveda

Ayurveda has a detailed protocol for menopause. Since menopause leads to reduced hormones, the body’s ability to maintain balance even within the same environment and with the same stressors reduces. Ayurveda aims to bring this balance back through food, medicines, therapeutic massages, Shirodhara, and Rasayana. The key to managing your menopausal symptoms according to Ayurveda is through balancing your Vata Dosha. Ayurveda recommends that you cut down on sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake and start your day with a warm glass of water with a few drops of lemon juice. Pomegranate juice and peppermint tea are also known to be cooling drinks and are highly recommended. Shatavari Rasayana is also recommended for rejuvenation. You also need to regulate the portions you eat every day as you age. It is recommended you eat till you are almost full, but not completely.

Get Sound Sleep 

You also need to get enough sleep to help your body build muscles. A full night’s sleep becomes very important as you age to enable the body to build cells and restore your energy levels.In case you are getting disturbed sleep you can look for Ayurvedic concoctions that help in pacifying your nerves. Also pay heed to your body, when you feel tired, stop and let your body get the required rest. As you approach menopause it becomes very important to take little breaks as your body takes longer to recover and replenish itself.

Yoga and Meditation

Practicing yoga and meditation helps in making you feel rested and energized and helps to balance sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Meditation not only helps to reduce stress hormones but also optimize the functioning of adrenal glands. As you enter menopause, your body transitions from Pitta Kala stage (productive and creative) to the Vata Kala stage. During menopause, while the Pitta dosha remains, the Vata dosha enters the body which causes an imbalance and the woman suffers from menopausal symptoms. So, it is important to manage both the doshas and that can be done through a few yoga asanas. Some of the pranayama and asanas beneficial for perimenopausal and menopausal women are Kapalbhati, Sheetali pranayama, Tada-asana, Hast-Padana, Kona-asana, Trikonasana, Vrikshasana, Padmasana, Yogmudra, badhakonasana, Shavasana, Pawanmuktasana

Herbs and Oils

The ancient Indian system of medicine has solutions for many health problems and menopause is no different. To help with hot flashes, depression and mood swings, simply turn to Ayurveda. Some of the most important herbs to help with menopausal symptoms are Black Cohosh, wild yams, ginseng and red clovers. Essential oils like clary sage oil, thyme oil and sandalwood oil help in balancing the hormonal fluctuations in your body.
However, as with any medicine, consult a licensed Ayurvedic practitioner to know how to prepare your body and mind for menopause and what medicines to take.  If you prepare for menopause by eating right, exercising, meditating and getting enough rest you will sail through this transitional phase smoothly, without a worry.



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