fbpx

Managing Menopause Part 5: Answering Your Top 5 Questions Print

Dietitians answer your questions about menopause 

 

Written by Teagan Evans, University of Alberta Student in the Nutrition and Food Sciences program and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team 

Three women holding mugs sit on a couch having a discussion

Welcome back to Managing Menopause! In Part 1: What is It? and Part 2: Estrogen & Your Health, we discussed the hormonal changes occurring during menopause and some of the associated long-term health effects. In Part 3: Foods for Menopause we looked at how different foods affect the symptoms of menopause and in Part 4: Vitamins & Minerals we examined what foods contain the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs during menopause. In this, the conclusion to the Managing Menopause series, we share the top five questions we get from people experiencing menopause.  

 

 

What are some of the long-term health effects of menopause? 

 

 

If you have been following along with our previous blog posts, you will know that menopause involves changes to female hormone production. As estrogen levels decrease, the protective effect of estrogen in women is reduced and as a result menopausal women are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and weight gain.   

 

While these health effects can sound frightening, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats is a great way to reduce your risk of these conditions. As well, participating in physical activity and stress-reducing activities can help you become healthier.  

three mature women exercising outdoors and smiling

 

 

For a more detailed explanation of the long-term health effects of menopause, read Part 2 of Managing Menopause. 

 
 

What are some natural supplement options that can help manage menopausal symptoms? 

 

 

There are many natural, plant-based supplements that are documented as helping to manage menopausal symptoms. Here are 4 of the most popular supplements. It is important to note that many herbal supplements have not gone through rigorous scientific testing. You should always consult your doctor and / or Dietitian prior to buying or trying one of these supplements.

 

Black Cohosh 

 

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemose) is derived from a flowering plant and the roots are used to create a herbal supplement found in both liquid and pill forms. This supplement is used to help manage menopausal hot flashes but has mixed results on its effectiveness. Many women believe that oral consumption of Black Cohosh has helped reduce severity of hot flashes 
 

Scientific studies have not been able to determine a strong connection between the reduction of menopausal symptoms with the consumption of Black Cohosh. Part of this conclusion is based on the minimal understanding of the physiological mechanisms that occur once Black Cohosh is consumed. Ingestion of Black Cohosh has minimal health risks and the most common side effects are gastrointestinal upsets and rashes. However, Black Cohosh can cause harm to the liver in some individuals.  

 

Red Clover 

 

Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) is an herbal supplement that has been used to reduce the severity and incidence of hot flashes and risk of osteoporosis. Red Clover contains isoflavones which can have a similar structure to female estrogen. As a result, it is believed that Red Clover can reduce estrogen-associated menopausal symptoms because it can mimic the female hormone. Menopausal women are at risk for osteoporosis and Red Clover could decrease bone loss when consumed orally.  

 

Research studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of Red Clover on both menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. Study results have concluded Red Clover does not have a significant effect on hot flashes when compared to a placebo treatment. However, another study found that consumption of Red Clover positively benefited bone density. Side effects of Red Clover consumption are minimal but studies are still trying to determine the long-term effects of Red Clover on hormone-sensitive tissues 

three small bowls of colourful gel capsules on a white background
 

Evening Primrose Oil 

 

Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis) is often consumed to aid treatment of menopausal hot flashes. The belief behind the use of Evening Primrose Oil is that the herbal supplement contains a precursor to a compound called prostaglandin E – which can potentially reduce hot flashes.  

 

Evening Primrose Oil has been associated with significant side effects that include gastrointestinal upsets, blood clotting, inflammation, immune system disruptions, and seizures. Studies have found that there is no significant changes in menopausal hot flashes when patients consumed Evening Primrose Oil.  
 

Ginseng 

 

Ginseng (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius) is a popular herbal supplement that is often used for immune support and is now being studied for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Ginseng has been shown to aid menopausal insomnia and mood changes. With minimal side effects, ginseng is a relatively safe supplement and can be found in pill form.  

 

Ginseng has been studied more than the majority of other menopausal herbal supplements due to its popularity, but researchers have been unable to draw cohesive conclusions on the effectiveness against menopausal symptoms.  

 

What can I do to help my menopausal insomnia? 

  

a tired woman with dark curly hair lies in bed frowning at her clockInsomnia is a common menopausal symptom and is caused by decreased levels of estrogen. Estrogen influences nightly body temperature and structure of sleep cycles. When estrogen levels are inconsistent and decreasing, these regulatory systems are impacted and can lead to night sweats and an inability to remain asleep. Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome can also impact menopauseal insomnia. When sleep is negatively impacted, it can cause increased irritability, mood swings, and stress.  

 

Fortunately, there are many techniques that can help you reduce menopausal insomnia. Here are some activities and routines that can help you get a better night’s sleep.  

 

Exercise

 

Studies have shown that women who engaged in a regular exercise routine had lower incidences of menopausal insomnia. Exercise should include a variety of activities that incorporate both strength and cardiovascular training. Health Canada recommends completing 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  

 

Maintaining a bedtime routine  

 

There are many distractions that can impact your sleep and increase risk of insomnia. Reducing screen time and blue light activity 30 minutes prior to bed can help your brain relax and achieve a more restful sleep. Going to bed at the same time every night and taking time to relax prior to bedtime can help you stay asleep. 

 

Minimize caffeine and alcohol

 

Both caffeine and alcohol (even if small amounts) can negatively impact your sleep cycles and should be minimized or eliminated prior to bed. Caffeine can reduce drowsiness and harm your ability to fall asleep. While alcohol can feel as if it is helping you become sleepy and ready for bed, it interferes with your ability to have a high-quality sleep.  

You may also want to read our previous articles about sleep & food:  

 

 

Is it normal to have memory loss or cognitive changes during menopause? 

  

Memory changes are both a symptom of menopause and normal physiological aging. Menopausal women have recorded higher incidences of memory loss episodes that include but are not limited to forgetting tasks, numbers, and names. Estrogen levels may be related to the cognitive declines associated with menopausal women.  

 

Cognitive changes are a natural part of aging and memory loss during menopause can also originate from lack of sleep, aging, and increased stress. Studies have found engaging in yoga, meditation, mindfulness and other relaxation techniques can be beneficial for managing menopausal cognitive changes.  

 

How do I know if my menopausal symptoms are normal?  

 

Knowing the common signs and symptoms are menopause is important to having a better understanding of the changes your body is going through. Here are the most common menopause symptoms: 

 

a woman writes in a jounral by a sunny window

 

  • Hot flashes 
  • Night sweats 
  • Mood swings – particularly an increase in depressive mood 
  • Decreased libido  
  • Vaginal dryness 
  • Weight gain (often in abdominal section) 
  • Body composition changes  
  • Insomnia  

 

Keeping a menopause log can help you better understand your own menopause experience and be able to detect any changes that occur. Noting down menstrual cycles, symptoms, sleep records, and food/activities that both worsen and improve symptoms are great starting points.  

 

By documenting your menopause experience, you can learn how to manage symptoms more accurately and recognize changes. If you have specific questions about menopause or notice major symptom changes, it’s always best to contact your Doctor and work with a Registered Dietitian for nutrition related questions. 

 

  Read the previous Managing Menopause articles here: 

  

If you need nutrition for menopause support please reach out for help. Our Registered Dietitian team can assist you with your health and nutrition goals and help you to achieve your personal best weight (still eating foods you love). For more information please visit our personal nutrition counseling services by our Calgary Dietitian / Online Nutritionist team. 

 

Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice. 

 

As seen in

  •  

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This