These common-sense strategies help ANYONE, at ANY AGE, achieve BETTER health
The New York Times says we’re in the middle of a huge “cultural shift,” where more and more women are willing to talk about the once-taboo topic of menopause.
Indeed, famous public figures like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Maria Shriver, and Gwyneth Paltrow have been openly sharing their experiences. They’re also demanding more solutions.1
And I—for one—am here for it.
After all, menopause is a HUGE biological transition that HALF the humans on the entire planet experience.
But it’s been a terribly neglected area of health for far too long. And most doctors still don’t have a clue about how to help…
Even the so-called “specialists” in women’s health—gynecologists and obstetricians—only get about one to two hours of instruction on menopause care in their entire EIGHT YEARS of medical school and training!
Plus—since we now know that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke—these ill-informed doctors lost the one “solution” in their tool kit.
The good news is… there are plenty of proven steps women can take to effectively tamp down hot flashes, keep their weight in check, and boost their sex drive without resorting to HRT. And I’ll tell you all about them in a moment.
But first, let’s back up to talk more about what actually happens to a woman’s body in the years leading up to—and during—menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause refers to the point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. It occurs when her body has stopped producing eggs—and it marks the end of her natural fertility.
In the U.S., the average age a woman enters menopause is 51. (Though, it can also be triggered earlier by chemotherapy, radiation, or the surgical removal of ovaries.)
Of course, many women begin to exhibit the physical signs of declining estrogen and progesterone in the years leading up to menopause.
During this time, often called perimenopause, women may start noticing some classic, well-known symptoms—such as changes in their monthly cycles (including more or less bleeding; longer or shorter cycles) and hot flashes.2,3
But, even in perimenopause, women can experience a host of lesser-known symptoms, such as:
- Heart palpitations • Urinary tract infections
- Incontinence • Anxiety
- Depression • Insomnia
- Pain during sex • Diminished sex drive
- Memory problems • Stiff joints
- Headaches • Fatigue
- Thinning Hair • Osteoporosis (thinning bones)
- Dry skin
Women also undergo serious metabolic changes during the transition between perimenopause and menopause.
In fact, in a new study, researchers followed more than 1,000 women in years leading up to—and following—menopause. They also assessed the women’s dietary habits, sleep habits, physical activity, body composition, and blood sugar.4
It turns out, compared to pre-menopausal women, post-menopausal women had:
- Forty-two percent higher post-meal blood
- Higher levels of inflammation
- Poorer sleep
- Higher body mass indexes (BMIs)
The researchers concluded that hormonal changes, such as declining estrogen, clearly play a part in these worsening measures. However, here’s the kicker…
The women also began consuming much more sugar as they got older. So, researchers think this worsening dietary habit must also play a role in their deteriorating health.
And I, of course, agree! After all, if you start consuming more sugar at any age, you’re going to gain weight, see spikes in your blood sugar and inflammation levels, and experience sleep changes.
Not to mention, weight gain in older women only compounds their problems…
In one study, researchers found that obese women had more severe hot flashes compared to their peers, particularly as they got closer to menopause. 5 They also had a higher severity of joint and muscle pain—as well as more intense urinary problems.
Moreover, these severe symptoms caused the women to stop certain physical activities and become less efficient at work.
This is why following a proper diet during menopause is absolutely critical…
A dietary “prescription” for health
The fact is, everyone can benefit from following a Mediterranean-style diet that’s rich in fresh veggies, nuts, meat, seafood, and healthy oils.
For one, it provides lots of important nutrients. And it’s naturally low in sugar and processed foods. It also lowers the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes in both men and women at any age.
Plus, for women going through menopause, the diet is often considered an absolute godsend.
In one recent study, researchers found that following a Mediterranean diet helped menopausal women control their weight, reduce their symptoms, and lower their disease risk. They said it works so well it’s even, “comparable with pharmacological interventions,” such as HRT.6
Following a Mediterranean-style diet also helps women avoid osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass, two more common effects of declining estrogen.7
For an extra kick, women in their 40s and 50s may also want to consider the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). This is an increasingly popular eating pattern, where you limit your food intake to certain times of day or certain days of the week.
Granted, there was some concern years ago that following this type of eating pattern would be harmful to women in menopause. But research now supports my stance that it’s highly beneficial!
In fact, researchers with the University of Illinois Chicago followed a group of pre- and post-menopausal women on an IF diet where they limited their eating window to four or six hours per day.8
It turns out, the women who followed this diet for just eight weeks:
- Lost 3 to 4 percent of their weight
- Lowered their insulin resistance
- Lowered their biomarkers of oxidative stress
- Lowered their levels of DHEA, a hormone linked to breast cancer
Walk (or run!) for better health
Like following a good diet, getting regular exercise can also benefit literally everyone at each life stage. It’s about as close as we can get to a “magic bullet” for health. And it’s especially important for women going through menopause…9
In fact, Finnish researchers recently looked at the effect of exercise on a large group of middle-aged women. They defined “physically active” women as those who got 2.5 hours per week of moderate activity (like fast-paced walking) or an hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous activity (such as jogging or running). The physically active women also did strength or balance training at least twice a week.
It turns out, the physically active women reported better self-perceived health and overall quality of life compared to their peers.
On the other hand, the less active women were more likely to suffer from disruptive menopausal symptoms—like hot flashes and night sweats. They were also more likely to experience other health problems—such as anxiety, depression, memory problems, and body aches and pains.
Plus, other research shows that exercise IMPROVES a woman’s fat-burning ability, even after menopause! And I can certainly vouch for those results, as I’ve seen similar ones in my own patients.
Before I go, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve that can help ease a woman’s transition into menopause…
Science-backed, superstar supplements
Emerging science shows that Pycnogenol®, one of my all-time-favorite supplements, also helps ease menopause symptoms.10
As you may know, it’s an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree that grows in southwestern France.
And study after study shows that it works as a powerful antioxidant—protecting your heart health, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, improving skin tone, and even boosting mental performance, alertness, and mood.
So, I’m not surprised it also helps with menopause!
In one notable study, a group of women took 100 mg of Pycnogenol® daily for eight weeks. Another group of women served as a control and took nothing.
The researchers also evaluated both groups of women for 33 common signs and symptoms of menopause before the start of the study and at its conclusion.
As I expected, the Pycnogenol® group experienced a decrease in many of the most common symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and irregular periods. They also experienced an improvement in libido and vaginal dryness—which is good news for women concerned about waning sexuality as they get older!
The control group, on the other hand, had none of these improvements.
The Pycnogenol® group also had significant relief from some lesser-known menopausal symptoms, including fatigue, sleeping disorders, concentration and memory problems, dizziness, depression, and irritability.
And last but certainly not least, they showed less damaging oxidative stress after four and six weeks. (Here again, there were no changes in the control group.)
The researchers said the improvements experienced by the Pycnogenol® group may be due to its effects on decreasing oxidative effects.
After all, as I mentioned earlier, this supplement is a powerful antioxidant. And it’s known to support healthy blood flow in the small blood vessels and capillaries throughout the body.
I generally recommend 100 mg a day for women going through menopause or perimenopause. Or to anyone looking to get healthy support of their heart, metabolism, and mood!
Black cohosh is another great, science-backed supplement to try for menopause. It’s an herb with reams of research showing it has a powerful and fast-acting effect on agonizing hot flashes.11
In one study, researchers found that menopausal women who took black cohosh once a day had significant
reductions in both the number of hot flashes and their severity. Plus, the improvement occurred quickly—within just four weeks of first taking the herb.
I recommend 40 mg of black cohosh daily. (You can safely combine it with Pycnogenol®.)
The last natural approach I’d like to discuss is cannabinoid (CBD) oil.
Yes, it derives from the hemp part of the marijuana plant. But, unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana’s other main component, CBD won’t get you “high.”
It does, however, direct your body to use more of its own natural cannabinoids. These are biological compounds your own body produces, which influence various aspects of our health, including:
- Immune function
Plus, a 2022 study found that feeding CBD to estrogen-deprived mice showed marked improvement in their glucose levels, metabolism, bone density, and gut health.12
Granted, this study involved mice. And you know how I feel about animal studies. But these results still offer an interesting and compelling perspective on how CBD may help improve menopausal symptoms in women.
We also know that CBD has strong antitumor potential.13 And researchers have even tested the effect of CBD on breast cancer cells in vitro (in test tubes).
It turns out, when applied in combination with tamoxifen, a standard endocrine therapy drug for breast cancer, CBD decreased the viability of all breast cancer lines in a dose-dependent manner. (In other words, the more CBD applied, the more it inhibited the growth of the breast cancer lines.)
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, CBD can help thwart many of the psychological symptoms often associated with breast cancer.
While lots of research points to the safety and efficacy of CBD for breast cancer survivors, as always, make sure you consult with your own personal physician before making it a regular part of your regimen.
In the end, I find this research on menopause incredibly exciting. Because it means women going through it aren’t doomed to a losing the battle against weight gain, fatigue, hot flashes, and flagging sexuality.
In fact, they can avoid the very worst of menopause by getting serious about their diet, exercising regularly, and adding a few science-backed supplements to their regimen.
As an added bonus, these common-sense strategies can help anyone achieve better health—well into their golden years, and beyond!
- “Welcome to the Menopause Gold Rush.” The New York Times, 12/20/22. (nytimes.com/2022/12/20/style/menopause-womens-health-goop.html)
- “What is Menopause?” National Institute on Aging, accessed 1/8/23. (nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause#:~:text=Menopause%20is%20a%20point%20in,between%20ages%2045%20and%2055.)
- “Menopause.” The Mayo Clinic, accessed 1/8/23. (mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397)
- “Menopause is associated with postprandial metabolism, metabolic health and lifestyle: The ZOE PREDICT study.” Lancet, 10/18/22; 85(104303). doi.org/10.1016.j.ebiom.2022.104303
- “Obesity can lead to more severe hot flashes and other menopause symptoms: Study confirms that a higher body mass index is related to a higher prevalence of certain menopause symptoms.” ScienceDaily, 5/31/17. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170531084443.htm)
- “Mediterranean diet as medical prescription in menopausal women with obesity: a practical guide for nutritionists.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(7):1201-1211. doi.org/ 10.1080/10408398.2020.1755220.
- “Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause.” ScienceDaily, 3/18/18. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180318144826.htm)
- “How intermittent fasting affects female hormones: New evidence comes from study of pre- and post-menopausal obese women on the ‘warrior diet.'” ScienceDaily. 10/25/22. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221025150257.htm)
- Physical activity and menopause-related quality of life – A population-based cross-sectional study.” Maturitas2015; 80(1):69-74. doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.09.009
- “Supplementation with Pycnogenol® improves signs and symptoms of menopausal transition.” Panminerva Med. 2011 Sep;53(3 Suppl 1):65-70. PMID: 22108479.”
- “Effect of black cohosh (cimicifuga racemose) on vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women: a randomized clinical trial.” J Caring Sci. 2013 Jun 1;2(2):105-13. doi.org/10.5681/jcs.2013.013
- “CBD Shows Health Benefits in Estrogen-Deficient Mice That Model Postmenopause.” Rutgers Today, accessed 1/17/22. (rutgers.edu/news/cbd-shows-health-benefits-estrogen-deficient-mice-model-postmenopause)
- “Effect of combining CBD with standard breast cancer therapeutics.” Advances in Cancer Biology – Metastasis, 2022; 44(100038): ISSN 2667-3940, doi.org/10.1016/j.adcanc.2022.100038.