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Caring for Your Whole Self in Menopause

This post comes from our friends at Gennev, a team of board-certified OB/GYNs and health coaches (RDNs) who specialize in comprehensive telehealth care for perimenopause and menopause.

Perimenopause marks one of the most pivotal stages of a woman’s life. Not only does it signify the ending of your fertile years, but the changing hormones during peri and post-menopause result in a physiological and metabolic state which is different from your body in pre-menopause. As your hormones fluctuate, common menopause symptoms can crop up including hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods, interrupted sleep, mood swings and brain fog, changes in weight and vaginal health, and a loss of libido. Because symptoms may be subtle and come on gradually, you may not realize at first that they're all connected to hormone fluctuations associated with the menopause transition. Most women start seeing symptoms by their mid-40s, although they can be present as early as in your 30s. The average age for menopause (when you have gone 12 months without a period) is 51.

As estrogen decreases, it affects nearly every system in your body, from bones and muscles to your heart and brain. This is why symptoms of menopause are so widespread, and can impact women physically as well as mentally and emotionally. And as women achieve menopause, they lose the protective benefits of estrogen, and are more at risk for chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis.

Since the entirety of your health is at stake not only when you are experiencing symptoms, but also in the long term, it’s critical to take an integrated approach to caring for yourself in menopause. “Women need medical care and lifestyle adjustments to manage their menopause,” says Gennev's founder and CEO Jill Angelo. “There’s no one prescription pill that can do it all. There’s no one vitamin or behavior change that can do it all. It’s the two working together that make menopause symptoms manageable.”

What is integrated menopause care?

Integrated menopause care offers a whole woman approach to your health. It aims to deliver improved outcomes through the coordination of providers - your menopause care team. Women benefit from visiting with a menopause-trained physician who works with a menopause health coach. Health coaches, who are also registered dietitian nutritionists, leverage evidence-based protocols within a personalized treatment plan created specific to the patient’s health concerns. The plan often includes nutrition, movement, mindfulness, stress-relief tactics, and sleep practices. Since they are on the front line of your health, this care team may also identify indications that may require a referral to a specialist beyond their expertise (such as pelvic floor therapy, sleep specialists, mental health providers, and more). “Treating the whole person is the only way to improve a woman’s quality of life versus just band-aiding the symptoms,” says Angelo.

At Gennev, the medical team is comprised of board-certified OB/GYNs who are experienced in treating women in menopause. Lifestyle modifications are led by menopause health coaches (RDNs) and often leverage cognitive behavioral therapies when appropriate. Women begin their path to treatment by completing the Menopause Assessment quiz. It provides personal health insights about where you’re at in menopause and offers valuable information for your initial visit with a Gennev doctor.

Start Caring for Your Changing Body Today

Gennev Health Coaches lean on the following essentials as the foundation for promoting well-being and supporting women in menopause. While the elements may appear basic, these simple daily habits can provide every woman a sense of control at this stage of their lives.

Eat to support your changing nutritional needs. Your protein needs increase during peri and post-menopause. Getting sufficient protein from the foods you eat provides your body the building blocks to support muscle mass which naturally declines during this phase of life. Aim for 20-25g of protein with each meal. A recommended healthy eating style to follow to support your heart and brain is the Mediterranean Diet. It includes an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, nuts, lots of flavorful and beneficial herbs and spices, whole grains and an emphasis on fish, avocado and olive oil as main fat sources.

Drink more water. Blame it on decreasing estrogen for making it harder for your body to retain moisture at this stage of life. Staying hydrated will help boost your energy and help to counteract various menopause symptoms, from brain fog and headaches to achy joints and dry skin. Aim to consume about half of your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water a day.

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Keep moving. Whether you walk, run, dance, bike, or swim, movement is essential to a healthy body and mind. Daily exercise wards off anxiety and depression, reduces stress, helps with weight management, eases joint pain, keeps your brain sharp, supports a more restful night’s sleep, can help lower your risk of chronic disease, and overall can help you to feel better in your changing body.

Add resistance training or weight-bearing exercise to your routine. As you get older and estrogen declines, you lose muscle mass and strength. Strength training builds muscle and strength, which boosts your metabolism, protects your joints, strengthens your bones, and reduces your risk for diabetes and other diseases.

Prioritize sleep. When you don’t get adequate rest, you are susceptible to increased inflammation, lower immunity, increased stress, hunger, anxiety and disease. And while menopause brings with it many symptoms that make it harder to have a rest-filled night, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep:

  • Be active during the day
  • Decrease alcohol intake or avoid all together
  • Turn off screens at least 30-minutes before bedtime
  • Keep your bedroom cool
  • Establish a consistent wind down routine
  • Wake at the same time each morning

Be kind to yourself. Menopause is a natural process that your body goes through. Give yourself some grace throughout the transition, and find the things that work for your body’s changing needs. While the menopause experience is different for everyone, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to lean on your physicians, health coaches and community to give you the support you need to not only survive menopause, but to also thrive.

Most doctors, even gynecologists, receive little training in the post-reproductive years of a woman’s life, but it’s worth taking the time to find one with this expertise. All women will go through menopause, but only seven percent of them will get the help they need. Seeing a menopause specialist will ensure that you access qualified assistance that will make your menopause transition smoother, and set you up for long-term good health.

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