Menopause Symptoms

A woman is considered to be postmenopausal after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. In the United States, the average age at menopause is 51.5. About 20 percent of women escape symptom-free, whereas 20 percent at the other end of the spectrum face severe symptoms from the accompanying hormonal changes. Hot flashes and night sweats typically last about five to seven years but may exceed a decade in 10 to 15 percent of individuals.


The Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

By the 1990s, up to 40 percent of menopausal women in the United States were on hormone replacement therapy drugs, raking in billions of dollars a year for the pharmaceutical industry. But then the revelations of the Women’s Health Initiative and the Million Women Study were published, indicating elevated risk for breast cancer, blood clots, and endometrial cancer. The use of menopausal hormone therapy plummeted by 80 percent, along with a subsequent sharp and significant reduction in breast cancer rates.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, echoing other authorities, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Geriatrics Society, and American Heart Association, now recommends against the use of hormone therapy for the prevention of chronic conditions in postmenopausal women with or without a uterus. (Note that the guidance is separate from hormone therapy for the treatment of severe menopausal symptoms.)


Diet for Treating Menopause Symptoms

Those eating strictly plant-based diets report significantly fewer bothersome symptoms around menopause. This included the vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, as well as other physical symptoms of menopause, like muscle and joint aches, fatigue, sleep difficulties, reduced strength and stamina, lethargy, skin changes, weight gain, facial hair, bloating, and urinary frequency or incontinence. Researchers conclude: “Eating a plant-based diet may be helpful for women in menopausal transition who prefer a natural means to manage their symptoms.”

Fruits, vegetables, soy, and plant-based omega-3-rich foods, such as flaxseeds, correlated with lesser symptom severity, whereas meat, dairy, and fish-based omega-3s were associated with more severe menopausal symptoms. In general, those eating higher-quality diets, including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, tend to suffer less from vasomotor, physical, and psychological symptoms. On the other hand, diets high in processed foods, sweets, meats, and saturated fat were linked to more severe symptoms.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: Devonyu / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.

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