According to Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, swapping stories with other women who are experiencing the same symptoms can help you cope with weight gain, sleep problems, hot flashes, moodiness and lack of energy.
Yoga helps because it reduces stress, speculates Timothy McCall, MD, author of Yoga as Medicine. The ancient postures are known to kick-start the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation.
Identify and avoid your personal triggers such as smoking, spicy foods, hot foods or beverages, caffeine, and alcohol. And try to steer clear of diet pills, saunas, very hot showers, and emotional situations that cause intense stress or anxiety.
New research says that exercising consistently can shorten the time you experience menopausal symptoms. According to the first studies to follow a group of women for as long as their symptoms lasted, the researchers found that, on average, menopause-related annoyances persist over five years-and some women endure them for a decade or more. The good news is that you may have some control over the duration: "In our research, women who exercised four to six times a week had menopause symptoms for less time," says Nananda Col, MD, director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, in Portland.
A Baylor University study done with breast cancer survivors suggests that hypnosis can help reduce hot flashes-in most women. Twenty-six survivors who experienced severe hot flashes after being catapulted into menopause by their treatments underwent five sessions of hypnotherapy with a psychologist. Each session included relaxation exercises and suggestions for mental images that might make them feel cooler. At the end of five weeks, the women reported a 68 percent decrease in hot flashes, along with a reduction in anxiety and insomnia. Preliminary data suggests hypnosis works just as well for women experiencing natural menopause. The technique may reduce symptoms because it helps women manage stress, explains study author Gary Elkins, PhD.
Feel a hot flash coming on? Take off the blazer, and you’ll still suffer in style. Dress in layers; wear cotton, linen, or rayon, and avoid wool, synthetic clothes, and silk. Stick to open-necked shirts. Wear cotton nightclothes, get a bigger bed if you and your partner are on different "heat planets," and take a cool shower before bed.
Many women continue to try nonprescription remedies or natural solutions, such as soy foods and isoflavone supplements (from soy or red clover), black cohosh, vitamin E, and acupuncture. No data suggest these remedies are consistently effective, and some integrative medicine strategies are safer than others. Discuss your options with your doctor.
Ongoing studies suggest that focused deep breathing may help reduce the frequency of hot flashes by lowering core body temperature. Think of it as Lamaze for hot flashes: As you feel on coming, slow your breathing rate by half and take deep-belly breaths.