An endocrinologist shares the doctor-approved tricks that work.
Every woman knows that menopause is eventually in her future, but when your symptoms first appear, you may feel taken by surprise. While some women find it’s no big deal, others find the symptoms more uncomfortable and disruptive than they expected.
“Some of the first symptoms that women report are night sweats, hot flashes, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and sometimes pain during sexual activity and vaginal dryness,” says Sonal Chaudhry, MD, endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health.
While you can’t completely avoid perimenopause symptoms, you can make them more tolerable, and you might not even need to go to the pharmacy to do so. Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can soothe the symptoms and keep you from missing out on life.
1. Keep your home or work environment cool.
Obviously, you have more say over the temperature of your home than where you work; for the latter, consider bringing in a personal fan.
2. Dress in layers.
When a hot flash occurs, you can easily strip off a cardigan or blazer to feel more comfortable. “After a hot flash, you may experience a decrease in your core body temperature, and having extra layers to help you warm up is also important,” says Dr. Chaudhry.
3. Keep cold water on hand.
Just as you would on a hot summer day, taking a drink of cold water during a hot flash can help you beat the heat. Plus, dehydration is more common among older adults, so you should make a habit to keep water on hand anyway.
4. Avoid certain foods and drinks.
Alcohol, caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, and large meals are all known to make hot flashes worse, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Menopause can disrupt and negatively impact sleep, but prioritizing good sleep habits can help counteract that effect. Good sleep hygiene during menopause includes:
Going to bed at the same time every night.
Using the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Avoiding screens (TVs, laptops, tablets, phones) before bed.
“It’s hard to adhere to all of these sleep hygiene guidelines, but it may be worthwhile to try one or a few of them to see what works best for you,” says Dr. Chaudhry.
6. Stay sexually active to treat vaginal dryness.
Here’s a home remedy you and your partner may enjoy: Increase the frequency of your sexual activity. While it may be uncomfortable at first, increased sexual activity improves vaginal elasticity and the lubricative response. (Psst … masturbation works, too.)
Of course, sex should be enjoyable—not painful. There are over-the-counter moisturizers and water-based lubricants that can help treat vaginal dryness. If OTC lubricants aren’t successful, another option is vaginal estrogen (which is not the same as hormone replacement therapy). (Here are more tips to deal with pain during sex.)
7. Prioritize mental health.
Mood changes during menopause are common, and you may be able to stabilize the mood and improve energy levels with self-care practices. For example, try the following:
Exercise regularly, especially in the earlier part of the day
Build stress relief into your routine (e.g., yoga or meditation)
And get enough sleep at night.
“I think most patients know all of this, and they just find it difficult to execute,” says Dr. Chaudhry, “but I think it is still important to have that conversation and reinforce these concepts because if it’s really bothersome to them then hearing it enough times, maybe people will try to adhere to those recommendations.”
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Some of the first symptoms that
women report are night sweats,
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hot flashes, mood changes,
sleep disturbances, and
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sometimes pain during sexual activity or
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Those are all common presenting
symptoms of perimenopause.
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There are a number of lifestyle
interventions that you can definitely try
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to reduce the intensity and
severity of hot flashes and night sweats.
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But if symptoms are moderate to severe,
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hormones are really the most
effective way to treat them.
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So if it's possible to keep your home
environment or your work environment cool,
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that would be one important first step.
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Another is to dress in layers,
again in breathable fabrics.
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It's effective in helping with your hot
flash symptoms because once you start to
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feel hot, you can disrobe fairly quickly.
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And after a hot flash, you may experience
a decrease in your core body temperature,
00:00:57,064 --> 00:01:00,242
and having extra layers to help
you warm up is also important.
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Having cold water accessible to you can
also help reduce the severity of a hot
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Avoiding things like alcohol, caffeine,
maybe spicy food, or large meals.
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I always talk about sleep hygiene
with my perimenopausal patients.
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If possible, try to go to bed
at the same time every evening.
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Make sure your bedroom is for sleeping or
sexual activity only, not for
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watching TV in bed.
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if at all possible, before sleep.
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I usually try to tell patients to read an
old-fashioned book outside of the bedroom,
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outside of your bed, until you feel
sleepy tired, and then go to your room.
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If vaginal dryness is a problem,
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there are over-the-counter
moisturizers that can help.
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There are also over-the-counter,
water-based lubricants that can help.
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You can use those before sexual activity.
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Also, increasing the frequency of
sexual activity can improve blood flow.
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If all of those interventions
don't help enough,
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vaginal estrogen is also an option.
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Another area that patients often have
trouble with during perimenopause is with
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And there are some lifestyle interventions
that they can try to help with those mood
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changes, one of which may be to
exercise on a regular basis.
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That can definitely elevate mood,
it can help with energy levels.
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Also focus on activities that may
reduce your stress and anxiety level,
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things like yoga, meditation,
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I mean, I think most patients
know all of this, and
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they just find it difficult to execute,
00:02:21,526 --> 00:02:25,497
I think it is still important to have that
conversation and reinforce these concepts.
00:02:25,497 --> 00:02:31,884
Because if it's really bothersome to them,
then hearing it enough times,
00:02:31,884 --> 00:02:37,047
maybe people will try to adhere
to those recommendations.
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Bachmann GA, Nevadunsky NS. Diagnosis and treatment of atrophic vaginitis. Am Fam Physician. 2000 may 15;61(10):3090-6.
Don’t ignore vaginal dryness and pain. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publishing, 2019. (Accessed on July 29, 2019 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/dont-ignore-vaginal-dryness-and-pain.)
Hot flashes: what can I do? Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Aging. (Accessed on July 29, 2019 at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do.)