You’ve spent another night tossing and turning and today you’re feeling distracted and irritable. Getting through the day was tough, and all you want to do when you get home is get into your comfortable yoga leggings and crawl into bed with a book.
As your husband crawls into bed and starts to reach for you, you give him a look of complete exhaustion, and he reaches for his book on the nightstand instead.
This scenario plays out for months, possibly even years. Your sex life is nonexistent, worse than it was all those years ago when you were raising young children. At least, then you enjoyed being intimate with him. But now, between the night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, and uncomfortable bloating, you have no sexual desire.
You don’t think you’ll ever want to have sex again.
A woman usually enters menopause around age 50, after she hasn’t had a period for a year. As her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, signaling the end of her reproductive years, she often experiences monumental physical and emotional changes. These changes can leave her with little sex drive, and an inability to feel aroused or orgasm.
And, perimenopause can start with declining estrogen and progesterone levels for two to eight years before a woman enters menopause.
Many men report difficulty in keeping romantic feelings alive due to lack of sexual intimacy with their partners. But for women struggling daily with crippling exhaustion, bloating, and decreased libido, it can all add up to a difficult time that often lasts for years.
But what if menopause doesn’t have to signal the end of sexual fulfillment and romance? This study found that by being proactive and taking charge of your sexual health, you can experience desire, arousal, and orgasm with your partner as you grow older.
Here are five ways to help support your body and reduce symptoms of menopause:
1. Sleep soundly. Ask any woman who’s going through menopause and she’ll tell you her sleep has suffered. Estrogen works with melatonin and other hormones to signal to the brain that it’s bedtime. With your ovaries making less estrogen in menopause, you have to take extra steps to ensure a good night’s rest. Start by doing a device detox an hour before bed. The pineal gland produces melatonin, which regulates your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. The pineal gland is highly sensitive to electronic light, so eliminating any disruptions can help improve your sleep (and mood). Read a book while drinking chamomile tea instead of browsing on your tablet. Consider wearing moisture-wicking pajamas to draw sweat away from your skin, so you stay dry and comfortable when night sweats strike.
2. Daily vitamin D and calcium. Estrogen loss contributes to osteoporosis, so getting enough vitamin D and calcium is important during menopause. While sunshine exposure can help, a daily supplement is usually necessary. Postmenopausal women can increase bone density by taking up to 800 IU of vitamin D daily, and women over age 65 should add 1200-1300 mg calcium daily, according to this study.
3. Eat an optimal diet. Drink plenty of water to help relieve dry skin due to decreased estrogen, and eat a cup of raw veggies daily to help you stay full and eliminate toxins. Many women find that avoiding wheat can not only help prevent dreaded weight gain commonly associated with menopause, but may also reduce hot flashes, according to Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.
4. Simple but powerful natural remedies. Black cohosh is a traditional herb used for menopause that may help relieve hot flashes, or lessen their severity. Black cohosh seems to work by balancing hormone levels without estrogenic activity, making it an option for women with a family history of breast cancer, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. Other remedies include an over-the-counter natural lubricant to help with vaginal dryness, a common symptom of menopause due to decreased levels of estrogen.
5. Avoid these triggers. Consider giving up your glass of wine with dinner. Alcohol can disrupt sleep, waking you in the middle of the night, and it exacerbates hot flashes. Other culprits include afternoon caffeine, excessive sugar, and even spicy foods. Estrogen loss means weaker pelvic floor muscles and a thinner urethra lining, which can cause urinary incontinence. These culprits can aggravate the bladder, causing leakage, so consider eliminating them from your diet.
Now imagine that you wake up with enough energy to workout in the morning before work. You’re balanced, focused, and productive. When your husband gets into bed next to you that night, you reach for him.
Sound impossible? It’s not.
All you have to do is focus on taking care of yourself and support your body by giving it the rest, food, and care it needs.
Menopause doesn’t have to be something you dread. Take these steps and you can enjoy a romantic, sexually fulfilling relationship with your partner as you grow older.