I love hearing from readers and was recently contacted by a woman who suggested menopause as a topic — more specifically what women can do to help minimize the often annoying and uncomfortable symptoms that often come with it.

As with all things related to health, we are all different and therefore no two women will have exactly the same experience.

Menopause is a normal condition that all women will go through at some point in the aging process. The word “menopause” is used to describe any changes a woman may go through either just before or after her last period. Essentially, it marks the end of her reproductive years. Post menopause comes after going at least one year without having a menstrual cycle. Those annoying symptoms and side-

effects that plague women everywhere can begin pre-menopause and continue for up to four or five years post. Although quite rare, women may start to experience changes in their 30s. More likely however, it happens to women in their mid- to late-40s, to 60s or anywhere in between.

So, we know that changes are coming at some point, but what I am always puzzled at is how the majority of women are ready to expect the worst. Media and such seem to fuel that as well, so I guess it’s really not surprising. But, as I said, everyone is different.

Changes in hormone balance as our bodies enter menopause and on into a post-menopausal state, can trigger any number of symptoms. As the ovaries age, they produce fewer hormones as well as lose the ability to regulate estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

The overall imbalance as well as a decline in estrogen can significantly affect a woman’s health. Osteoporosis, vaginal changes/dryness, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, disturbed sleep, weight gain and, of course, the dreaded hot flashes are symptoms women most often report experiencing.

The good news is there are things every woman can do to minimize discomfort and in some cases even eliminate symptoms altogether.

As with everything to do with health, quality matters. And although your current mood may make you want to sit down with a bag of chips, a bottle of wine and a single-serve Haagen Dazs and eat through those emotions, it will honestly only add fuel to the fire — moods and hot flash included.

Instead, let’s think about quality and balance. Logically, if the body’s lack of balance is contributing to uncomfortable symptoms, it’s reasonable that putting the body back in balance will help. And it has been my experience, both personally and in coaching clients, that this is the case.

To create balance, or homeostasis, within the body you must stabilize blood sugar. When blood sugar is stable, the body just works better and good things happen. Not only will you sleep better and have more energy, but moods and mood swings are lessened, concentration is improved, your body is in a position to release stored fat and hormones balance.

That’s right, balancing blood sugar also balances hormones. And the better able we are to balance those hormones, the fewer and less intense symptoms we will experience.

So, how do you balance blood sugar? With food.

Diabetics check their blood sugar at regular intervals throughout the day and then eat or take medication depending on what reading they get. This is reactive. Far better and more effective is to be proactive and eat in a way that checking your blood sugar at any point in the day would result in a balanced reading.

And the way to do that is “PFC every three.” Eating small meals made up of a balance of a protein, a healthy fat and a quality carbohydrate together, within the first hour of waking and every three to four hours throughout the day, does the trick.

Protein and fat helps slow digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. This prevents a spike in carbohydrate that would in turn cause a spike in blood sugar, creating an imbalance in both blood sugar and hormones. It’s a simple concept really.

Choosing whole foods and avoiding packaged, processed or fast foods goes even further to extinguish some of those symptoms. Those chips, wine and ice cream only serve to spike blood sugar, store fat, create inflammation and disrupt both hormone and blood sugar balance.

Drinking more water and cutting down on salt help to get rid of bloat as well as flush out fat and toxins, improving the body’s comfort level yet again.

Having coached several community groups made up mostly of women, there was never a shortage of positive comments regarding eating to stabilize blood sugar and improved menopausal symptoms.

In fact, I even had one woman in her early 60s email to tell me that 99 per cent of her symptoms were gone and she hadn’t felt that good in years.

So, ladies, if you’re at that place in your life where you need to push pause on menopause, I invite you to give it a try. The only thing you’ve got to lose are the hot flashes.

Tania Gustafson is a nutritionist and fitness coach. On the web: fuelignitethrive.com. Email: tania@fuelignitethrive.com. Tune in to her “For the Health of It” podcast every Saturday at 8 a.m. on OkanaganValleyRadio.com