Irregular periods, mood changes, sleep problems, hot flashes— if this sounds familiar, you have likely reached that phase in your life which every woman goes through, yet very few talk about— menopause. Menopause is the stage that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. While, globally, it begins around the age of 50, for Indian women, menopause typically begins earlier – roughly at 46.2 years of age on average. In fact, the body starts going through hormonal changes even before the onset of menopause— this phase is called perimenopause. Typically, perimenopause begins in the mid-40s or sometimes sooner. The level of estrogen, which is the main female hormone, fluctuates during this phase, giving rise to menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep problems. You may even notice signs of progression toward menopause, like menstrual irregularity, as early as your mid-30s. As is the case with many aspects of menstrual health, there is a general lack of awareness around menopause, with the line between myth and truth often blurred. The fact that women are reluctant to talk about their health and about what they’re going through, only exacerbates this issue. Given the social stigma, misconceptions, and misinformation around menstruation, many stay silent about their experience, and are uncomfortable confiding in their family members or friends, regarding these matters. It can be isolating to have to face a plethora of unfamiliar symptoms, without even knowing what to expect. Open conversations around menopause will help women navigate this phase and live a fuller life. Holistic lifestyle changes can play a huge role in alleviating the symptoms of menopause and easing this period. Heed your nutritional needs Having a well-balanced diet is necessary during any stage of life, but during menopause, it assumes even more importance. From changes in metabolism to managing the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disorders in the postmenopausal phase, your diet can play a key part in keeping you healthy. Your body starts losing calcium after the age of 30, and this loss is accelerated during menopause, with the fluctuation in estrogen. Include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, selenium, magnesium, and beta-carotene in your diet to enhance your bone mineral density. Menopause is also associated with loss of lean body mass and increase in fat mass. To control the fat mass, avoid a diet that is low on carbohydrates and high in fat. Let a nutritionist or your doctor recommend what your ideal protein intake should be. You can then tailor your diet to ensure it nourishes you adequately.