The female body can go through some serious changes as it approaches menopause. As our hormone levels begin to fluctuate, we can experience a shift in how we feel and look.
This change in our bodies is brought on by a decrease in the amount of estrogen and progesterone that your body produces. These two hormones are essential to so many different bodily functions, which is why our bodies can feel disrupted so as it adjusts to their new hormone levels.
One of the changes you may experience as your body approaches menopause is swollen ankles. Fluctuating hormones can lead to fluid retention, which can cause swelling, discomfort, and skin tightness. Let’s take a look at what causes swollen ankles during menopause and how you can find relief.
Up to 60% of the adult human body is water, which means water plays an essential role in almost all body functions, including helping to keep our hormones balanced. At the same time, your hormone levels can also affect how much water the body reabsorbs. During menopause, our bodies have to adjust to shifts in estrogen and progesterone levels, but they also have to deal with the way that those changes can affect other hormones, like aldosterone.
Produced in the outer cortex of the adrenal glands, aldosterone is responsible for regulating blood pressure and how much sodium, potassium, and water the body reabsorbs. Fluctuations in estrogen levels can signal to the adrenal gland that it should produce more aldosterone. When there are higher aldosterone levels in the body, it can lead to a salt imbalance, increased blood pressure, and bloating.
Estrogen also plays a huge role in our digestive system, which is why women tend to experience constipation more often than men do. Whenever your hormones fluctuate a bit, like during pregnancy or right before your menstrual cycle, you’re more likely to have fewer bowel movements and retain more water.
In the liver, these changes in estrogen levels can affect the production of bile, which helps to break down the fats in our food and helps to push our digested food through our small intestine. Declines in bile production can lead to different gastrointestinal issues and cause bloating.
Menopause can also lead to weight gain and gastrointestinal issues, like gas retention, making it difficult to pinpoint why our bodies are experiencing these physical changes. If you’re not sure if you’re retaining water, here are a few signs you may be experiencing menopausal bloating:
If you’re experiencing bloating or swollen ankles during menopause, try incorporating these changes into your lifestyle:
It may sound counterintuitive, but drinking more water can actually help you flush that extra water from your body. Both dehydration and over-hydration can lead to water retention, so try to focus on drinking when you’re thirsty and give yourself a break when you feel hydrated.
You can also try monitoring your urine color to make sure you’re drinking enough water— try to aim for urine output that is a pale, transparent yellow color. If your urine is coming out clear, it could be a sign to drink less water; if it’s dark, you should consider drinking more water.
Getting active can help you sweat out that excess water. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce water retention immediately, but it also helps your muscles absorb some of the water in your body, which is crucial for helping your muscles heal after an intense workout.
Too much sodium can cause your body to retain more water. The easiest way to reduce the amount of salt you consume is to eat less processed food. Swap out foods that are high in sodium like cheese, cold meats, and frozen meals for more vegetables, nuts, or the low sodium version of your favorite foods.
While sodium increases water retention, potassium decreases sodium levels and aids in the production of urine. If you’re looking to increase your potassium levels, here are a few foods that are high in potassium:
Magnesium is another mineral that can help you reduce water retention during menopause. It plays a huge role in our bodies, including impacting our moods, helping our bones stay strong, and hormone production. Fortunately, magnesium can be found in many foods, including:
Although it’s generally considered safe to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, if you’re unsure about whether you’re getting enough potassium or magnesium or if you should start taking supplements, reach out to your healthcare provider.
When we’re stressed, our bodies can increase the production of cortisol, another hormone that can impact how much water our bodies retain. Not getting enough sleep during menopause or sleeping poorly can also increase cortisol levels. Aiming for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night and reducing your stress levels can help you reduce water retention and swollen ankles during menopause.
If you’re struggling with swollen ankles during or after menopause, compression socks can help you stimulate blood flow and reduce swelling. Compression socks, or stockings, are snug-fitting, stretchy socks that gently apply pressure to the legs and promote better blood circulation.
Gently massaging your feet and ankles with firm strokes towards your heart can help to move fluid out of the area and reduce ankle swelling during menopause. You can also elevate your ankles for short periods of time by keeping them raised higher than your heart.
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