Menopause is the stage that signifies an end to your fertile years. Women usually start menopause in their mid-40s or early 50s. During these years, women pass through the perimenopause stage, characterized by discomfort and painful symptoms.
Menopause is not a medical condition but a biological process women pass through at mid ages. However, it comes with hormonal fluctuations, which may lead to weight gain, vaginal dryness, breast ache, hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms.
While for some women, these symptoms are usually mild and tend to go away over time, some experience more discomforting symptoms and seek treatments to help relieve the symptoms.
Natural remedies are one of the most effective ways to deal with menopause symptoms. In today’s piece, we shall discuss the top 7 natural treatments for menopause and the top 7 supplements and herbs that help during menopause.
The Most Common Symptoms of Menopause
As women transition into menopause, they experience various signs and symptoms, mostly caused by a drop in reproductive hormones. The most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Irregular period: one of the first symptoms of menopause experienced by women is irregular periods. Once perimenopause starts, the periods become unstable and may also be lighter or heavier. It usually lasts for years before the period completely disappears.
- Hot Flashes: This is a sudden feeling of warmth over the body but more severe on the chest, face, and neck. It also causes excess night sweating.
- Mood swings: As the hormone levels decrease, many women experience unpredictable mood changes, depression symptoms, and anxiety.
- Vaginal dryness and low libido: As estrogen levels fall, the skin of the vagina becomes thinner and more sensitive. Women also experience low sexual drive.
- Insomnia: During menopause, changes in hormone levels make some women experience difficulty in sleeping. Coupled with hot flashes experienced at night, changes in hormone levels made many women develop insomnia.
- Weight gain: At menopause, women add more weight, especially around the abdomen, hips, and tight. The increase is usually associated with changes in hormone levels though some research shows that aging and genetic factors also play a role.
- Changes in Breasts: In some women, the breasts sag, shrink, and become smaller, while in others, the breasts become larger. Women also experience sore breasts, itchy breasts, and tender nipples at menopause.
- Hair thinning: During menopause, there’s a drastic decrease in the levels of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones play a vital role in hair growth and help hair stay on the head for a long time. The lack of these hormones made menopausal women prone to hair thinning and loss.
- High Blood Pressure: A lot of women experience high blood pressure. It is due to many reasons, including too much sensitivity to sodium and weight gain.
- Higher risk of health conditions: Menopause exposes women to many health conditions like osteoporosis (bone thinning), dementia (memory loss), and cardiovascular conditions.
Here’s a list of the top 7 natural menopause treatments that work:
1. Eat Diets that Help Manage Menopause
The best and simplest natural way to combat menopause symptoms is by consuming foods that helps balance your hormone levels. Include a lot of minerals and omega-3-fats in your diet. Eating many unprocessed and nutritious foods can help you reduce your intake of high-calorie foods.
As you know, reducing your calorie intake as you age is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Your muscle mass and metabolism have also decreased, making it more important to focus on ‘natural foods and avoid processed foods.
Here are some foods that are good for you at menopause:
- Fruits and Vegetables: A lot of research has shown that fruits and vegetables can help relieve hot flashes and reduce weight gain. Also, fruits and vegetables contain a lot of dietary fiber that can help boost your appetite. They also contain antioxidants that help slow aging and balance the levels of hormones.
- Leafy and Cruciferous Vegetables: All vegetables can help relieve menopausal symptoms. However, research suggests that leafy and cruciferous vegetable subgroups like cabbages, kale, cauliflower, arugula, Brussels sprouts, and beet greens contain indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps in balancing the levels of estrogen. They’re also rich in vitamin K and Vitamin C.
- Calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods: Studies have linked bone health with calcium and vitamin D. Adding these nutrients to your diet suppresses some menopausal symptoms and reduces your risk of developing certain health conditions. Eating Vitamin D-rich foods like cod liver oil and egg can help lower the risk of bone fractures during menopause. Also, calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, adding dairy products, cabbage, sardines, and other calcium-rich foods to your diet is recommended.
- Omega-3-fats: This helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk by keeping the heart healthy. They’re also known to promote smooth and shiny skin while reducing inflammation caused by omega-6-fatty acids. You can add omega-3-fats to your diet by consuming salmon, mackerel, and flaxseed. Many types of research have shown that these fats play a role in hormone production, preventing depression, relieving menopausal symptoms, and reducing the risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer.
- Proteins: Consuming adequate lean protein during menopause helps reduce muscle mass loss and bone thinning. Proteins are also known to aid in the burning of excess calories. Protein-rich foods include fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and meat. You can also add protein powders to your cakes and other baked foods.
- Soy Products: Yes! Those soy products in your fridge have a role to play in relieving your menopausal symptoms. Studies have shown that soy products can help ease profuse night sweats and hot flashes. They contain phytoestrogens – a compound similar to estrogen. Some popular soy products include; soybeans, soy milk, soy flour, and Tofu.
- High Fiber Foods: Menopausal women need a lot of fiber foods as it is essential for their health. Fibers help in improving your cardiovascular health and maintaining a healthy weight. Research has also linked fiber to gut health by turning gut bacteria into beneficial chemicals. It also helps reduce depression and ovarian cancer. High fiber foods, including fruits, nuts, avocados, vegetables, and legumes, make you feel fuller for a long time.
- Healthy Fats: You might wonder if fats can help you in menopause. Though they contain many calories, they also help produce hormones, reduce inflammation, and stimulate proper metabolism. Healthy fats found in coconut oil, virgin olive oil, and other unrefined oils aid in providing your body with the vitamins that help balance hormone levels.
- Phytoestrogen foods: Phytoestrogen is a natural food with estrogen that can perform some of the effects of estrogen on the body. However, there isn’t enough research to show how phytoestrogens work, their benefits, and their side effects. But some studies suggest that adding phytoestrogen foods to your diet can help ease night flashes, reduce cancer risk, and improve cardiovascular health. Phytoestrogen-rich foods include beans, flax seeds, soybeans, and linseeds.
- Probiotic Foods: These also help produce and regulate hormones in menopausal women. Probiotics are healthy bacteria in cultured vegetables, yogurts, and fermented products. They help boost the immune system and heart health.
2. Stay hydrated
Menopausal women are at more risk of dehydration as the body holds on to too much water due to hormonal changes. Water provides some electrolytes and nutrients that can help relieve hot flashes, excess sweating, and bloating. Aim at drinking about 8 cups of water daily. You can also increase your water intake by consuming fruits and vegetables.
3. Avoid Foods that Worsen Menopause Symptoms
While you focus on getting the required nutrient during menopause, you’re also expected to avoid foods that can trigger or worsen your symptoms. Here are some foods to avoid:
- Spicy foods: Hot peppers, Chili, Cayenne, and other spicy foods can worsen hot flashes and night sweats. If you’ve high blood pressure or experience frequent hot flashes, avoid spicy foods as much as possible as they’re triggers.
- Packaged foods: If there’s anything you can best avoid during menopause, it is packaged foods. These foods contain a lot of preservatives, sodium, and high carbs that can aggravate hormonal imbalance. Processed foods also negatively affect bone health and cause liver disease if GMOs are contained.
- Carbonated Drinks: Not only that carbonated drinks contain too much sugar, but they also reduce the levels of calcium in the body, therefore, exposing you to bone thinning and teeth problems.
- Alcohol: Menopausal women are advised to stay away from alcohol as much as possible. Drinking more than a drink per day exposes you to health risks. Too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, difficulty in sleeping, and triggers hot flashes. Women who take too much alcohol at menopause are also more likely to be overweight and depressed. Stick to a few glasses of wine in a week to be healthier.
- Conventional Beef: Grain-fed or conventional meat comes from cattle that spent their early life grazing on the fields but were fed with scientifically formulated grains and hormones days before they were slaughtered. These added hormones can cause inflammation in menopausal women. Ensure you always buy organic beef and poultry that doesn’t contain added hormones or GMOs.
- Processed Fried Foods: Foods fried in vegetable oils like canola oil and sunflower oil contain a high amount of Omega-6-fats – fat that causes inflammation and other health problems. Some of these foods also contain trans fats that are toxic to the heart and cause weight gain.
- Refined Sugars and Carbs: Foods containing high amounts of refined sugars and fats increase blood sugar, making you feel exhausted and cranky. It can exacerbate some menopausal symptoms. Research has also shown that menopausal women who take a lot of refined sugars are more exposed to depression.
- Caffeine: Menopausal women are also advised to avoid caffeine as it can cause fluctuations in blood pressure and increase the rate of the heart beating. If you’re addicted to coffee, you can substitute it with alternatives like herbal teas that don’t contain caffeine.
4. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps a lot of menopausal women to reduce the risk of underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, lack of sleep, inflammation, and obesity.
Research has shown that exercising 3 or 4 times a week, even if you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle before, reduces depression and difficulty sleeping. Though no study shows that exercise helps relieve hot flashes, it has been proven effective in decreasing stress, improving bone and joint health, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Here are some form exercises that are good for menopausal women;
- Aerobic exercises: Biking, swimming, walking, and other aerobic exercises help you shed excess fats and maintain a healthy weight. You can engage in 15 minutes aerobic activities three or four times a week.
- Stability exercises: Stability activities can help improve your balance. It can be as simple as standing on one foot while you wait for the kettle to boil.
- Strength exercises; are one of the easiest ways to eliminate excess calories and bolster your muscles. Start with low hand-held weights, then increase the weight and resistance as time passes.
- Reduce Stress Levels
During menopause, many women experience an unpredictable change in mood, anxiety, and even signs of depression. While hormonal imbalance plays a role, excess stress is also a factor. Reducing stress levels is one of the most effective ways to reduce menopausal symptoms.
During menopause, women experience many challenges – job responsibilities, raising young adults, divorce, underlying health conditions, and other life challenges that stress them out.
People have different ways of walking out of stress; however, regular exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends and family can help.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Research has shown that 39 to 47 percent of women experience difficulty in sleep during perimenopause. It is usually caused by hot flashes, profuse sweating, insomnia, and some menopausal symptoms. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, cortisol builds up in your body, making it hard for you to concentrate at work. Lack of sleep is also linked to stress, anxiety, depression, and obesity.
Menopausal women have been advised to have a night rest of about 7-9 hours daily. It increases energy levels and helps fight stress.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight
During menopause, women tend to add weight, especially around the abdomen and thighs. It is caused by changes in hormone levels and genetic factors.
Excess weight exposes menopausal women to the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Also, weight gain has been linked to menopausal symptoms.
A study has shown that menopausal women who watch out for their weight are more likely to get relief from night sweats and hot flashes.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat regularly. Bad eating habits can worsen menopausal symptoms and make it hard to you to maintain a healthy weight.
7. Use Essential Oils and Supplements
Most women consider natural remedies like essential oils and supplements the best natural treatment for menopausal symptoms.
Supplements and essential oils help reduce stress, hot flashes, and night sweat. However, there is scientific evidence that shows these methods are effective.
Top 7 Supplements and Herbs for Reducing Menopause Symptoms
Supplements and herbs are considered the best natural remedies for menopause symptoms. Some of these substances contain phytoestrogens and other related compounds that help balance one levels. Here are our top 7 picks:
1. Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is a plant mostly found in North America. It has been used for hundred years by women to relieve menopause symptoms.
It is also the most extensively researched natural remedy for menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh is available in different forms, including tea, powder, and capsules.
Scientists are yet to figure out how black cohosh relieves hot flashes, night sweats, depression, and other symptoms. However, some suggest it works by simulating the actions of serotonin and dopamine.
Most women usually tolerate the herb well, though it has side effects like headache, acute liver disease, and rashes. You can continue using black cohosh as long as the discomforting symptoms of menopause last. Nonetheless, talk to your doctor before using the herb, especially if you’ve underlying health conditions like breast cancer.
Ginseng root has been linked to resistance to stress and improved overall body functioning. The herb also alleviates menopause symptoms like hot flashes, stress, low libido, and loss of stamina.
However, only a little research has proved the effect of ginseng on menopause symptoms. Also, Korean ginseng has been linked to vaginal bleeding after menopause due to its blood-thinning effects. Therefore, you should be cautious not to use ginseng with other anticoagulation medications. Above all, consider talking to your health care provider before using ginseng, as it interacts with medications.
Women also use flaxseeds to relieve menopausal symptoms. They contain phytoestrogens which give them an estrogenic effect. However, you’ve to crush flaxseed to release the phytoestrogens as they’re embedded in the cell walls. They’re also rich in omega-3-fatty acids and dietary fiber.
Their estrogenic effect help in reducing vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms. Using flaxseed sometimes comes with side effects like bloating and increased bowel movements.
4. Seed Cones (Humulus lupulus)
Seed cones have been used for years to treat sleep difficulties and menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, low libido, and anxiety.
Studies have shown that the flowers contain phytoestrogens which help balance female hormone levels. However, the action of gut bacteria can reduce the effectiveness of this herb. Also, research has proved that seed cones can help ease low sex drive, hot flashes, and menopausal depression.
However, some animal research suggests that this herb can stimulate the growth of cancerous cells in the breast; women who have had breast cancer are advised to avoid this herb or use it with care.
5. Wild Yam
Women in North America have been using wild yams to treat menopausal symptoms, menstrual cramps, and arthritis.
Wild yam is a good source of diosgenin, a compound related to women’s reproductive hormone progesterone. However, this compound isn’t converted to progesterone, and a study on 23 women has shown that wild yam has little effect on menopause symptoms.
However, recent research has shown that wild purple yams contain a protein that helps increase estrogen levels, thereby reducing menopausal symptoms.
6. St John’s wort
St John’s Wort is another popular natural remedy that has been shown to affect menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes, anxiety, and depression. However, it doesn’t have hormonal effects but has been shown to have a more powerful effect in combating menopausal symptoms than a placebo.
Many women combine St John’s wort with black cohosh to reduce hot flashes and mood swings.
However, the herb affects liver enzymes and can interact with blood thinning medications, digoxin, and cancer drugs.
7. Red Clover
Red clover is another popular herb used in treating menopausal symptoms. Research has shown that the herb contains phytoestrogen (isoflavones), which possesses estrogen-like actions. Red clover can help relieve hot flashes depending on the form used and dosage.
There’s also little evidence that it helps prevent bone thinning and accumulation of bad cholesterol. However, more study is needed to know how useful the herb is in alleviating pain and menopause symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can natural treatments help balance my hormone level?
Natural treatments like eating a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods, regular exercise, and reducing stress can help balance your hormone levels during perimenopause. Nonetheless, supplements and herbs help balance hormone levels and relieve symptoms. But it’s advisable to talk to your health care provider before taking any supplement or herb.
How can you stop hot flashes?
Avoid alcohol and spicy foods that can trigger hot flashes. Maintain a healthy weight and wear cool clothes.
You can also use St John’s wort and black cohosh herbs to reduce frequent hot flashes.
Will smoking worsen menopause symptoms?
Smoking has been linked to severe menopause symptoms, including hot flashes. Too much nicotine can also cause high blood pressure.
Does evening primrose oil help with menopause symptoms?
Menopausal women can use evening primrose oil to treat hot flashes and osteoporosis. However, women are advised to use the oil for the short term as it has mild side effects like stomach pain.