Menopause is the natural transition from a period of fertility to the cessation of ovulation and menstruation. It is a period marked by a shift in hormones, the biggest change happening when the ovaries stop producing estrogen. While some other parts of the body do continue to produce small amounts of this hormone, the sudden disruption can cause the symptoms most women associate with menopause – hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, weight gain, etc.
While menopause is a normal biological change, these symptoms can affect a woman’s quality of life in ways they weren't aware. Healthcare providers may be quick to prescribe hormone replacements, but these are not without repercussions. In addition, medications may simply provide temporary relief rather than eliminating the cause of the discomfort.
Natural remedies, however, work with your body to prevent or reduce the severity of these changes. Most natural menopause remedies are basic lifestyle changes anyone can integrate into their lives. Some require more research and planning than others. But all of them can allow you to stay healthy and active through menopause and beyond.
1. Fine-Tune Your Diet With Menopause Friendly Foods
Nutrients from the foods you eat are the most basic building blocks for your body. A low-fat, vegetarian diet is the healthiest for perimenopausal and menopausal women. Aim for a balanced diet of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins. Enjoy three meals and two or more snacks each day to help your blood sugar remain stable.
Include These Good Foods
- A wide variety and color of fruits and vegetables
- Plant based calcium sources (such as beans, lentils and other legumes, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified orange juice)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.): not only are these a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and electrolytes to protect your cardiovascular system, they also help to balance your estrogens and may even be cancer fighters.
- Phytoestrogens, including soy, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, bean sprouts, garbanzo beans, and peas, mimic estrogen and will help to balance your hormones (use caution with these if you have a history of thyroid problems)
- High Fiber Foods (including whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, avocado, vegetables and fruit) to protect your heart and help limit weight gain
- Healthy Fats, including foods high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, boost metabolism, fight inflammation and serve as building block for hormones including salmon and avocado.
- Probiotic or fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, etc. may help to regulate hormones and cognitive functioning while keeping your gut healthy
Avoid or Limit These Foods:
- Animal proteins, which can deplete the calcium stores you need for strong bones and prevention of osteoporosis
- Processed foods, which are often high in carbohydrates and can cause more pronounced hormone imbalances
- Refined sugars, which may make hot flashes and weight gain worse
- Alcohol, which is generally high in sugar and can further disrupt hormones
- See this article for more foods to avoid
2. Supplement Your Health With Exercise Everyday
While regular exercise is important during every part of the life cycle, during menopause it can help to regulate hormonal shifts and mitigate the side effects of those changes.
Maintaining a healthy weight can be complicated during menopause – most women feel like they are gaining weight in their middle or are having trouble losing weight. And the excess fat may actually cause increases in estrogen production, which in turns leads to the creation of more fat. It can be a vicious cycle. But regular exercise, along with an overall decrease in calorie consumption, can help.
Take a brisk walk, join a swimming class, practice yoga, dancing, biking, or any other form of movement that you enjoy. Just get moving! Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days. You may want to vary between cardio and strength training.
The benefits of regular exercise during menopause (just as in any other time of life) include weight maintenance, reduction of inflammation, better sleep, and stress management.
3. Manage Your Mental Health
Anxiety, depression, irritability, poor memory and concentration and insomnia are all symptoms you might experience as you head through menopause. Stress can add to the problems by causing hormonal imbalances that affect mood and cognitive ability. The good news is that these changes often go away on their own over time. But while you’re in the midst of symptoms, consider adding these practices to your day:
- Deep breathing: doing 15 minutes of deep breathing two times a day may lessen hot flashes and night sweats
- Meditation can improve your relaxation and decrease stress
- Mind / body therapies, such as tai chi and mindfulness meditation, can reduce hot flashes, insomnia, and mood changes
- Journaling can help you become aware of your moods and symptoms, and can be the first step in dealing with them in a more positive way
- Get the best sleep you can – it’s normal to experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, but sleep disturbances can increase stress, lower your immune system, and affect your overall cognitive abilities. You’ll feel best with 8 or more hours of sleep each night.
4. Successful Supplementation During Menopause
Many women find that a regimen of herbal or nutritional supplements helps them to manage their symptoms without the dangerous side effects of pharmaceuticals. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any alternative therapies you are using as these may interact with medications. And work with an experienced herbalist or naturopath to be sure you are pursuing the appropriate supplements for your individual symptoms.
In addition to a daily vitamin and mineral supplement, you may want to consider adding a natural menopause supplement or one of the following to your daily intake:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Herbs, such as, ashwagandha, black cohosh, chasteberry, dong quai, ginseng, maca root, milk thistle, passionflower, red clover, and shatavari, St. Johns wort, turmeric (curcumin) and wild yam
- Coenzyme Q(10)
- A naturally formulated combination of herbs to support menopause and reduce effects of hormone changes such as Everbloom natural menopause supplement available at IntimateRose.com
These supplements may adapt to the needs of your body to support hormone production and alleviate many menopause symptoms.
5. Soak in Some Sun
Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all, but is instead a hormone. It’s necessary for calcium absorption and has anti-inflammatory properties. Aging alone can decrease the body’s ability to use vitamin D. And menopause can cause it to be out of balance just as with other hormones. Most people, however, are vitamin D deficient due to our indoor lifestyles and the widespread use of sunscreens for skin cancer prevention.
Because it’s difficult to get vitamin D from dietary sources, one of the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels is by getting regular sunlight exposure. Sunlight also increases serotonin production, which can alleviate symptoms of depression. Allow yourself a bit of unprotected time in the sun during the early morning or late afternoon hours. If you’re fair-skinned, 15 minutes is enough, though 40 minutes may be needed if you have darker skin. If you cannot be in the sun, consider a vitamin D supplement.