Menopause refers to the changes in our reproductive systems and cycles as we age. Marking the end of fertility, menopause is officially diagnosed when our periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months as our ovaries stop releasing an egg every month. Managing the symptoms of menopause focusses on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) but in the early 2000s, a major U.S. study revealed that HRT doesn’t protect against either heart disease or osteoporosis as previously thought. In addition, HRTs were found to actually increased the risk of both stroke and breast cancer. But are there natural ways to treat menopause?
8 NATURAL WAYS TO TREAT MENOPAUSE
Each of us will experience menopause in a different way but there are some commonalities which include things like:
- Irregular and eventual lack of periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
As a result, many women stopped taking hormone therapy, instead seeking out natural, drug-free ways to deal with the menopausal symptoms. But do these remedies make menopause easier? Let’s take a look at what really works.
1. Eat Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D
Developing osteoporosis is one of the major risks we face as a result of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. As levels of estrogen decreases, our bones’ ability to remineralize decreases and bones start to weaken and increasing the risk of fractures.
Both calcium and vitamin D are linked to good bone health, so it’s important to get enough of these nutrients in your diet by:
- Including calcium-rich foods like dairy, leafy green vegetables, beans, sardines as well as edamame and tofu – the latter of which are also rich in phytoestrogens.
- Get enough sunlight which should be your main source of vitamin D.
- If you can’t get out in the sun or if you cover up your skin, take a supplement or increase your intake of food sources rich in vitamin D like oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil and foods fortified with vitamin D.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Although it’s common to gain weight during our menopausal years, maintaining a healthy weight can really help alleviate many of its symptoms. When we gain excess body fat – especially around our waists – it increases our risk of developing things such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease.
But there might also be a more direct effect. One large-scale study of over 17,000 postmenopausal women found that a t10 lbs (4.5 kg) of weight loss could eliminate hot flashes and night sweats.
3. Avoid Trigger Foods
For some women, certain foods like alcohol, caffeine, sugar and spicy foods may trigger hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings – especially when you eat them at night. If you feel like you fall into this category, keep a diary to see if there are any patterns or overlap between certain foods and symptoms. Obviously try to reduce or completely avoid eating foods which trigger your symptoms.
4. Get Your Phytoestrogens
Soy contains high levels of estrogen-like compounds called phytoestrogens, which mimic women’s natural estrogen. Of all the natural remedies for menopause, soy has been the best studied with some researchers believing that these phytoestrogens may give your body enough of a boost to counter menopause symptoms.
Increase your intake of natural sources of phytoestrogens like soy, edamame, soybeans, tofu, flaxseeds, linseeds and tempeh as evidence suggests that these are better than supplements or processed foods with soy additives.
Caution: Some studies suggest that high doses of soy may increase the risk of breast and other hormone-sensitive cancers such as ovarian and uterine cancer.
5. Reduce Refined Sugar and Processed Foods
It’s no secret that a diet high in sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates cause severe dips and spikes in blood sugar which can leave you feeling tired, irritable and even depressed. In addition, processed foods also affect bone health, and are associated with poor bone quality in menopausal women.
6. Eat Protein-Rich Foods
Another down-side of menopause is a loss of muscle mass which can impact bone health as well as weight, metabolism and other health factors. Adding in good quality sources of protein throughout the day, not only helps to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age, a high-protein diet can also help with weight loss and management.
Include foods that are rich in protein such as meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and dairy.
7. Healthy Fats and Fatty Acids
Although menopause itself doesn’t cause heart disease, risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol does increase. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are vital to cardiovascular health, especially for women who are going through menopause as these are particularly good at lowering triglycerides which often underly these factors.
Eat more foods rich in omega’s like flaxseeds, mixed greens, walnuts, soybeans and oily fish like sardines, salmon and trout.
8. Mind-Body Techniques
Practicing mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness not only helps relieve stress, but it can also help us cope with menopausal mood swings while clinical hypnosis may reduce hot flashes.
Because there is a lot going on bothy physically and mentally, most menopausal women find that a holistic approach seems to work best. This means following a healthy diet, integrating mind-body techniques into your daily schedule and losing weight is a great way to start.
Once the effects of these overall lifestyle changes have been assessed, more targeted treatments like herbal supplements and essential oils can be added to address specific symptoms. Here are some tips for managing the most common of these.
Hot flashes/Night sweats
- Drink lots of water
- Keep your bedroom cool and use cotton sheets
- Try cooling products such as a cooling pillow
- Try peppermint oil to cool down
- Wear lightweight, natural fiber, moisture-absorbing clothing
- Maintain a consistent sleep/wake routine
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Turn off electronics and reduce blue light at least 30 minutes prior to sleep
- Avoid caffeine and excess alcohol
- Drink a little milk before bed as the tryptophan may help you sleep
- If you can’t sleep, don’t fight it. Get up or read instead of worrying about not sleeping
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.