14. Prime up on probiotics
Probiotics are essential to gut health. They are “good bacteria” that protect and repair the gut lining, and gut health is essential to your well-being. Probiotics help hormones such as cortisol and serotonin work harmoniously. The body produces cortisol to deal with stress, while serotonin is the “feel-good” hormone. An imbalance in these two can exacerbate the symptoms of menopause. You feel more energetic and positive when they are at optimal levels.
Good sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir and fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
Probiotics make sure the gut microbiome contains all the ingredients it needs to keep the gut healthy. A balanced gut microbiome is vital for the regulation of estrogen levels. Within the gut microbiome is the estrobolome, a set of microbes that metabolize estrogen in the body. When the estrobolome is affected negatively, it can affect the estrogen levels in the body, and this can bring about the onset of uncomfortable side effects in menopausal women.
Estrobolome can also be disrupted by hormonal contraceptives and a diet that doesn’t include enough probiotics. Research into the link between estrobolome and estrogen levels is ongoing. In the future, probiotics could be prescribed to address menopause symptoms.
13. Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can also affect hormone levels by automatically increasing the production and release of stress hormones such as cortisol. These send the body into “survival mode.” There is a domino effect when stress hormones are triggered. This includes changes to the production and release of sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Fluctuations in these hormones result in menopausal symptoms.
Hot flashes and night sweats cause your body to lose fluids quite rapidly, and you can replace them by drinking plenty of water. Water keeps your kidneys flushed and healthy. It also replenishes vital electrolytes which your body needs to survive.
We’ve all heard the standard: 8 eight-ounce cups of water per day. That’s an average. How much water you actually need is dependent upon your age, weight, lifestyle and stage of life.
It is generally accepted that men older than 19 need to consume 13 cups of water a day. Women older than 19 should consume 9 cups of water a day. Some of this water can be ingested as part of your diet, as some fruits and vegetables have a high-water content.
12. Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Alcohol consumed in excessive quantities can have a negative effect on hormones. It affects the secretion of hormones from the pancreas, which can lead to insulin resistance. The result is a series of events in the body that can ultimately result in death. The amount of alcohol a woman consumes can also have an effect on her estrogen levels that differs depending on her age.
Studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake for a woman in her forties and fifties can affect her hormonal system. There are also studies that suggest drinking modest amounts of alcohol can delay the onset of menopause as it raises estrogen levels. Further study of the matter is necessary. Excessive drinking is likely to cause high levels of disruption in the hormone levels.
You’ve been told before that smoking is bad for you. The reasons are clear: it affects your heart and lungs among other things. But it can also have an effect on your estrogen levels. Smoking causes fluctuations in your estrogen levels.
When you are menopausal, inconsistent estrogen levels will make your symptoms worse. It’s an even better reason to quit!
11. Essential oils for menopausal symptoms
Essential oils are an age-old remedy for a variety of ills, and menopause is no exception. You can buy essential oils in ointments, creams and in concentrated form. If applying the concentrate to the skin, it’s best to combine it with coconut or olive oil to dilute it.
Applying a few diluted drops of clary sage oil to your neck or feet is a good way to address hot flashes. You can also put a few drops on a tissue and inhale gently. Use a similar approach with peppermint oil for hot flashes. Peppermint oil is also helpful for cramps, which some women report to persist during menopause.
Lavender is great for insomnia, a common side effect of menopause. Lavender relaxes the body and mind, allowing sleep to take over. Discomfort in the perineum can also be treated with a lavender compress.
Geranium oil helps to relieve stress. Adding a few drops to your bath water also helps dry skin, which is prevalent during menopause. Speak to your doctor before using essential oils to treat menopausal symptoms to make sure it’s safe.
10. Put stress on the back burner
Stress is a vital contributor to menopausal symptoms. Avoiding it, therefore, is critical during menopause. Of course, this is easier said than done. Modern living is stressful. We lead busy lives that induce stress. Good stress keeps us motivated. Bad stress causes long-term health problems.
Stress hormones are released as soon as you feel a threat. As a knock-on effect, your sex hormone levels can also become disrupted. The stress of menopausal symptoms adds more to the mix beyond the stresses of daily life. Stress cannot be avoided. It must be managed.
Managing stress relies on a great degree of introspection. You must critically examine your life and identify the triggers that cause you stress. You may not be able to eliminate them all, but work to handle as many potential triggers as possible. If your triggers are part and parcel of your daily life, you need to set in place plans to manage them.
You can learn techniques for stress management and relaxation techniques from a therapist. Implementing these can help reduce the stress in your life and help you deal with menopause more effectively.
9. Black cohosh eases hot flashes
Black cohosh comes from a plant in the buttercup family. Its effectiveness is thought to be linked to its ability to act like an estrogen substitute. In doing so, black cohosh decreases the luteinizing hormone. This is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland which is linked to hot flashes.
Black cohosh also affects the release of serotonin, a hormone believed to play a role in hot flashes.
Studies on the effect of black cohosh on menopausal symptoms – especially hot flashes – reveal mixed results. One study found a reduction reported by 84% of women. Another found it to be no more or less effective than the use of estrogen. A third study concluded that the herb had minimal effect on menopausal women.
The most significant study on the ability of black cohosh to help menopausal women was conducted in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health. It was called the Herbal Alternatives for Menopause Trial (HALT). The findings were inconclusive. Symptoms in a third of the subjects decreased whether they took black cohosh or a placebo. But it might work for you. Ask your doctor if it’s a good idea to try it.
8. Exercise those hot flashes away
A few spirited exercise sessions done on a weekly basis can have a great effect on your menopause symptoms. Joining a gym would allow you to access equipment that exercises a variety of muscles. If you can’t, a 30-minute walk every other day will still make a difference.
Aerobic exercise such as walking and running, and strength training such as weight training, can be combined for optimal effect.
Studies conducted have shown that exercise decreases the frequency, duration and severity of hot flashes. In a study conducted in Spain, women who did not exercise frequently were divided into two groups. The first group was encouraged to continue not exercising, and the second group began to work out for three-and-a-half hours each week.
After a year, two-thirds of those who were working out reported an improvement in their symptoms and improved sense of physical and mental well-being. Only one-third of the non-exercising group reported an improvement.
Several other studies have been conducted, and all show that exercise helps menopause symptoms.
7. Soothing sage tea
The use of sage to reduce the excessive sweating and hot flashes that menopause brings is well-known. However, until 2010, no formal study had been conducted. Until then, it was regarded as an old wives’ tale.
In 2010, a Swiss study was published. 71 women took a sage tablet daily. Within 4 weeks, the women reported that their hot flashes were reduced by 50%. After 8 weeks, hot flashes decreased by 64%. Those who began the study with severe hot flashes reported a 79% drop in occurrence.
Instead of a sage pill, you can also try sage tea. Use a tablespoon of fresh sage leaves or a heaping teaspoon of dried sage. Add the sage to a cup of boiling water. Allow the tea to brew for about 10 minutes, and remove the sage.
The tea may be an acquired taste. You can add some honey to make it more palatable. Experiment to see if you prefer your sage tea hot or cold.
Some women report that acupuncture has relieved many of their menopause symptoms. Acupuncture is a procedure many women have turned to in order to reduce their hot flashes. If you go for acupuncture, remember that it may take time for the benefits to show themselves.
Also make sure to visit a reputable practitioner. Ask your doctor for help locating one. Many charlatans advertise themselves as acupuncturists but aren’t suitably qualified. They’ll charge you a fortune for fake services that won’t benefit you at all.
Acupuncture is believed to work because it stimulates the release of hormones such as cortisol, endorphins and serotonin. These hormones can, in turn, help keep the levels of hormones such as estrogen balanced.
In 2009, an issue of Menopause reported that women who underwent 10 acupuncture treatments over a 12-week period had fewer hot flashes. Those who went for sham treatments reported no change.
5. Vitex or chasteberry
This brown berry is the size of a peppercorn and packs a powerful healing punch. It is the fruit of the chaste tree. Chasteberry is also known as vitex agnus-castus. In years past, it was known as “monk’s pepper” from the “monk’s tree.” It was believed to reduced sexual desire.
Monks used it in the belief that it would keep them chaste and pure, hence the name chasteberry. The tree grows in western Asia and southwestern Europe.
You can buy chasteberry as a liquid extract, essential oil or supplement capsule. Many people prefer to drink chasteberry tea. You can ask your local health store if they stock it. Chasteberry reduces the symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin and irregular periods. It does so by increasing progesterone at low doses, which helps alleviate the menopausal symptoms.
Two trials have been conducted on a total of 75 women. Most reported relief from menopausal symptoms after using chasteberry essential oil. The essential oil is made from the fruit and leaf of the tree.
4. Natural progesterone cream can ease symptoms
Progesterone cream is made with natural progesterone or synthetic progesterone (called progestin). Natural progesterone cream can effectively treat many symptoms of menopause by raising levels of progesterone in the body. Progesterone is a female hormone which, together with estrogen, starts to decline at the onset of menopause.
Natural progesterone cream is applied topically. It is easily absorbed into the skin and gets to work immediately. Using a natural progesterone cream is a mild form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It is vital that menopausal women keep their progesterone levels up.
Progesterone is vital for a variety of health reasons. It prevents endometriosis and any other excessive tissue build-up in the uterus. In addition to its function within the female reproductive system, progesterone is important for many other aspects of general health. Progesterone is essential for the production of new bone, and it stabilizes the clotting capacity of the blood. It acts as a natural diuretic preventing a build-up of fluids in the body.
Progesterone is equally important for keeping sleep patterns consistent. It also lessens depression and anxiety, and stimulates the libido.
3. Good old ginseng
Ginseng is well-known as a traditional medicine widely used in Asia and the Far East. Ginseng is an herb that grows prolifically in East Asia. It contains various healing and restorative powers that we are only just beginning to understand.
It is currently associated with the treatment of memory loss and concentration. Students rely on it at exam time. Older people use it to give them a “pep in their step” and keep their memories sharp.
In addition to these uses, ginseng can boost mental function in menopausal women. It combats hot flashes, fatigue and mood swings. The causal link between ginseng and the treatment of menopausal symptoms is phytoestrogens, compounds believed to be found in ginseng.
Phytoestrogens are molecularly similar to estrogen, so they can mimic a lot of its functions in the body. This can alleviate those symptoms of menopause brought on by reduced estrogen levels. You can buy ginseng supplements at the grocery store or pharmacy.
Before taking it, read about the side effects. There may be negative interactions with other drugs the patient is taking. The dose should also be evaluated. Too much ginseng can cause mild-to-moderate nausea and headaches.
2. St. John’s wort for depression-like symptoms
St. John’s wort comes from the hypericum perforatum plant. While indigenous to portions of Asia and Europe, it grows in all temperate regions today. In certain areas, it is regarded as a weed. Its track record in the world of natural medicine dates back to ancient Greece.
St. John’s Wort contains hypericin and hyperforin. When people speak about St. John’s wort, they usually do so in the context of its anti-depressant properties. Hypericin is known to treat depression by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the body. This is what an antidepressant does. Often, St. John’s wort is prescribed as a mild antidepressant in lieu of conventional drugs.
Some of the symptoms of menopause are similar to those of depression: Insomnia, loss of appetite, mood swings and irritability characterize both conditions. That is why St. John’s wort can be effective in treating menopausal symptoms.
Consult your doctor before using St. John’s wort, as it does have side effects such as dizziness, nausea, anxiety and aggression. It can also interact negatively with other medications, especially pharmaceutical antidepressants and anxiety treatments.
1. Adopt a ‘whole body’ approach
Treating the symptoms of menopause should be done on a holistic basis. It is vital that women accept the onset of menopause. Many see it as a threat to their womanhood and try to pretend it’s not happening. It marks the end of a woman’s fertility. In a lot of societies, women define themselves by their ability to bear children. When they enter menopause, they may regard themselves as less of a woman.
Denial will only make the symptoms worse because nothing is being done to treat them. That’s why when women enter menopause, they need to be able to acknowledge it.
Having accepted the onset of menopause, women need to view treatment as several different actions that combine to make one effective process. There is not one single path to follow, but rather a combination of approaches and remedies.
Reading up on what supplements to take and what diet they should follow is helpful. But women must also look at their overall lifestyle. No treatment is going to work properly if women don’t exercise, are subjected to extreme stress or don’t get enough sleep. A holistic approach will give the best results.