How to Relieve Menopause Symptoms
What is Menopause?
Menopause begins in your early 40s as your ovaries gradually produce less and less of the hormone estrogen. Your periods become erratic – sometimes skipping a month or alternating between light and heavy.
The next period of time is the transitioning to actual menopause. During this time you may continue to have erratic periods, and the more serious symptoms begin. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and insomnia are some of those.
The final and actual onset of menopause usually occurs in your early 50s and is represented by the absence of your period for a full 12 months. It’s those in between years that can wreak havoc in your life.
Why Are Natural Menopause Treatments Better?
Menopause is a natural occurrence in a woman’s reproductive life. So why not treat it in a natural way? Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the standard treatment for menopause among healthcare providers – however there remains considerable controversy about the benefits and risks associated with standard HRT drugs.
For the past several decades, conventional medicine has treated hot flashes and other menopausal discomforts with estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). But because ERT is dangerous for women with a history of cancer, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – which combines estrogen with a synthetic progesterone – is often used instead. But many women don’t want to take the potential increased risk of cancer associated with ERT, or they dislike the cyclical bleeding & significant side effects often caused by HRT.
Recent publicity concerning the health risks of synthetic hormone replacement therapy has led many women to seek more natural solutions. And with good reason. In areas of the world where soy and other estrogenic plants are part of the diet, breast cancer rates are much lower and menopausal symptoms are almost non-existent. Synthetic hormone replacement is not common because it is not needed.
In the U.S., where pharmaceutical companies make $8 billion a year on synthetic hormones, breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes are increasing dramatically among menopausal women. Dr. John Lee, author of “What your Doctor May Not Tell You about Menopause”, blames the increases on synthetic hormones. He says that the pharmaceutical companies are well aware of the problems. “The whole thing is madness,” he says, “and it’s driven by greed.” A few simple and natural solutions can clear up the menopausal problems and eliminate the health risks associated with the synthetic hormones.
Try adjusting your diet to include vegetables and fish that are high in Omega-3 as they contain nutrients that can help your body deal with menopause naturally. Conversely, there are foods that can make your menopausal symptoms worse. Caffeine, sugar, fatty dairy products, salt, alcohol and saturated oils can aggravate the symptoms.
Exercising regularly can also help alleviate menopausal symptoms. Scheduling at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week will relieve hot flashes. You will be able to think more clearly and reduce your risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
Finally, there are several herbs proven to help relieve menopause symptoms:
Vitamin E (as d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate)
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Can it prevent hot flashes? There were studies done in the late 1940′s showing it to relieve hot flashes and postmenopausal vaginal dryness. More recent studies are lacking. There are other benefits. We know from the Nurses Health Study that women who took vitamin E over a two-year period reduced their risk of fatal heart attacks by 40%. Vitamin E is also being studied for its effect on Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Combining vitamin E with other antioxidants such as selenium, chromium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C may offer a synergistic effect. That means they work better together than separate.
Soy (Glycine max) (seed)
Soy contains natural plant estrogens called phytoestrogens. In fact, no other food has a higher phytoestrogen content than soy. Although phytoestrogens are weaker than human estrogens they behave similarly in the human body. In the body, phytoestrogens balance a woman’s estrogen level by attaching themselves to the body’s estrogen receptor sites. When attached, phytoestrogens can decrease estrogen levels in perimenopausal women and increase estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. In addition to relieving menopausal symptoms, research shows that soy helps promote heart health. Many doctors and researchers soy to relieve many menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and other discomforts.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) (root)
The primary use of black cohosh extract is for alleviation of menopause symptoms. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines on the use of botanicals for the management of menopausal symptoms support this use for up to six months, especially in treating the symptoms of sleep and mood disturbance, and hot flushes. Studies demonstrate efficacy in patients taking black cohosh extract similar to that of estrogen in the treatment of neurovegetative menopausal symptoms.
Damaiana (Turnerna diffusa) (leaf)
This yellow-flowering shrub typically grows in climates that are hot and humid, including Central and South America, and in the state of Texas. Damiana has historically been used as an aphrodisiac and has been claimed to induce euphoria. It is indicated to alleviate depression and relieve anxiety and induce relaxation. Damiana could lead to relaxation and could calm anxiety. Those suffering from sexual dysfunction resulting from stress or emotional troubles could benefit from supplementation with this herb.
Originally published Nov. 2005