Women have been told to expect hot flashes, disrupted sleep, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and decreased sex drive as they enter into menopause. But the transition doesn’t have to be disruptive. Here are six natural remedies to minimize menopausal symptoms.
What is Menopause?
First, some background to illuminate what’s happening as you shift into menopause. The average age for menopause in the U.S. is 51, but some women begin to experience hormonal shifts as early as their late 30’s. Click here for an interesting article on the role of chemicals/cosmetics in disrupting endocrine function.
Peri-menopause is the time leading up to the end of menses. When a woman has not had a period for one year, she is considered menopausal. Decreases in progesterone and estrogen, a woman’s 2 main sex hormones, are the first shift into menopause. That’s when symptoms may crop up, usually due to stress on the adrenal glands. The adrenals are the command and control center of the body and are responsible for the release of cortisol and sex hormones. The adrenals communicate with the hypothalamus and thyroid through a complex feedback loop to trigger the release of sex hormones and thyroid hormone.
Ideally, one should transition into menopause without experiencing major symptoms, but sadly, this is pretty rare these days. During menopause, the adrenals “take over” for the ovaries to help manage dropping hormone levels produced by the ovaries. If your adrenals are taxed from stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, too much sugar/booze, and pain/inflammation, you may experience more severe menopausal symptoms.
Six Natural Remedies for Menopause Symptoms
1. Address stress! As I mentioned, stress can be emotional/work/lack of sleep; dietary (eating inflammatory foods, foods to which you are allergic, too much booze and sugar). If you feel exhausted and harried going into menopause, your symptoms will be worse, so support your adrenals with a solid diet, 8-9 hours of sleep, yoga or whatever kind of mind/body exercise works for you. Click here to read more about how to balance your adrenals. Acupuncture helps, too. Consider a saliva test for adrenal hormone function. You can also try an adaptogenic herbal blend for adrenal support. I like Gaia adrenal support. You’ll also want to get your thyroid tested. Check your TSH, T3, T4 levels. More on thyroid health here. You can order a thyroid panel online yourself here.
2. How is your diet? Remove inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy (more on this in a bit), vegetable oils, sugar, and excess alcohol. Stick to plenty of good fats (helps your body produce the hormones you need) like coconut oil, butter, and cod liver oil; eat organic proteins & veggies; and get plenty of probiotic-rich foods (such as raw kraut) to support healthy body composition and good gut flora.
3. Be aware that inflammation and inflammatory conditions can crop up during menopause because estrogen (in normal levels during reproductive years) protects against inflammation in the body. Increased risks of cardiovascular disease, higher insulin, and higher lipids (LDL) may result, so avoid the above mentioned inflammatory foods and increase the foods that combat inflammation: omega 3 rich foods like farm eggs, grass fed beef, fatty fish, leafy greens, walnuts. Take cod liver oil for beneficial fatty acids + vitamin D. Increase calcium and mineral rich foods like bone broth (click here for my bone broth recipe), leafy greens, root veggies, and super mineral-rich root vegetables. Do NOT take a calcium-only supplement; it needs to be balanced with magnesium. Get as much as you can from food. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try the Natural Calm cal-mag blend before bed.
4. AVOID SOY, which can further disrupt hormone levels, especially thyroid hormone. While you may feel better for a time (because of soy’s estrogenic properties), soy and processed soy foods may cause chronic estrogen dominance and suppress thyroid hormone. Click here and here for my articles on soy.
5. Supplements to help: There is compelling research about Siberian rhubard extract. It apparently has the magical ability to reduce hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms relatively quickly. In one clinical study it reduced hot flashes from 12 daily down to 1.5! I personally haven’t witnessed much improvement with black cohosh, the other purported menopause miracle cure. I think this phyto-B supplement works well— it contains plant-based estrogen (from licorice root) and progesterone (from wild yam). The goal is not to restart your cycle but to support falling hormone levels during the transition. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you’ll need to work with a practitioner (like me) to address the root cause and correct the underlying imbalance, whether it’s adrenal exhaustion, diet, or other factors. Femenessence can work really well too. For vaginal dryness and atrophy, try Julva cream.
6. Get 7-8 hours sleep, exercise (but don’t over-exercise!), keep blood sugar levels stable by eating in regular intervals (also drains adrenals when blood sugar levels spike and crash), and support the liver! Your liver metabolizes hormones and could use support during this transition. Read more on how to support the liver here. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try this herbal sleep support. It’s great because it’s a blend of botanicals, nutrients, and neurotransmitter precursors designed to support sleep. This passion flower extract has been a life saver for my clients too. Keep it by your bedside and take it before bed and when you wake in the middle of the night.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.