8 Natural Alternatives for Reducing the Symptoms of Menopause

Simple At-Home Treatments and Lifestyle Changes

Hormone Replacement Therapy. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

Menopause occurs at the natural end of every woman's reproductive life. So why not treat it in a natural way? Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was long the standard treatment for menopause. However, we now know that traditional HRT using synthetic estrogen and progestins increases the risk of both breast cancer and heart disease. Thanks to this new information, many women and healthcare providers are no longer routinely asking for or prescribing traditional estrogen replacement therapy.

Instead, ore and more women are turning to natural alternatives in order to ease the discomfort they experience during menopause. Such sources of discomfort include hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings

How Can I Treat the Symptoms of Menopause Without Turning To HRT?

1. Diet. Your diet is an important means of controlling menopausal symptoms. Foods to avoid include those with high amounts of caffeine. You should also avoid carbonated beverages, which contain phosphorous and can increase bone loss. Also, limit your consumption of commercially raised meats, including beef, pork, and chicken. These meats contain a high amount of saturated fats and decrease the body's ability to metabolize estrogen. Finally, excessive sugar intake also limits your liver's ability to metabolize estrogen and impairs the immune system.

What should you eat instead? Increase your intake of foods that contain phytoestrogens such as soy.

Other foods you should include in your diet include grains, oats, wheat, brown rice, tofu, almonds, cashews, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Supplements. According to research published by the Journal of the British Menopause Society, red clover isoflavone supplements, used in controlled studies, have been shown to have a significant positive effect on the rate of bone loss, improve cardiovascular health, and offer some protection against breast and endometrial cancer.

There is also evidence that suggests that red clover isoflavones decrease the incidence of hot flashes, one of the most common vasomotor complaints experienced by peri-menopausal and menopausal women. Dietary supplements can be found over-the-counter, without a prescription, at retail grocery, drug, and health food stores.

3. Bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus cultures are important for women during menopause to help with metabolism and utilization of estrogen. Some also believe these "good" bacteria help reduce the occurrence of yeast infections. These can be found in various nutritional formulas on the market.

4. Vitamins. In his book Medicinal Herbal Therapy: A Pharmacist's Viewpoint, registered pharmacist Steven G. Ottariano wrote that certain vitamins and minerals can provide particular benefits to menopausal women. These include Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU daily) to help reduce hot flashes and night sweats; Calcium (1500 mg daily); Magnesium (500 mg to 750 mg daily); and Vitamin C (1,000 mg to 2,000 mg daily).

5. Herbs. Also recommended by Ottariano is Black Cohosh (20 mg to 60 mg, 3 times daily), which is a phytoestrogen that helps many women manage menopause symptoms. Other herbs recommended as potentially beneficial by Ottariano include Dong Quai (500 mg to 1000 mg, 2 or 3 times daily), Evening Primrose Oil (500 mg 3 or 4 times daily), Ginseng (100 mg to 500 mg, 3 times daily), and Vitex Agnus Castus (175 mg daily).

6. Estrogen. Natural estrogen compounds are available by prescription from compounding pharmacists. These types of estrogen are bio-identical: they are chemically equal to the estrogen produced naturally in your body. There are three types of estrogens commonly used in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. These are:

  • Estrone (E1)
  • Estradiol (E2)
  • Estriol (E3)

Estrone and estradiol cause most of the risks associated with estrogen use. Natural or bio-identical estrogen compounds are prepared in any combination or number of these three types of estrogen. The most common formulation is 10 percent Estrone, 10 percent Estradiol, and 80 percent Estriol. This is called Tri-estrogen or Tri-est. A two-estrogen bio-identical compound is called bi-estrogen.

7. Progesterone. Natural progesterone is an important component in menopausal symptom management for many women. It's available in over-the-counter in products, in compounded prescriptions, and as a pharmaceutical. The benefit of using a cream product over an oral form is that you can use a much lower dose because it does not have to be metabolized by the liver. Natural progesterone causes virtually no side effects.

8. Exercise. Of course, don't forget to get plenty of regular exercise. Exercise is probably the single most important thing a woman can do to improve her overall health and well-being throughout her life. Regular exercise helps prevent and reduce bone loss, and plays a key role in reducing your risk of many types of cancer, as well as heart disease.

Although these suggestions work for many women, remember that every woman is different, and it may take some time for you to figure out which treatments, or combination of treatments, work best for you.

Also, you should always inform your healthcare provider of any natural alternative treatments you are using.

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