Natural Alternatives for Reducing the Symptoms of Menopause

At-Home Treatments and Lifestyle Changes

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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 once a common treatment for menopause. However, it increases the risk of both breast cancer and heart disease and now more caution is taking in prescribing it. Instead, some women look for natural alternatives to ease the discomfort they experience during menopause.

Such sources of discomfort include hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Here are the best lifestyle modifications and natural treatments.

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 weight-bearing exercise helps prevent and reduce bone loss and plays a key role in reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. You need to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, jogging, gardening, or dancing. For weight loss, you may need 60 minutes or more, most days of the week, combined with a reduced-calorie diet.

Mind-Body Practices

Mindfulness meditation is being studied to see if it can be of use for hot flashes as well as improving sleep quality and reducing stress. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says one study has some promising results.

Hypnosis was also found to reduce the frequency of hot flashes in one study funded by the NCCIH. Yoga may also help with some symptoms, but it doesn't seem to decrease hot flashes. Acupuncture has not been proven to be effective against hot flashes.

Diet

Your diet is an important means of controlling menopausal symptoms.

For reducing the effects of hot flashes, you may want to limit caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol. Limiting caffeine and alcohol at night can also help relieve insomnia naturally. You will want to be sure you are getting enough calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D through food, although supplements are also recommended for calcium and vitamin D.

You will have an increased risk of heart disease after menopause as your estrogen is reduced. Now is the time to follow dietary recommendations to reduce your heart risks. These currently include limiting saturated fats and eliminating trans fats from your diet.

Weight gain is a common problem in menopause, and you will need to watch how much you eat. Reduce refined sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet as those are empty calories.

What should you eat instead? Increase your intake of foods that contain phytoestrogens such as soy, chickpeas, lentils, and ground flaxseed. It's best to choose natural foods as sources of these plant estrogens rather than taking supplements. Other foods you should include in your diet include grains, oats, wheat, brown rice, tofu, almonds, cashews, fresh fruits, and vegetables. These contain fiber and other beneficial nutrients.

Vitamins

Starting at age 50, you should begin supplementing your diet with 1500 mg of calcium and at least 800 IU of vitamin D3 each day to prevent osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Vitamin E may have a tiny effect in reducing hot flashes as seen in a single study. But you must take care not to take too high of a dose or you risk bleeding, strokes, and heart failure.

Probiotics

Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus cultures may be useful 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.

Herbs and Supplements

You will likely see supplements marketed for menopause. Here is the current state of the evidence as to whether they might be worthwhile, according to the NCCIH:

  • Phytoestrogens such as red clover isoflavone haven't shown consistent results in relieving menopause symptoms, and flaxseed products have been shown to be ineffective for hot flashes. In general, it is better to include these foods in the diet rather than take them in pills.
  • Black cohosh shows inconsistent results. There is still a lack of good evidence that it works. It is not recommended for anyone with liver problems.
  • DHEA is a precursor to estrogen and your body makes less as you age. It isn't known whether it has a use in treating menopause symptoms, but its use may cause liver damage.
  • Dong quai is a Chinese medicinal herb. There are no good studies as to whether it works. It can interact with the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin).
  • Not enough research has been done to draw conclusions about evening primrose oil, ginseng, kava, melatonin, or wild yam. However, kava brings a risk of severe liver disease.

Bioidentical Hormones

Natural estrogen or progesterone compounds are available by prescription from compounding pharmacists. The evidence doesn't support claims that these bioidentical hormones are more effective or safer than conventional hormone therapy. There is also concern that their content may vary from batch to batch.

A Word From Verywell

You may want to find a natural alternative to relieve your menopausal symptoms, but natural does not always mean safe or effective. Be aware that marketers are happy to sell you products that make vague promises but are not backed by research. Always inform your healthcare provider of any natural alternative treatments you are using. They can interfere with your other medications or dangerously magnify the their effects. Your doctor needs to know this so you medications can be adjusted appropriately.

Sources:

Diet, Nutrition, and the Menopause. Women's Health Concern. https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/focus-series/diet-nutrition-menopause/

Eating Right During Menopause. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/healthy-aging/eating-right-during-menopause.

Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms.

Non-Hormonal Ways to Cope with Hot Flashes & Menopause. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/non-hormonal-ways-to-cope-with-hot-flashes-and-menopause.

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