Menopause pretty much inevitably affects half of the world’s population in some way. At the time a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and levels of estrogen decrease, menopause symptoms are annoying at their best and debilitating at their worst – hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, fluid retention, and about a zillion other irritating and confusing phenomena that make hormone therapy seem like a great option.
But there are natural ways to help relieve these symptoms while letting the body do what it naturally would do. Read on for some tips, tricks, herbs, and lifestyle changes that can help you find the right menopause relief you’ve been seeking:
Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce and relieve menopause symptoms. When you get moving, it stimulates the adrenal gland to convert the male hormone andostenedione to estrogen. Exercise also helps to shorten the duration and lessen the intensity of hot flashes. Also, your blood begins to circulate and endorphins release, which gives you a sense of well being. Also, exercise prevents the unnecessary weight gain sometimes associated with menopause. Try 30-minute walks 3 times a week, combined with a weekly gentle yoga regimen like Hatha Yoga.
2. Dietary Changes
There are ingestibles that make hot flashes worse, and these include tea as well as coffee and alcohol. Many people have a coffee routine but find dandelion to be an acceptable substitute – more about that here. Smoking should also be limited during menopause to the bare minimum (it is, of course, always best to quit). Spicy foods may make hot flashes worse because they increase the body’s own heat. Trimming these foods and beverages out of your diet when symptoms occur will help to relieve symptoms.
We’ve heard about how soy contains phytoestrogens which behave like estrogen in the body; for women undergoing menopause, this may actually be a good thing. Some studies suggest that in countries like Japan, where soy consumption is high, menopause affects less women and the symptoms are less serious.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose helps with moodiness, headaches, and fluid retention, and may be helpful in reducing the duration and frequency of hot flashes. However, evening primrose must be taken regularly for several weeks before it becomes effective. The recommended amount is one capsule of evening primrose oil every day for two weeks a month, and four capsules daily one week prior to scheduled monthly menstruation.
5. Black Cohosh
This member of the buttercup family is one of the most widely studied. Black Cohosh menopause relief helps significantly with the occurrence of hot flashes but not necessarily with other menapause symptoms; in a study that isolated hot flashes, black cohosh did exceedingly well. Read more about black cohosh studies here.
6. Dong Quai
This herb, which has the nickname “female ginseng”, contains phytoestrogens that bind to the estrogen receptors in our body, thereby increasing our levels of estrogen. This increased estrogen then works to reduce a variety of menopausal symptoms, acting as a remedy for hot flashes, by dilating blood vessels and increasing the flow of blood.
It is important to note that the last three tips are herbal supplements, which should be discussed with your doctor if you’re already on other medication. They are powerful and can interfere with other medicines you’re taking. That said, though, these herbs are widely known to help with menopause symptoms and, in general, doctors are becoming knowledgeable about them. Your doctor should be able to discuss herbal solutions with you; if not, consider seeking out an alternative doctor with herbal knowledge.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.