Written by contributor Megan of Sorta Crunchy.
Hot flashes. Mood swings. Decreased libido.
Every woman knows the symptoms of menopause, whether we have gleaned our knowledge from television shows and movies or from family members or friends who are going through The Change. And more than likely, many of us believe that managing the symptoms of menopause will involve turning to a conventional model of care which might involve medication or hormone replacement therapy.
I’m certainly not a medical professional, but I am a woman with a family history of early onset of menopause, so this is a topic I’ve become increasingly interested in exploring. I’ve come across some approaches to this inevitable season of every woman’s life that might allow us to weather these changes in a natural way.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the season of life when a woman experiences cessation of her menstrual cycles and is no longer fertile. There are several subcategories of menopause including surgical menopause (brought on by the surgical removal of ovaries, often done in conjunction with a hysterectomy), premature menopause (onset of menopause before the age of 40), and perimenopause (the years leading up to complete menopause when many women begin to experience symptoms).
One view of menopause is that it is triggered by a drop in estrogen production in the body. However, Dr. John Lee pioneered a view on menopause that this is actually a time of estrogen dominance that results from dropping progesterone production in the body. One thing is clear – menopause is a time of hormonal imbalance, and all approaches to managing the symptoms of menopause seek to provide a balance.
How Are the Symptoms of Menopause Treated?
It’s important to remember that the process of menopause itself is not being treated. This is a normal season for every woman and therefore doesn’t require treatment. However, many women need to find relief for the symptoms of menopause. These symptoms can range from mild to so severe that they cause great disruption in day-to-day life.Photo by SashaW
One approach to managing the symptoms of menopause revolves around hormone replacement therapy. While it may be effective, HRT also comes with an increased risk of cancer. Your care provider may also suggest any of a number of other treatments for menopausal symptoms (including patches, vaginal rings, and medications) and these certainly may be the best choice for you as an individual. For women who are generally more comfortable with non-medication based treatments, there are plenty of options for natural symptom relief.
How Can Menopause Symptoms be Treated Naturally?
1) Diet : It seems that across the board, the advice for women approaching or in menopause is the same – eliminate caffeine and refined sugars and concentrate on whole and plant-based foods.
Caffeine and excessive alcohol seem to intensify hot flashes. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower tend to rid the body of excess estrogen so those who believe in the estrogen dominance theory of menopause may try adding in more of these vegetables. Additionally, flaxseed is thought to help combat vaginal dryness, a common and irritating symptom of menopause.
2) Herbal teas: There are a number of herbal teas available that may help to ease hormonal symptoms. One friend of mine drinks a combination of red raspberry, red clover, and oatstraw teas daily to support a healthy balance of hormones. In fact, oat straw tea on its own may help alleviate “insomnia, tension, anxiety, headaches, sadness and depression” according to Beth Netter in this article on the healing power of oats.Photo by *saxon*
3) Herbal supplements : Again, there is a wide variety of herbal products that may provide relief for menopausal symptoms. It would be best to consult with an alternative medicine provider who is familiar with these herbal remedies and can advise which ones might be right for you. Some of the remedies you may come across are Cal/Mag, Chasteberry, Evening Primrose Oil, St. John’s Wort, and Valerian.
One herbal supplement that I myself have found to be very helpful in treating hormonal imbalance is Black Cohosh. While there are recommendations to take this daily for hormonal support, I have found I can take it as needed to help combat mood swings and irritability. As with all of these recommendations, it is best to seek the advice of an alternative medicine practitioner.
4) Coconut oil: While there are many suggestions for natural solutions to mood swings, insomnia, and hot flashes, there seem to be fewer for dealing with vaginal dryness. Believe it or not, coconut oil may provide relief for this! Refined coconut oil has a less “coconut-y” smell than the unrefined coconut oil you may be using in your kitchen if that is a concern for you.
5) Bioidentical progesterone treatments: There is so much controversy surrounding the use of hormone treatments, that I am hesitant to mention it in this list. However, many women find that some kind of hormone therapy is the only hope they have for surviving and thriving in this season of change. Try to avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapies (with names like Premarin, Prempro, and Provera) and focus onbioidentical
progesterone treatments. These often come in the form of patches or creams or they can be in pill form.
The more I learn about the season of life when our bodies undergo such life-altering change, the more amazed I am at the complexities of the female body! It is obvious that no one approach will work for everyone. Each of us are incredibly and remarkably unique and it makes sense that we would each need to find our own paths through the menopausal years. I hope these ideas will be a starting point – whether you are in the midst of The Change or just filing this away for future reference.
Some other resources you might find helpful are:
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause – Dr. John Lee, M. D.
- “Estrogen Dominance – Is It Real?” – Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
- “The Truth About Progesterone For HRT” – Laura Owens
Have you given much thought to menopause? If you are in the midst of this season of life, what has been most effective in treating the symptoms? If you aren’t quite there yet, what experiences of friends and family can you share to add to the discussion?