Naturally Relieve Symptoms of Menopause
As a woman ages her hormones become depleted and for some women these hormones wreak havoc on her physically, mentally and emotionally. It is amazing how much of an influence they play on a daily basis. On average menopause starts at around 51 although it can also happen in your 40’s or 50’s. This is when the ovaries no longer produce hormones and you have not had a period for 12 months. Symptoms do normally start before this, known as perimenopause, which is the transitional period where the period becomes erratic and emotions may too.
Both menopause and perimenopause symptoms vary between women, as well as their severity. The most common symptoms include, hot flushes, mood changes, fatigue, vaginal dryness and night sweats. Some women may have none, one or all the symptoms. In this article I would like to go through a few options women have in naturally treating menopausal symptoms.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
I treat a lot of women with symptoms of menopause and have had great success with the use of both acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture and herbs can help to reduce the occurrence of hot flushes, stimulate the metabolism to manage weight gain as well as increase libido and balance hormones.
Chinese herbal formulas are also fantastic for treating symptoms. The best thing about Chinese herbal formulas are that they are tailor made for the patient. So depending on your symptoms and what your practitioner diagnoses, he/she will then create a formula just for you. Basically all symptoms can be treated with herbs and you don’t need to take a generic pill which may only cover some of your complaints.
Black Cohosh and Vitex Agnus-Castus
Sheng Ma is well-known in Chinese medicine as Ascending Hemp, and Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemose, is the western species. I use black cohosh for my patients to help reduce hot flushes, excessive sweating and vaginal dryness as well as help balance moods.
Vitex Agnus Castus is another well-known herb to treat menopause. It can also be used for menstrual issues such as dysmenorrhea or PMS. Vitex Agnus have components that have the same structure and function to both estrogen and progesterone. Studies have proven that Vitex Agnus has a positive effect on reducing hot flushes, with a dose of 40 drops per day for 8 weeks. As Vitex helps to balance hormones it therefore also helps to balance your mood and energy levels.
Omega 3 and Probiotics
Mood swings and depression are common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. In a way your whole body becomes depressed. Your metabolism slows down and you feel lethargic. Omega 3 fatty acids have been suggested in studies to help with depression as well as hot flushes. I personally recommend omega 3’s in combination with other supplements.
A healthy intestinal flora is essential to maintaining gut-brain balance. 90% of our Serotonin is produced in the gut. And while serotonin, our feel good hormone, does not come from probiotics, probiotics however help to maintain a healthy intestinal milieu essential for the creation of amino acids such as tryptophan, which creates serotonin. Furthermore, probiotics have been proven to assist in the prevention of bacterial vaginitis and candida. As estrogen levels reduce, so too do lactobacilli which subsequently causes infections and an increase in candida albicans.
Less well-known but certainly showing good results is Equol. Equol is a type of phytoestrogen derived from soy. Phytoestrogens resemble human estrogen and soy has the richest sources of it. Bacteria in the gut break down certain chemicals in soy to produce equol. Making you an equol producer. However not all of us can break down soy and produce equol and therefore supplements can be taken in women who are not producers and are not intolerant to soy. Equol has a positive effect on hot flushes, metabolic syndrome and might slow bone loss.
Food & Lifestyle
Much has be said about ways to reduce the symptoms of menopause, however first and foremost is ensuring a healthy diet and exercising a little every day. Exercise is not only important for you physically, to help stimulate the metabolism and keep your bones strong, but also helps you mentally and if it’s outdoors it also gives you a good dose of Vitamin D.
Your diet can either make or break you. Certain foods like red meat, salmon, turkey and chicken, broccoli and legumes and leafy greens can help build your calcium and iron while high fat foods like ice cream, cheese and baked goods will increase the possibility of heart disease, cholesterol and weight gain. Eat slowly and small portions of meat or fish, greens, soy, whole grains and nuts and drink plenty of water. It is important to also avoid alcohol, sugar, rich and oily food as well as caffeine.
Menopause in itself does not mean that you need to suffer. Leading a healthy life, eating well and getting exercise should be a given. Start early with acupuncture treatment and take supplements to help navigate this change in life.