Most women come to see me because they’re looking for natural solutions for uncomfortable symptoms, rather than relying on heavy duty prescription medications. But they have a lot of questions about these natural alternatives when it comes to perimenopause and menopause.
Judy, for example, came to talk with me about the fuzzy thinking, hot flashes and/or insomnia she’d been experiencing. As I began talking about the alternative, natural treatments available, she gave me a skeptical look. “If these natural treatments are so gentle, how can they possibly alleviate these excruciating symptoms I’m experiencing?” she asked.
I assured her, and I want to assure you, that the natural approach is highly effective for many women — even those with severe symptoms.
That’s because natural treatments for perimenopause and menopause work in a completely different way than prescription drugs. And the natural approach works with your body for a lasting effect, rather than just relieving symptoms temporarily. It can actually prevent or reduce the severity of nearly all of your symptoms! Let’s talk about where these symptoms come from, and then we’ll look at some easy steps you can take to get natural menopause relief.
What’s behind symptoms of perimenopause and menopause?
Hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, fuzzy thinking, digestive troubles, irritability…the list of symptoms women experience in these times of transition goes on and on.
A lot of women wonder where these symptoms come from – and why some women experience them constantly while others barely notice the change.
Hormones have a lot to do with it. During perimenopause and menopause, your hormone levels are naturally shifting – and sometimes that means they become imbalanced and symptoms arise. Often, estrogen declines more slowly than progesterone, which throws the ration off and creates hormonal imbalance.
Stress is another important factor. Long term stress and anxiety put your adrenal glands into overdrive, producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline constantly. This impacts the adrenals ability to support the body through the changes in sex hormones.
Lifestyle choices can exacerbate symptoms as well – especially food and sleep. Diet is so important to how you feel, and even more so if your hormone levels are off. The modern diet is less than ideal for many women, and food today (even conventionally grown produce) contains so many chemicals, pesticides, allergens, and hormones that it can really disrupt hormonal functioning.
Sleep can be difficult, especially in perimenopause or menopause — but getting enough quality sleep is critical to managing symptoms. Your body heals itself as you sleep, and if that can’t happen, your symptoms are likely to be worse.
5 Steps for Natural Menopause Relief
In my practice, I believe that in order to discover the root causes of your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, you have to commit to taking the necessary steps toward relief. Implementing these natural solutions will help help correct the symptoms you are experiencing. Natural treatment addresses imbalances between the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. And there’s no risk of the side effects that are often experienced when taking commonly prescribed medications, such as antidepressants.
If these steps are overwhelming to try all at once, find what fits your lifestyle and do the best you can. Even one small change can make a big difference! Here are five steps that can help you find relief naturally:
1. Nip Your Symptoms in the Bud with Optimal Nutrition
The most effective (and enjoyable!) medicine that exists is the food that you eat. You should strive to eat a balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and protein. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables at each meal, including breakfast. A veggie omelet or yogurt with fresh fruit are great options for adding produce to your morning meal. It’s best to eat three meals a day and two or more snacks in order to keep your blood sugar stable. One of the most important pieces to the nutrition puzzle is to remember that refined carbohydrates and sugars can really do damage to hormonal balance, so reduce them as much as possible.
Optimal nutrition is achieved by making sure that you are consuming enough vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. This can be difficult with the modern food supply chain, so there are natural supplements you can add to your daily regimen. This is especially important if you feel overwhelmed with your daily life and it is hard to eat in the healthy way that is recommended. For instance, many women live a fast paced life and have a hard time eating enough of the healthy foods that ensure they’re getting enough of the key B vitamin folate. Supplementing with Metafolin (5-MTHF, or l-methylfolate) can take care of that problem. L-Methylfolate is the biologically active form of folate that’s much easier for your body to process and use.
2. Use Herbal Remedies that Function Like Our Own Hormones
As I just said, food is medicine. There is incredible strength in plants and herbal remedies that have been known to prevent menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms. It is amazing that many plants and herbs can adapt to the needs of your body. This is because they share various molecular features with our own hormones, allowing them to support our hormone production. They can slow down production and even mimic what our own hormones do depending on the body’s unique needs.
Some herbs that can help reduce menopause symptoms include black cohosh, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam and ashwagandha.
3. Exercise to Reduce the Fat that Can Upset Estrogen and Progesterone Ratios
Most women tell me that they feel as if they are gaining weight steadily during perimenopause and menopause, especially around their stomachs and abdomen. It is particularly frustrating for these women because the weight sticks to unusual places and their scales refuse to budge. One of the reasons that this is so common is because fluctuating estrogen levels tend to cause your body to hold on to fat. On top of this, fat actually produces estrogen, which can create even more fat. Therefore, the cycle continues.
Just as I am an advocate that food is medicine, I also believe that movement is medicine. You can make such a positive impact on your health by walking, dancing, yoga, swimming, biking or whatever other form of exercise you enjoy. And enjoyment is key — you won’t continue with a program you simply don’t like! Moving your body has a major impact on your weight, other menopausal symptoms, and your overall health. Gentle exercise can be helpful too, especially if your adrenal glands are overworked and you constantly feel fatigued. But remember, the most important thing is to do something you enjoy!
4. Restore Yourself to Decrease the Stress that Intensifies Symptoms
Conventional doctors often prescribe antidepressants to women to deal with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Antidepressants have become the treatment of choice for many symptoms due information from the Women’s Health Initiative. More and more we see women feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, and depressed during the menopause transition. But depression is the symptom, and antidepressants are simply masking this symptom. To get to the real heart of the problem, we believe antidepressants are not the best answer for natural menopause relief in most cases.
Stress can be the culprit behind additional imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters that affect mood as well as mental function, thyroid function, digestive function, and especially blood sugar imbalances. Stress has also been linked to symptoms such as hot flashes and low libido.
The physical effects of stress make nurturing self-care especially important. One of the most effective, inexpensive and amazingly simple ways to reduce stress is deep breathing. Think how easy just taking a deep breath several times a day is. You can easily build it into your routines by choosing a time (perhaps while waiting at a stoplight, in line at a store, or even listening to a conference call) to take three deep, slow breaths.
5. Understand How Emotional Wellness Plays a Vital Role in Your Overall Physical Health
Have you ever heard the phrase “As you think, so goes your life”? Well this is definitely a time that this phrase can ring true. Your thoughts and feelings have a dramatic impact on your health, so why not make it a positive effect? One method is to keep a journal, which can help you become aware of your feelings and identify any patterns. Another great way to shift your thinking is by making a list each day of at least three things you are grateful for. The world is full of division, confusion and negativity right now, so it can be helpful to begin your day with a positive affirmation (one example is “I am strong and capable”). The news and social media can really have a negative impact on thinking. Try setting a time limit on how much you will expose yourself too, or scrolling right by negative headlines without clicking on the article. Find positive, uplifting articles to read instead!
Find the Natural Menopause Relief Combination That Works Best for You
For many women, perimenopause and menopause offer an opportunity to change, to become a different person, one who is less interested in what people think of them, and much more able to speak up for herself. Many women who are going through perimenopause and menopause may even discover a certain freedom, and find that their life is better in certain areas than they ever thought it would be. This is the feeling I want for all of my clients!
The idea that perimenopause and menopause are ordeals to be endured is just not necessary. I’ve always found that when women make natural adjustments to their lifestyles, not only do they feel much better but they also feel in control of their menopause symptoms.
I want you to feel inspired, and I encourage you to start making progress towards the above with small, yet important, changes. When you do, you can see some remarkable results! Add a morning veggie/fruit smoothie, start your day with a positive morning ritual, find even five to ten minutes to do something you love, ensure that you remember to breathe each day (put up signs to remind yourself if needed) and make a commitment to take your supplements every day.
With a little bit of time and trial and error, you’ll discover the combination of natural menopause relief steps that works best for you!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD