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Natural Remedies For Menopausal Symptoms

Lissa Rankin's picture

Natural Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms

You may have noticed that, although I’m a gynecologist, I haven’t written much about menopause on Owning Pink. This is intentional. You see, I’m always reluctant to write about something I haven’t experienced firsthand. I know men write with expertise and wisdom about childbirth and menopause, periods and vaginas, without experiencing any of these things. But I’ve always dug deep within when I write, so it’s harder for me to write about what I haven’t yet experienced.

But so many of you have asked for menopausal help that I’m gonna go for it! So if you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, this post is my gift to you.

Menopausal women are like snowflakes.

Menopause really is different for every woman. Some sail through with few, if any, symptoms. Others feel like they’ve been possessed. It’s normal either way.

How Do You Know If You’re In Menopause?

The average age of menopause in this country is 51, but it’s important to understand that perimenopause may start much sooner and may last anywhere from 5-15 years. While menopause is technically defined as the absence of a period for a year, perimenopausal symptoms may start long before that. And it’s not just hot flashes women suffer through. Many also experience heavy bleeding, headaches, weight gain, hair loss, and decreased libido. What some doctors may gloss over, though, are some of the cognitive factors. For example, you may feel perpetually forgetful, depressed or altogether NUTS! (The unscientific phrase we in the medical community use is “brain fog.”)

In addition to the premenopausal symptoms mentioned earlier, women going through menopause may suffer from:
•    Insomnia
•    Mood swings
•    Fatigue
•    Depression
•    Irritability
•    A racing heart
•    Joint and muscle aches and pains
•    Vaginal dryness
•    Bladder control problems
•    Increased/decreased clitoris sensitivity and responsiveness
•    Fewer orgasms
•    Decreased depth of orgasm
•    Pain or burning during intercourse

So what can you do about it?

Why Not Start With Natural Remedies?

Sure, you can take bioidentical hormones, which can work wonders and which I’ve written about here. But keep in mind that hormones have their risks.

While I totally support those women who choose to take bioidentical hormones, why not consider other options first? Before you jump straight to estrogen therapy, why not check out natural remedies that may relieve your symptoms with fewer risks?

Natural Remedies For Menopause

Nutrition:

  • Eat a diet rich in whole natural, unprocessed foods, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and healthy fats, and low in saturated fats, fried foods, white flour, sugar, and salt.
  • Increase foods high in phytoestrogens, such as soy products, in moderation -- 1-2 servings/day and flaxseed.
  • Increase calcium in your diet to protect your bones. You can load up on calcium by eating spinach, dairy products, clams, sardines, broccoli and legumes.
  • Avoid alcohol, which can make hot flashes worse.
  • Make sure you’re getting essential fatty acids in your diet, which can be found in pumpkin seeds, walnuts, linseeds, fish, dark green vegetables and oils such as sesame, walnut, soya and sunflower.

Exercise:
Studies show that exercise alone can alleviate hot flashes. In fact, one study of exercising women demonstrated a 55% reduction in hot flashes. Exercise also has the additional bonus of helping to strengthen bones, which can become weak after estrogen’s positive effect on bone density wears off.

Behavioral interventions:
Layer up! That way, if you start sweating, you can strip off a layer and feel cooler. Avoid coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, and stress, which exacerbates menopausal symptoms. Keep an ice pack in the freezer and sip cool drinks. Relaxation and deep, abdominal breathing (6-8 breaths per minute) have been shown to reduce hot flashes by about 40% when practiced as minimally as twice per day. Eliminate hot baths or showers before bedtime.

Yoga:
Although I can’t find data to support it, many women I know SWEAR by yoga (though you might skip Bikram yoga, which is done in a very hot room!). Ask your yoga teacher to recommend poses specifically aimed at relieving your symptoms, or seek out special yoga classes geared towards women in menopause.

Acupuncture:
One Swedish study demonstrated that acupuncture could relieve hot flashes for up to several months.

Coconut Oil:
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness and sex hurts, try lubing up with coconut oil (as long as you don’t need condoms for STD prevention; coconut oil can degrade condoms). It smells and tastes great, and it’s a wonderful natural, hormone-free lubricant. But don’t blame me if you find yourself jonesing for a post-coital macaroon!

Supplements for Symptom Relief in Menopause:

  • Black cohosh 40mg 1-2 caps twice/day -- may help with a variety of menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Natural progesterone cream -- a 1999 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that natural progesterone cream significantly reduced hot flashes compared to the placebo group. 2% progesterone skin cream helps relieve symptoms in about 85% of perimenopausal women. (Although progesterone cream is a hormone, estrogen appears to be the risky hormone, and low dose bioidentical progesterone cream appears to be very safe.)
  • Bioflavonoids 1000mg/day plus 1000-1500mg Vit C -- may relieve hot flashes.
  • Vit B6 50-200mg/day -- deficiency of Vit B6 may cause insomnia and irritability.
  • Evening Primrose Oil -- 1500-3000mg/day, for breast pain in perimenopause.
  • Ginkgo Biloba 40-80mg standardized extract capsules or 1/2-1 tsp tincture 3 times/day -- may improve memory and attention loss and help with symptoms of depression, may help improve sexual function.
  • Ginseng -- Panax Ginseng standardized extract capsules 200mg 5% ginsenosides or 100mg 10% saponin ginsenoside/day, high quality root 4-6g/day; may increase energy, decrease insomnia, reduce depression, help with vaginal atrophy, and improve well-being but does not help hot flashes. Be careful of contaminated sources.
  • Saint John’s Wort -- standardized extract 300mg 3 times/day for depression, irritability, and mood swings. Avoid if taking digoxin, oral contraceptives, warfarin, cyclosporine, or indinavir.
  • Valerian -- 300-600mg before bedtime for insomnia.

For ease of use, you can try Estroven, which is the leading over-the-counter supplement line that mixes many of these ingredients together and is available in formulations that target hot flashes, insomnia, and decreased energy.

Mindset Makeover
While every woman is different, in my experience, those who expect an easy menopause have fewer symptoms than those who dread it and freak out when they start skipping periods. So give yourself a little pep talk and expect the best. After all, you are what you think.

Own Pink:
Keep in mind that everything that makes up your whole health plays into how you will experience menopause. To truly thrive during your menopausal transition, focus on balancing all the facets of what makes you whole. Bolster your creativity. Connect spiritually. Build authentic relationships. Nurture your body. Care for your mental and emotional health. Let your sexual freak flag fly. Get in touch with your life purpose. Find your calling. Engage in work you love. Own Pink!

When It’s My Turn

I know my day will come. I used to dread menopause, as many of my patients do. Who wants to endure hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, brain fog, insomnia, vaginal dryness, skin changes, and weight gain? But as this life transition draws closer, I find myself shedding my fear and beginning to embrace it. I would never want to move backwards in my life. Each year is filled with lessons learned and growth experiences. God forbid I should ever have to relive my 20s, full of insecurities, vanity, pride, and selfish choices. And my 30s, while vastly better than my twenties, were largely a time of walking through life like a zombie, asleep to my true calling. On April 24th, I’ll turn 42, and already, I feel different. I’m getting smile lines and grey hair and age spots, but I really don’t give a flip. Sure, the radiance of youth may fade as we age, but we glow with a different kind of light as we step into who we are truly meant to be.

Because of this, I no longer dread menopause. Instead, I see the hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia as part of the transition. Just as the pains of labor and childbirth allow us to create a whole new life, the discomforts of menopause usher in a rebirth of another sort. Many of the women I most admire have passed through this phase and emerged more fully as confident, gifted, loving, secure, beautiful human beings. Someday, that will be me.

What About You?

Are you in menopause? Getting close? Having symptoms? Tell us what works for you. Tell us what doesn’t. Between us, we have hundreds of thousands of years of experience, so let’s go to the Red Tent together, sisters, and share what we’ve learned!

Honoring menopause,
Lissa

Disclaimer: I am doing a spokesperson gig with Estroven and will be speaking on their behalf to editors of national women’s magazines in the Big Apple this week. So while I do genuinely recommend Estroven, they are paying me, so FCC guidelines require that I disclose this juicy tidbit. Just sayin’…

Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

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Comments

Aileen's picture

Menopause

My experience with menopause and it is not something that I would wish on my worst enemy - http://www.outdooradventures.co.za/health-a-wellbeing/menopause

Maggie's picture

Black cohosh

PS: I noticed other supplements with Black cohosh, but ALL had warnings that it effects the Liver badly.
M

Maggie's picture

Premenopausal

I'm glad I found this website and article - thanks to Care2.
Herewith my little bit on premenopausal symptoms - still under investigation.
I have been premenopausal for a few years already - didn't want to believe it! I was hoping to be one of those woman who will pass through with no effects. I'm turning 46 in July.
The only good part was the reduction in periods, but then I was diagnosed with Rosacea a month ago. The same Natural Remedies described above is described for Rosacea. The medication the Derma gave me, actually made my face worse and I stopped. Seeing him again next week to discuss.
I then decided to look into premenopausal naturals to remove the hotflushes effect. I decided on Phyto Soya. It worked well - no more hotflushes, night sweat, irritability etc. It even gave me back my libido. After a few days I had a rush of facial acne and decided to stop the Phyto Soya as I'm not sure if the capsules are the effect of the acne.
I now need to find out if the soya will result in acne and if I'm on the right track with using Phyto Soya for the premenopausal symptoms.
Will appreciate if other can comment on soya.
Regards
Maggie

Anonymous's picture

perimenopause or just wacky?

Thank you for the great article. I am 36 and have had amennorhea for years. After about 6 years of normal cycles they got further and further apart until I just didnt have any bleeding for 8 years. Once in a while I would get the freak period, but very rarely. I definitely have hormonal cycles around the moon still, which are obvious by a spike in libido and feeling completely nuts. In general I have very low libido and low stamina in general. Is this perimenopause? I have had my hormones checked and estrogen is low, but all other health factors are fine (thyroid, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, blood pressure is very low usually). Would these natural remedies work for me. I do swear by yoga and exercise to calm my temper, but they don't seem to help my energy level, sex drive and cravings.
Thank you so much for your insights,
Katie

Lissa Rankin's picture

Dear Rebecca

Welcome to Owning Pink- and I'm sending healing juju and wishes for a complete and peaceful recovery for you.
Blessings
Lissa

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Rebecca's picture

Chemo-induced Menopause

I'm glad I found your site and can't wait to explore it a little more.

I just turned 44 in February, which was also the last month I had a period. My periods have always been normal, even with severe endometriosis. I was diagnosed with stage II non-Hodgkins lymphoma in December and just finished my last of 6 rounds of R-CHOP/chemotherapy.

My Doc warned me that chemotherapy could force my body into early menopause but I really didn't expect it to happen quite overnight. It's really hard to tell what exact symptoms I have other than the hot flashes, which are significant & intense two minute flashes of extreme body heat. I've been on predinisone for 4 months and that alone can exascerberate any negative symptoms.

So now that I'm finished with my R-CHOP treatments and will hopefully get a thumbs-up-cancer-free scan in a few weeks, I'm trying to put a life-plan in place to get back in the best shape of my life and to minimize the symptoms of menopause.

I'm looking for purely natural/holistic options as I'm way over putting synthetic chemicals in my body.

Thanks again!

LynnH's picture

Thanks

I'm 52, have had one almost-no-period month and a few years of a really different cycle experience. Starting in my mid-30's I started having sleep problems and sometimes a hot flash in my back only, when explaining (I am an instructor).

I had a friend say Dong Quai helped her, and I'd already heard of it on Dr. Andrew Weil's site. I gave it a try.

I started with 2 pills in am and 2 at night. Many years later I went to 3, when sleep again became a problem. Recently I've upped it to 4 at a time.

Dr. Weil's site said that it is used in Chinese cooking as an herb (it's a root) and that it doesn't build up, can be taken indefinitely. My OBGYN supported this idea, and I have noticed if I run out and don't take it for a while I do really notice.

I also take Primrose Oil. I started that one because of skin problems, thanks to my allergy doc.

As someone who once had an overeating problem, followed by 30 years of normal weight, I'm struggling with the weight issues of this time of life. I'm a dancer who walks a lot, but need to figure out a new balance between food and activity. Could be worse.

I would NOT be 20 years old again for any amount of money. The 40s were wonderful, and 50s are happy so far, though the body changes I'm not loving as much.

I really appreciate this article. Thank you.

Lissa Rankin's picture

You're so welcome Karen

I'm so glad it's helpful!
xoxo

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Karen DeBolt's picture

Wonderful! Thank you

This is so timely for me. I am starting to have a lot of the symptoms you mentioned and the hot flashes and night sweats are driving me a bit crazy at the moment. I will go check out some of the natural remedies you suggest. I'm only 46 so I'm guessing that I still have a ways to go. :)

Thank you for the great information even if you aren't here yourself quite yet! :)

Lissa Rankin's picture

Kalisa & Bernita

Thank you for sharing your experiences! I'm so glad you found the article helpful.
Much love
Lissa

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Bernita's picture

What Relief

Thanks Lissa for this article. Some of the supplements you mentioned above I wasn't aware of, such as evening primrose for breast pain. I need some of that..lol

I have been struggling with perimenopausal symptoms for a long time now and have missed one period. It can be crippling for days at a time. I finally found relief from many of my symptoms from having acupuncture.

My acupuncturist Lynn Segura is in Berkeley CA and is so intuitive she know exactly what to do. She uses more modalities than just needles for her treatments, EFT, cupping and muscle testing.I haven't been more happier.

Kalisa's picture

I turned 44 last November.

I turned 44 last November. About a month ago I started experiencing extreme fatigue. Thats when the night sweats I'd been having for six months or so started to make sense. My SIL recommended the black cohosh and it has helped lessen both symptoms. I realized that since both my mother & sister had hysterectomies, i must be the first woman in my family to have this wonderful womanly experience! And I rejoiced in it! Okay, I lie. I actually think it pretty much sucks.

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