A good friend of mine is currently going through menopause and struggling with how to find a way to alleviate her symptoms in a natural way that does not negatively impact her health over the long run. After doing some research on the topic, I was excited to learn that there are some good options available and that estrogen pills, non-fermented soy and/or hormone replacement therapy are not the only way to find relief. I was also surprised to find out that there are some things you can do pre-menopause to prevent or at least lesson the pain and discomfort that can occur during this very key transitional moment in a woman’s life.
First of all, I’d like to say that menopause is not a disease that needs to be treated. It is a natural process during a woman’s life when she stops producing estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries and her periods stop. I believe that how a woman views this moment in her life can have just as strong of an effect on easing the discomfort as any other method. However, with that said, women can and do experience many unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, osteoporosis, difficulty concentrating/remembering, mood swings, vaginal dryness, depression, reduced libido, insomnia, headaches and more.
Up until recently the only way to ease these symptoms traditionally was through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) utilizing estrogen prescriptions such as Provera (also available as Estrogen Therapy) or Premarin. The idea behind this course of action is that if the estrogen a woman is losing can be replaced by estrogen from an animal source, her symptoms will be relieved. Provera comes directly from a pregnant mare’s urine, while Premarin is a synthetic form of estrogen. Unfortunately, many women have become susceptible to conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer, blood clotting, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding, etc. as a result of HRT.
Most women experiencing menopause knows that diet and exercise play a big role in alleviating discomfort. Consuming a diet made up of whole organic mostly plant foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds (especially flax), grains, beans, fermented soy, etc. while avoiding or limiting sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol (all of which can worsen symptoms) is a great place for women to start who prefers a more natural route. A regular exercise routine is also important as it slows energy, relieves symptoms and prevents weight gain. Yoga is also a terrific way to get oxygen moving through the cells and tissues, while also balancing their hormone levels and internal body chemistry.
Once healthy lifestyle changes are in place, a woman can look to natural supplements, herbs and other approaches that won’t produce harmful side effects.
-Red Clover - Plant estrogens like this one offer a source of phytoestrogen.
-Maca - A superfood which balances estrogen and progesterone and can reduce the onset of hot flashes, vaginal dryness and even depression.
-Black Cohosh - A plant native to North America that has been tremendously effective for maintaining hormone balance and controlling hot flashes.
-Dong Quai – A Chinese herb that helps increase estrogen levels.
-Sepia, Lachesis and Pulsatilla – Homeopathic remedies that relieve symptoms.
For those who need stronger relief, there is also what’s called Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), a form of alternative medicine. What’s great about this approach is that the hormones are natural and they are identical to the estrogen made by women’s ovaries. The most known form of this is estriol, which is not FDA approved, but has been used to treat menopausal symptoms since the 1930’s. Ironically, synthetic knock-offs of this natural source of estrogen are now being produced with the FDA’s approval, as estriol cannot be patented. If you’re interested in this type of therapy, talk to an alternative health practitioner for more information.
Lastly, I wanted to point out that women approaching menopause (perimenopause) can significantly alter their experience in the years prior by taking action now to improve their diet and amount of time dedicated to exercise. Yoga and meditation are also helpful as noted above. Above all, I believe that this is a natural process of a woman’s life experience and not something to be fixed, but rather managed through a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
Published On: April 18, 2011