Natural Remedies for Menopause
In a previous blog I shared with you some of the common symptoms that can occur as your hormones shift and you transition through the menopause stage of your life. Now that you understand how the way you are feeling is impacted by your shift in hormones let’s have a look at some of the simple ways that you can manage your symptoms.
Please note that I am not going to include pharmaceutical medications or HRT in this blog, I will cover those topics in the future. This blog will only include herbs, nutrients, diet and lifestyle interventions.
Before I go into how you can treat your symptoms I do want to briefly cover the role that lifestyle choices play in the severity of your symptoms. As I mentioned in the previous blog the adrenal glands do naturally secrete some reproductive hormones and this process is designed to make the drop in hormones a little more gradual so that you don’t experience too many symptoms. The problem is that many women are adrenally exhausted by the time they reach their mid to late 40s and their adrenal glands don’t have the capacity to cope with the hormonal shift that occurs.
The release of adrenal hormones is very closely connected to our lifestyle choices (see this blog) and therefore the key to managing your menopausal symptoms starts with healthy lifestyle choices. Check out the Acts of Self Love E-book and videos (click here) if you are not sure how you can make better lifestyle choices.
Let’s get on to some of the specific treatments for the most common symptoms of menopause
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats – Hot flushes are one of the commonly known symptoms of menopause. A flush is when you get a sensation of heat that seems to start inside of you and intensifies until you are hot all over and you can also have visible sweating. At night when you wake up covered in sweat and feeling very hot (even if the outside temperature is cold) this is known as a night sweat and can severely disrupt the sleep of some women.
- Where possible wear light loose clothing
- Don’t rug up too much at night, loose cotton nightwear is best
- Flushing and night sweats often happen more after stressful and busy days, try to manage your energy and emotions during the day
- Note if you see a naturopath or herbalist they will create a herb mix specific for your situation
- Common herbs used in the management of hot flushes and night sweats are sage, zizyphus, motherwort, black cohosh and red clover (any over the counter remedies will contain these herbs)
- A simple home herb recipe is to chop up 6 sage leaves and soak overnight in lemon juice. In the morning strain and drink the juice. Repeat for the next week to 10 days and often your flushing and sweats will decrease. Do NOT continue this for more than 2 weeks without consulting a herbalist or naturopath
- Avoid excessively spicy foods
- Avoid very hot drinks or foods
- Avoid coffee (this is not only a hot drink it also stimulates the adrenals)
- Limit your alcohol intake, alcohol makes flushing worse particularly at night
- Increase foods high in phyto-eostrogens eg organic tofu, tempeh, flaxseed, garlic, chick peas, pumpkin kernals, green or mung beans.
Poor Sleep – Insomnia is a very common complaint for menopausal women and it can be made worse with the occurrence of night sweats. Poor sleep then leads to higher stress, memory loss and lowered energy during the daylight hours. Whilst hormonal shifts can impact your sleep pattern, often the issue with sleep comes from years of poor sleep habits. The first step to correcting your sleep problems are addressing some of your lifestyle habits while also using herbal support to help you sleep. You will find a lot more info on my previous sleep blog
- Ideally your body prefers to be asleep by 10pm at the latest, this allows for a natural waking at around 6am when the sun rises. Try to be in bed before 10pm
- Take all electronic devices out of your bedroom. Any device that is connected to the network or wifi produces EMRs which disturb your sleep patterns. If you must have a device in your bedroom make sure that it is on plane mode
- Keep your room as dark as possible and the temperature at around 23degrees Celsius
- If you mind races before you go to sleep try writing in a journal to help you to clear your mind
- Reduce stress
- Common herbs used to promote healthy sleep include – chamomile, passionflower, lavender, hops, kava, valerian, ashawaganda, St Johns Wort, zizyphus, californian poppy
- You can purchase Sleepytime tea at most supermarkets or health food stores which will include some of the above herbs
- One of the reasons why people wake up in the night is due to their blood sugar levels dropping too low. Eating sufficient protein and fats in your evening meal will help to regulate your blood sugar while you sleep
- Avoid high sugar foods prior to bed
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Avoid alcohol especially if you find that you regularly wake between 1am and 3am (this is liver time)
- Magnesium with dinner can assist with sleep or a long bath with Epsom salts will do the same job
- Calcium is also required to help with relaxation and sleep
Vaginal Dryness – The decrease in oestrogen levels affects the mucous membranes and the skin. This can lead to dryness of the vaginal tract, the eyes or the mouth. The skin also can lose its elasticity which leads to wrinkles or skin irritation. These symptoms can range from quite mild to very severe in some women resulting in discomfort walking, ongoing cystitis problems or recurring urinary tract infections.
- Use of vaginal lubricant such as Sylk (made from kiwifruit), coconut oil or Vit E cream
- An easy cream that you can make up is – 75gm Vit E cream as base and add 10ml of Calendula Oil, 30ml olive oil, 20ml Evening Primrose oil, mix thoroughly and apply 2-3 times a day
- Couples counselling maybe required if the relationship has broken down
- Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Wild Yam, Calendula, American Ginseng and Licorice are all great herbs that help with tissue integrity
- Essential Fatty Acids (Fish oils)
- Vitamin C
Memory Problems – Many women report that their “memory isn’t what it used to be” after they reach the menopause stage of life. This can be due to many different reasons. Poor sleep is a big contributor and so it high levels of stress. Also the older you get the more you have to remember so it is understandable that you forget some things. As women age they may start to worry about whether they might have Alzheimer’s but the risk is lessened if you eat well and look after yourself.
- Get a good night’s sleep (refer above)
- Reduce stress in your life and be less busy
- If you smoke then take steps to stop, nicotine reduces the blood flow to your brain
- Journalling will help to clear some of the thoughts that fill your mind so you can remember the important things
- Use memory joggers, notebooks, todo lists etc
- Gingko and Bacopa are 2 fantastic brain herbs that help you remember, can take up to 2 weeks to start working
- Other herbs are Peony and Ginseng
- Rosemary as an essential oil is also greata
- Fish Oils
- Sufficient protein and healthy fats in diet
- Drink lots of filtered water, at least 2 litres a day
- Eat a wholefood diet with heaps of veges, plus protein and healthy fats
Depression and Anxiety – Depression and anxiety are closely related to the memory symptom mentioned above, they are often caused by too much stress, not enough sleep as well as the shift in hormones. Women over the age of 45 are also often questioning their life and what they will be doing in the future, if things don’t appear to be too bright this can result in feelings of depression.
It is not uncommon during this stage of life for women to wake in the middle of the night with their heart beating fast and feelings of anxiety. This can be related to a sudden drop in blood glucose levels or it could be due to high levels of cortisol, whichever it is there are some steps that you can take to reduce these feelings
- Address any emotional triggers that you have around reaching this stage of life, a woman’s beliefs around aging and menopause will have a significant impact on how she deals with the changes that are happening to her body
- Find a group of women who can offer support and understanding of what you are going through. The Maga Woman Project was created specifically to provide this support
- Journalling is a great way to clear some of the circular thoughts that run through your head on a daily basis
- Meditation or yoga are other great tools that can help with feelings of depression or anxiety
- Research shows that regular exercise reduces depressive episodes
- Regular massage helps to increase your sense of wellbeing
- Spending time in nature will ground you and connect you back to yourself and have you feeling better
- Slow breathing exercises
- The LifeLine Technique is a great tool that will help you to connect to the true underlying cause of your depression or anxiety so that you can clear the beliefs that are impacting your life. You can learn more about the LifeLine Technique here
- St Johns Wort is one of the best herbs for mild depression and anxiety, it has been show in several research trials to be more effective than antidepressants
- Other great herbs are – ashwagandha, skullcap, passionflower, oats, lavender, Siberian ginseng, licorice, ginseng, dong quai, peony
- Vitamin C
- Fish Oils
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Vitamin B (specifically B6 and B5)
- Eat a clean whole food diet with adequate levels of protein and healthy fats
- Lots of vegies
- Avoid alcohol, processed foods and high levels of sugar
I have covered some of the most common symptoms above but there are other symptoms which might require more support from a naturopath or similar health provider. Where I have mentioned herbs I have done this so that you can check for them in any of the products that you might purchase over the counter. Purchasing products containing these herbs are relatively low risk but please read all labels to ensure that there are no contraindications for you. I also have not mentioned any nutrient dosages, this is because everyone is different as to how much they need to take. Simply taking an over the counter product at the dosage listed might not be enough for your particular needs. Please consult with a trained health professional rather than self-prescribing herbs or nutrients. If you would like a referral to a local naturopath please let me know and I will find someone for you.
Infinite Love and Gratitude
This article first appeared in the Maga Woman Magazine, a magazine created for women over 45. You can grab your free copy HERE.