For most women, menopause begins during the early 40s or early 50s and can last between a few months to a few years. During this time, women may experience symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and difficulty in sleeping. These symptoms can be treated with hormone replacement medication. Natural home remedies are also useful in dealing with symptoms of menopause. Read on to learn more about different natural ways to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
What is menopause?
Women are born with a finite number of eggs which are stored in their ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control ovulation ad menstruation. Menstruation stops when ovaries no longer release an egg every month. Menopause describes the changes that a woman goes through just before or after she stops menstruating.
Menopause is a part of our natural aging process and usually occurs during the early 40s or 5os. Some women go through menopause early as a result of hysterectomy or damage to ovaries due to chemotherapy. If menopause occurs before 40 is called premature menopause. Menopause is a natural and gradual process. It has three stages –
Perimenopause starts a few years before menopause when the ovaries start making less estrogen. It lasts up to menopause when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. During the last one or two years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen levels increases. Many women experience menopause symptoms during this stage.
At this stage, your ovaries stop releasing eggs and stop making estrogen. A woman is said to be in menopause if it has been a year since she had her last period.
During this stage, most of the symptoms of menopause ease. However, the health problems related to loss of estrogen rise at this stage.
Common symptoms of menopause
Women experience a variety of symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Each woman’s experience of menopause is different. Some may experience severe symptoms; others may experience only mild ones. Hot flashes are frequent during menopause. Almost 75 percent of the women experience hot flashes during menopause. Some of the other symptoms of menopause include –
- Irregular periods
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Racing heart
- Joint and muscle pain
- Changes in libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder control issues
- Weight gain
- Sore and tender breasts
- Urinary tract infections
- Reduced muscle mass
- Thinning hair
- Increased hair growth in other parts of the body
Loss of estrogen due to menopause has been linked to other health problems. These include –
- Slower metabolic function
- Vulvovaginal atrophy
- Painful intercourse
- Mood swings
- Periodontal disease
- Urinary incontinence
- Heart or blood vessel disease
Natural remedies for menopause symptoms
1. Lower stress levels
Do not let yourself be ruled by stress. Relax and choose activities that help you stay calm. Solicit the support of your family, friends, and peers. Less stress enables you to take better control of your health. Talk to a therapist about your feeling of depression, anxiety, isolation, insomnia, and any other problems.
2. Keep cool
Wear comfortable and loose cotton clothing, especially at night. This will help you manage hot flashes. If you have hot flashes at night, keep your bedroom cool and avoid heavy blankets. Keep a portable fan handy to help you cool down.
3. Exercise regularly
Make exercise an essential part of your daily schedule. Do cardio workout and walk every day to manage your weight. Exercising will also help pump more blood and nutrients throughout the body, keep your brain active, and your heart healthy. Exercising also keeps your joints healthy and minimizes muscle atrophy. It also helps you sleep better.
4. Relaxation techniques
Practice relaxation and breathing techniques like yoga, meditation, and box breathing.
5. Sleep well
Sleeplessness is a common symptom of women going through menopause. Find ways to relax before your sleep time. Take a hot bath, read a book, dim the lights, and turn off all electronic devices. A relaxing massage or shoulder rub before bedtime may also help you sleep better.
Foods to eat during menopause
Several foods can help you manage your symptoms of menopause naturally.
1. Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. According to a study of 17,473 women, women who included took fruits, vegetables, soy, and fiber in their diet experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes as compared to the control group. The study concluded that a weight loss due to a healthy diet could help eliminate symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats (1).
Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, and cabbage are especially helpful in reducing menopause symptoms, as they contain indole-3-carbinol, which balances estrogen levels naturally.
2. Whole grains
Whole grains are rich in fiber and several B vitamins. Whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death. According to a study from the University of Minnesota that included 11,000 postmenopausal women, eating a diet rich in whole-grain fiber can reduce the risk of early death by 17% (2).
ecline in levels of estrogen during menopause can weaken women’s bones and increase their risk of fractures. Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt provide calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin K, and Vitamin D, which are essential for bone health.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, postmenopausal women who ate more dairy and animal protein had better bone strength and microstructure (3). Dairy products like milk and cheese, contain glycine. Studies have shown that glycine promotes a better level of sleep (4). Foods that are rich in vitamin D and calcium like dairy products can also reduce the risk of early menopause (5).
4. Omega-3 fats
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fats can reduce the symptoms of menopause. According to a study from Sweden, omega-3 fatty acids can prevent menopausal symptoms, preeclampsia, postpartum depression, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and breast cancer (6). Foods that are rich in omega-3 fats include fish like mackerel, salmon, and anchovies, and seeds like hemp seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
5. Phytoestrogen foods
Phytoestrogens are compounds found in certain foods that act like estrogen in the body. Though there is some controversy regarding the benefits of phytoestrogens, some studies have shown that they help to reduce the severity and frequency of menopausal symptoms (7). Phytoestrogens are present in many foods, including plum, pear, apples, grapes, berries, soybeans, sprouts, cabbage, grains, garlic, and onion.
Menopause is linked to a decline in muscle mass and bone strength. Women should eat more protein to maintain healthy muscles and bones. The European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) recommends an optimal dietary protein intake of 1.0 to 1.2g/kg body weight/day with at least 20-25g of high-quality protein at every main meal (8). Foods high in protein include eggs, fish, meat, legumes, and dairy products.
Drink eight to ten glasses of water every day to avoid dehydration. Staying hydrated helps prevent hot flashes and bloating.
Foods to avoid during menopause
Avoiding certain foods can help reduce symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, poor sleep, and weight gain.
1. Added sugar
2. Processed food
Processed foods are high in added sugar, preservatives, sodium, toxins, and synthetic components. They can cause hormonal imbalances and worsen menopause symptoms.
3. Alcohol and caffeine
Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake as they can increase the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women (10). Alcohol and caffeine can also disrupt your sleep. So, menopausal women who have difficulty in sleeping should avoid consuming these beverages.
4. High salt food
High salt intake can lead to low bone density in menopausal women. According to a study on 9526 women older than 18 years, researchers found that high sodium intake can lower bone mineral density and sodium intake of more than 2000 mg per day is a risk factor for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women (11).
5. Carbonated drinks
Carbonated drinks can deplete calcium from the body, which may contribute to osteoporosis in menopausal women.
6. Spicy food
Spicy food can increase the incidence of hot flashes, so it is best to avoid spicy food.
Natural supplements for menopause
These herbal supplements can alleviate symptoms of menopause –
- Black cohosh
- Red clover
- Vitamin D
- Wild Yam
- St. John’s wort
- Dong Quai
- Maca root
- Holy basil
Menopause is a natural part of life. Women experience a variety of symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, depression, and vaginal drying during this period. Thankfully there are several healthy, natural ways to manage these symptoms. Lowering stress, exercising regularly, sleeping well, eating a healthy diet can help reduce the symptoms of menopause. You can also use herbal supplements like black cohosh, red clover, ginseng, and wild yam to alleviate symptoms of menopause.