Menopause, the Hush-Hush Subject
Menopause, it’s a dreaded word. It makes some women want to cry. Women don’t want to talk about it. The word is associated with a normal bodily cycle for women that comes with some unpleasant symptoms. Many women are turning to natural remedies to help with symptoms instead of traditional hormone replacement therapies.
What Happens During Menopause?
Menopause happens when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. This changes your hormone levels, primary Estrogen and Progesterone and they drop significantly. Most women go through menopause after 40, however, it is possible to go through menopause early, especially after a hysterectomy.
At first, the drop in estrogen and progesterone is gradual and happens a few years before menopause. This is known as perimenopausal. When the hormones start to drop at a faster rate, that’s when women begin to feel symptoms.
Symptoms of Menopause
If you’ve been through it or are going through it now, you know what the symptoms are. But just in case you're reading this because you are curious, here’s what you can expect.
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain or slower metabolism
Is There a Treatment for Menopause Symptoms?
- There are a few treatments that the medical community will prescribe for the symptoms of menopause.
Antidepressants - The doctor may prescribe a low dose antidepressant if you can’t take the estrogen. This helps if you are having symptoms of depression as well. Antidepressants increase serotonin which can also help with hot flashes.
Gabapentin – Gabapentin is another medication that is prescribed if you can’t take estrogen. Although it is usually prescribed for seizures, it helps reduce hot flashes.
Vaginal Estrogen – Vaginal estrogen either comes in the form of a cream or vaginal suppository and helps alleviate vaginal dryness.
Many women choose not to have hormone therapy because of the side-effects. Aside from the risk if you have cancer in your family, hormone replacement therapy comes with some unpleasant side effects such as:
- Mood changes
- Swollen tender breasts
- Vaginal bleeding
Are There Any Herbs for Menopause?
Glad you asked! There are many different herbs that are used to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
Here are some of the main herbs used for menopause symptoms:
Wild yam is widely used in Chinese medicine. Wild Yam contains diosgenin. Diosgenin has estrogen-like properties and is often used to treat hot flashes as well as cramps in women who are menstruating.
Ginseng is used to help treat hot flashes. Studies have found that ginseng not only helped relieve hot flashes, but it also helped lower cholesterol levels which lower the risk of heart disease.
Red clover is used to treat hot flashes and night sweats. Red clover contains phytoestrogens that help fight the imbalance of hormones.
Sage for Menopause
Sage is part of the same family as mint and has been used for centuries to treat various conditions. Sage contains antioxidants and is an anti-inflammatory. In relation to menopause, sage helps with hot flashes, night sweats, and mood. Although more research needs to be done on sage, it has been shown to help with hot flashes.
In an older Italian study, researchers gave participants sage along with alfalfa. Night sweats and hot flashes completely stopped in some of the women and were reduced in the rest of the participants. (De Leo, V. et al.)
Alfalfa packs a lot of benefits. It is rich in several vitamins such as iron, magnesium, folate, and vitamin C just to name a few. What’s more, alfalfa has been shown to lower cholesterol. Alfalfa is also a phytoestrogen meaning it can help with hot flashes and night sweats. As stated above, given with sage, it helped reduce or eliminate hot flashes in the study participants.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are important because they help regulate body function. We often don’t get enough vitamins in our diet due to eating habits and lifestyle. Vitamins such as B vitamins help with energy and metabolism as well as the immune system. Zinc also adds immune system protection and metabolism support. Vitamins will help keep your metabolism active in assisting with maintaining a healthy weight.
There are many other herbs for menopause and many of these same herbs help with PMS symptoms as well.
How to Choose The Right Herbal Menopause Supplements
There are a lot of companies on the Internet selling herbal supplements for all types of ailments. You can even find herbal supplements in the stores. Keep in mind, herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. What this means is that when you read the label of a product and it says it has an ingredient in the supplement, it could be a lot less than you need or a lot more. There is no way to tell how much of the product you are getting.
This means you have to buy from a reputable company. Here are some tips to find the right supplements.
Do Your Research
Go to the company website and read the About section. That will tell you the company story and why they are dedicated to your health. Smaller businesses value their customers and will give the best service. They should have a chat option so you can ask questions before you buy.Tip- The supplements at the drug stores usually have substandard ingredients.
Read the Ingredients
A reputable company will have ingredients listed and what percentage of the ingredient is in each dose. The description should also include why the ingredients are in the capsule. For instance, helps with hot flashes and is an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Supplements that include other nutritional ingredients such as B vitamins or zinc are a plus.
Find the Disclaimer
Every website that sells herbal supplements should have a disclaimer stating that their supplements are not approved by the FDA. It should also state that their product cannot cure, treat or prevent any health issues. Every person reacts to herbal supplements differently so there should not be any cure-all claims. In other words, there should not be any claims on the website stating they have a cure for menopause, heart disease or anything else.
Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is complimentary to any supplements and health conditions you have. A healthy lifestyle is a key component to helping you live the best life you can.
I know, exercise is difficult. We either don’t have time due to a busy schedule or may there are physical limitations. Getting exercise is important however to both physical and mental well-being. When you exercise you strengthen your body and it releases endorphins which make you feel good. Here are some tips for getting exercise without push-ups or jumping jacks.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood or at a park
- Gardening (it can burn a lot of calories)
- Use resistance bands
- Use an exercise app for your phone (it will send you a reminder!)
Meditation gives your mind a break. Sit quietly for a few minutes and concentrate on breathing deeply. It’s that easy. It’s good to do throughout the day. You can also research different ways to meditate and relax to expand on what you’re already doing. Meditation helps relieve stress, which is important to a healthy lifestyle.
Eating a healthy diet helps you you manage stress and emotions as well as help fight diseases. When we get older, our metabolism slows down so we have a tendency to gain more weight. You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods, but you can make some of them a treat rather than a staple. Choose my Plate has a lot of helpful tips and recipes to help you eat better. Here are some tips to help you eat healthier:
- Look at the food labels for nutritional information
- Stay away from high-fat foods with trans fat
- Stay away from high sodium foods
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Most people need 7 to 71/2 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is the biggest asset to managing emotions and stress as well as helping your brain function at its peak. Make sure you:
- Have a bedtime routine
- Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed
- Don’t have any caffeine late in the day
- You have a comfortable mattress
References:Bommer, S., et al. “First Time Proof of Sage’s Tolerability and Efficacy in Menopausal Women with Hot Flushes.” Advances in Therapy, vol. 28, no. 6, 2011, pp. 490–500., DOI:10.1007/s12325-011-0027-z.
De Leo, V, et al. “Treatment of neurovegetative Menopausal Symptoms with a Phytotherapeutic Agent.” Minerva Ginecologica, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 1998.
Cathy Fleming | Health and Wellness Specialist & a Freelance Writer who has a passion for helping people get proactive about finding a balance between mind and body.