Menopause is a normal, healthy transition that every woman will experience. However, the experience of menopause can vary significantly from one woman to another.
Some seem to sail right through the transition from cycling to non-cycling without a complaint, while other women are absolutely miserable night and day.
The truth is that the reason for these differences has to do with imbalances and inflammation in other parts of the body. Balance can be restored and inflammation can be healed, but to do so successfully requires an investment of time and energy along with a willingness to make lasting lifestyle changes.
Addressing these imbalances is important for preventing disruptive symptoms like hot flashes and sleeplessness and protecting ourselves from more serious conditions like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll address remedies for underlying imbalances for long term hormonal balance, but first, I want to tell you about the things you can do right now to relieve your worst menopausal symptoms.
Speedy Relief for Distressing Symptoms
Discovering and resolving the root causes of hormonal imbalance takes time and commitment, but that doesn’t mean that you have to wait to feel better. Use these practical and proven natural remedies for immediate relief from the symptoms of menopause that bother women the most.
Hot flashes may seem to come out of nowhere, but they usually follow a pattern. To reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes keep a journal of your daily activities to help you notice connections and avoid common triggers for hot flashes: drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, eating spicy foods, being in a hot room, wearing tight clothing, smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke and feeling stressed and anxious. You can take black cohosh, a herb that alleviates hot flashes by supporting stable hormones and supplement vitamin E to reduce the intensity of hot flashes.
Sound sleep is essential for good health. If you’re shifting hormones are keeping you up at night, there are several things you can do to improve your sleep. Use a routine to help your body and mind wind down. Start by turning off all screens a couple of hours before you go to bed and dim the lights in your home. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our wake-sleep cycles, and artificial lighting can interfere with this process. If worries tend to keep you up, keep a journal by your bed so you can jot down things that come to mind so you can address them later. Try sleep-inducing herbal teas, like chamomile, valerian root and lavender.
Did you know that one of the best remedies for depression is volunteerism? That’s because when we volunteer our time and energy to serve our communities we feel connected and valued. You can also keep depression at bay by spending time with friends and family. Healthy social bonds are an important part of mental health. St John’s wort is the most popular herb for relieving depression, however, it can interact with several medications, so make sure it’s safe for you before giving it a try. Uplifting essential oils can also be helpful. Try bergamot, grapefruit and neroli.
If things that normally wouldn’t bother you have you feeling irritated and frustrated, you’re not alone. Many women report that during the menopausal transition they find themselves snapping at their loved ones, friends and co-workers and losing their patience over situations that really aren’t that important. Avoiding caffeine can go a long way towards soothing frazzled nerves. Many herbs can help us to keep calm, like valerian root, lavender, peppermint and chamomile. Clary sage essential oil is a great choice, as it lowers our stress response. Breathing exercises can help, too, and you don’t have to invest a lot of time to reap the benefits. A simple pause for 10 deep full breaths can be just the thing to keep you cool and steady all day long.
Vaginal dryness is a natural effect of the decrease in hormones that women experience during the menopausal transition. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to prevent discomfort and loss of intimacy. Be sure to choose natural lubricants to avoid further imbalance that could be caused by commercial products. Coconut oil is a great choice. You can also use essential oils that soothe the tissue of the vagina, like chamomile, rose, frankincense or sandalwood. Pelvic floor exercises, including Kegels, can help, too. That’s because they encourage blood flow to the pelvis which improves vaginal tone and elasticity.
If you find that you’re moods are up one minute and down the next, if you’re having crying episodes or feeling weepy or if you’re suffering from irritability, depression or anxiety, you may have a deficiency of one or more neurotransmitters. The most common neurotransmitters that influence our moods are serotonin, dopamine, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and norepinephrine. Many underlying imbalances could be causing the imbalance. While you seek and treat the root cause, neurotransmitter supplements can give you instant relief. Consider using a questionnaire, like the one found here, to gain insights into your symptoms and learn which supplement may benefit you the most. The great thing about neurotransmitters is that they provide fast and powerful relief. You’ll notice the difference in minutes!
Estrogen withdrawal is the most likely cause of hormonally-fueled headaches and migraines, which explains why they can become more common during menopause. To reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches, be sure to stay well hydrated and avoid common triggers, like alcohol, caffeine and high-histamine foods, as well as those that contain nitrates and nitrites. Try incorporating headache-relieving herbs like feverfew and butterbur root. Essential oils can be helpful, too, especially peppermint and lavender. Peppermint can be applied to the temples for immediate relief. Lavender is most effective when inhaled and is best for reducing the intensity of migraine pain.
What About Hormone Therapy?
Conflicting information has women wondering if hormones replacement therapy (HRT) is worth the risk. A once-popular and nearly universally recommended treatment option, HRT became controversial after a 2002 study revealed that HRT could increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.
Thankfully, hormone therapy has come a long way since then!
Today women have newer and safer options. Advances like bioidentical hormones derived from plants, low-dose estrogen therapy and individually-prepared formulas have made HRT once again a favourite of many doctors, though it’s use and acceptance is far from universal.
Consult with your doctor if you’d like to learn more about hormone replacement therapy and if it might be the right choice for you.
I hope these tips help you to start feeling like yourself again!
In the second part of this series, we’ll address the underlying cause of hormonal imbalances and show you how to protect your health with longterm strategies for a healthier gut, better sleep, enhanced stress-coping abilities and more.