Natural Ways to Ease Menopause Symptoms

Natural Ways to Ease Menopause Symptoms

These drug-free options can help with hot flashes, weight gain and more.

Menopause, the time in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle stops, typically starts after age 45. “The change,” as it’s commonly called, happens when your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. The symptoms of this change can be uncomfortable and downright challenging, but you can’t get relief if you don’t seek help.

“I wish more women would talk to their doctor about menopause, and not assume it’s part of being a woman and that you’re supposed to just suffer through it,” says OBGYN Jeremiah McNamara, MD, from Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado. “Most women are very bothered by symptoms but not very many seek treatment for it,” he adds.

Typical menopause symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems

Prescription treatments are available for symptom relief, but some women may prefer to try a drug-free or natural route. Here are some natural remedies that may help ease your menopause symptoms.

Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness, the act of intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment, has evolved from an ancient Buddhist concept. The goal is to become aware of your senses and how you’re currently feeling and let these thoughts and emotions pass without judgement. The practice has been linked to reductions in stress and anxiety as well as better pain management. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests mindfulness could also help alleviate some symptoms of menopause.  

Scientists surveyed more than 1,740 women between 40- and 65-years old about their menopausal symptoms, their level of daily stress and the intensity of their mindfulness. They found that the women who reported being more mindful tended to have fewer symptoms of menopause. The link between greater mindfulness and reduced menopausal symptoms was particularly notable among the women who reported more stress. The study, published in January 2019 in the journal Climacteric, doesn’t prove cause and effect but it could be a natural and noninvasive way for women who’ve reached this stage of life manage their anxiety and some potentially uncomfortable symptoms.

Anyone trying to become more mindful can get started by doing the following:

  • Focus on your breathing, especially when you're experiencing negative thoughts or emotions
  • Pay close attention to the sights, smells or sounds around you
  • Look for joy in simple acts, like cooking or eating

Foods and supplements may help
Red clover, evening primrose oil, black cohosh and a flaxseed supplement may help ease symptoms, says McNamara.

“A lot of women do report some degree of improvement in their symptoms with these options, but many large, well-designed scientific trials have failed to show a significant measurable benefit compared to placebo,” he says. If you are going to try one of these supplements, McNamara recommends picking one made by a reputable company. “Don’t mix them with other supplements that treat menopause, and don’t overuse them. Try them one by one,” he adds.

There are no large-scale studies that show eating foods rich in phytoestrogens—plant-based estrogens—can help relieve symptoms. But there’s also not a ton of risk; it just might not work, says McNamara. Some phytoestrogen-rich foods include soy, chickpeas, lentils and flaxseeds.

If you have an issue with hot flashes, avoid spicy foods like curry, hot sauce and peppers, he recommends. Some women might also find that bitter foods like lemons or coffee, as well as indulgent treats, like cake and pudding, also cause symptoms to flare, says McNamara.

If you’re unsure about what foods or supplements to try, ask your doctor.

Move every day
Physical activity can be beneficial for menopause symptom relief for two reasons, says McNamara. Most sedentary people have the worst time with menopause symptoms, plus weight loss alone can improve symptoms like hot flashes, he explains.

Exercise that leads to weight loss isn’t the most important takeaway, but instituting a daily exercise regimen—even if it’s just a nightly walk after dinner—can help with symptoms, he explains. Exercise may also help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety that commonly occur with menopause. 

Most healthy adults should strive for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of more strenuous exercise each week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). You should also do some strength-training activities, like push-ups or heavy gardening, at least two days each week. These muscle-building activities become especially important as you age. Older adults should also incorporate balance-training exercises, like walking backwards and standing on one leg, into their weekly routines. The more exercise you do, the greater the health benefits. Keep in mind however, that even short bursts of activity—such as a two-minute walk—can help improve your health.  

Get better sleep
Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for managing menopause symptoms, says McNamara. “The quality of women’s sleep decreases dramatically during menopause, and the lower your sleep quality, the lower your threshold for anxiety and other conditions as well,” he explains. To get more restful sleep:

  • Turn off your TV and cellphone when you get into bed
  • Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day
  • Make sure your room is cool, dark and quiet
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before bed

Researching ways to manage menopause symptoms can be challenging because there’s so much information to sift through, says McNamara. Have an open conversation with your doctor about your symptoms and don’t think you have to live with discomfort, he adds.

Medically reviewed in February 2019.

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