Natural Ways to Ease Menopause Symptoms

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

Medically reviewed in November 2020

Updated on October 18, 2021

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 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 Jeremiah McNamara, MD, an OBGYN with Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado. “Most women are bothered by symptoms but not very many seek treatment for them.”

Typical menopause symptoms include:

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

Prescription menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)—sometimes called hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or hormone therapy (HT)—is safe for women close to the age of their final menstrual period. It’s most effective for women with severe symptoms.

If, however, your symptoms are mild to moderate and you prefer to try a drug-free route, there are some natural remedies that may help.

Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness, the practice 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 feeling and to let any thoughts or emotions attached to your experience 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.  

Researchers surveyed more than 1,740 women between 40 and 65 years old about their menopausal symptoms, their daily stress, and the level 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 a cause and effect relationship, but it does suggest that practicing mindfulness could be a natural and noninvasive way for women in this stage of life to manage their anxiety and some potentially uncomfortable symptoms.

Anyone trying to become more mindful can get started with a basic meditation practice. It involves doing the following:

  • Focusing on your breathing, especially when you're experiencing negative thoughts or emotions
  • Paying attention to the sights, smells, or sounds around you
  • Noticing the 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 Dr. 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,” he adds. “Try them one by one.”

You may have heard that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens)—such as soy, chickpeas, lentils, and flaxseeds—can help relieve symptoms. The fact is, there are no large-scale studies that show this to be the case. But there’s also not a lot of risk in trying them, says McNamara; they just might not work.

If you have an issue with hot flashes, avoid spicy foods like curry, hot sauce, and peppers, McNamara advises. 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, he says. Alcohol can also be a trigger for hot flashes.

If you’re unsure about what foods or supplements to try, consult your healthcare provider (HCP).

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, and weight loss alone can improve symptoms like hot flashes, he explains.

Instituting a daily exercise regimen—even if it’s just a nightly walk after dinner—can also help with symptoms, he explains. Exercise may 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 muscle-building activities, like push-ups or heavy gardening, at least two days each week. These 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 benefit. Keep in mind 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. Have an open conversation with your HCP about your symptoms, advises McNamara, and remember that you don’t have to live with discomfort.

Sources:

Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med. 2017;51(2):199-213.
Sood R, Kuhle CL, Kapoor E, et al. Association of mindfulness and stress with menopausal symptoms in midlife women. Climacteric. 2019;22(4):377-382.
Franco OH, Chowdhury R, Troup J, et al. Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2016;315(23):2554-2563.

More On

What Is an Alternate Treatment to IVF?

video

What Is an Alternate Treatment to IVF?
The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: Mom Brain Explained

article

The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: Mom Brain Explained
If you’ve ever been pregnant or spent time around expectant or new moms, you may have noticed increased lapses in memory, fatigue, absentmindedness or...
7 Factors That Affect Fertility

slideshow

7 Factors That Affect Fertility
One out of every eight couples have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
What Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

video

What Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Choosing the Right Birth Control

video

Choosing the Right Birth Control