Monday, September 21, 2020

Natural Menopause Relief: How To Best Deal with Menopausal Symptoms

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There are many natural treatments that can provide relief for your menopause symptoms.

We are all unique creatures, for sure, and as women our perimenopause symptoms vary greatly from one woman to the next. And although relief from the hot flashes and other common menopausal symptoms is something most of us are looking for, some women need more specific treatments for uncommon symptoms, too.

Which natural menopause treatments really work?

Black Cohosh.

This is one of the most widely used methods of natural relief from menopause symptoms. There was a time in my middle aged life when this choice worked well for me, and I have returned to this natural menopause treatment in the last few months.

Black Cohosh belongs to the buttercup family, and grows native in the eastern parts of North America. This unique plant is valued for its hormone and mood balancing properties. It has a direct action on the centers of the brain that help control dilation of blood vessels, and thus can help alleviate the intensity of hot flashes.

You can typically find black cohosh wherever vitamins are sold. When I used this form of menopause treatment I spent some time with the local owner of the health food store in my town and took some suggestions from her as to the brand and potency to try. Her knowledge of the products in her store was helpful to me in making the decision to use standardized black cohosh.

Prempro & Amberen.

Every woman is unique, so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ natural menopause plan that will help everyone.

I have used a variety of menopause treatments over the last six or so years, including Prempro and Amberen.

Prempro was effective but I felt that I should quit taking it and search for something more natural.

I tried Amberen a few months ago and although the statistics say the it is effective in about 92% of women who use it, I fell into that 8% who found it lacking.

Ultimately, this is the natural treatment that works the best for me:

  • Black Cohosh, standardized, 330 mg daily
  • Evening Primrose Oil, 1,000 mg, up to twice daily
  • Flaxseed Oil, 1,200 mg, up to twice daily
  • Vitamin E, 400 IU, daily
  • Calcium (+ D) Supplement, 1200 mg daily

Here are some products that I have used in my personal menopause relief plan. Check them out and see what might work for you:

Progesterone Cream.

Studies have found that that a 2% progesterone skin cream works in about 85% of perimenopausal women. A little as 1/4 tsp once per day can ease hot flashes.

Read the labels carefully when selecting a progesterone cream as the levels of progesterone can vary greatly. As with black cohosh, I found my local health food store owner very helpful in understanding the brands offered in her store.

Evening Primrose Oil capsules.

These contain gamma linolenic acid, which can help relieve hot flashes. It can also help relieve PMS. Suggested dosage is one 1,000 mg capsule three times a day with food.

Chaste tree berry tablets.

These are a source of iridoids and flavonoids, which can naturally relieve hot flashes. Take one 240 mg tablet once a day as a suggested dosage.

Does Soy Help?

Soy has been promoted as having a positive effect on menopause symptoms, although the results of the research on soy are inconclusive and even contradictory.

Christiane Northup, MD, in her book The Wisdom of Menopause, cites research that indicates that women who ate 60 grams of soy protein per day in the form of a powdered drink mix had a 45% reduction in hot flashes after 12 weeks.

The following servings contain about 35-50 mg of soy isoflavones: one cup soy milk, 1/2 cup tofu, 1/2 tempeh, 1/2 cup green soybeans (edamame), and three handfuls of roasted soy nuts. It’s up to you to evaluate whether soy becomes part of your relief program.

Supplements with natural ingredients may help reduce menopausal symptoms according to nih.gov: “Although there have been a number of observational and epidemiologic studies conducted for relief of menopausal symptoms, there is a continued need for further research on the effectiveness and long term safety of botanicals and dietary supplements”.

Research shows that exercise alone can alleviate hot flashes. The best part about this natural relief is that is doesn’t have to cost a penny!

In one study, aerobic exercise reduced the severity of hot flashes in 55% of postmenopausal women. Another benefit of strength training exercise is that is helps maintain bone strength. Studies have shown that women who lifted weights for 40 minutes twice a week actually gained 1% of their bone density, which is significant at a time in life when bone density is potentially lessening.

My tip: combine any form of perimenopause treatment with exercise if your health allows. It can’t hurt (if done properly) and will provide a multitude of benefits to you!

Yoga is increasing in it’s popularity with women to alleviate menopause symptoms. There are specific yoga postures to alleviate hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and depression.

Check with sources where you live to see what types of yoga classes are offered for helping with symptoms of menopause.

As with any type of program involving vitamins, minerals, exercise and such, consult with your physician to help determine which natural menopause treatment(s) will be best for you.

How to Stop Hot Flashes

It might be difficult to make those pesky flashes and flushes disappear totally, but there are things you can do to proactively get them under control.

What is a hot flash, or hot flush as they are sometimes called? It is a brief sensation of heat that is usually accompanied by a red, flushed face and sweating. I don’t know about you, but when a hot flash decides to take over my body it doesn’t feel very brief!

The exact cause of hot flashes is not known but they may be related to changes in circulation. A hot flash occurs when blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to cool. This can produce a red, flushed look to the face. Your body may perspire to cool itself down. Chills can occur as well as a rapid heart rate.

Night sweatsgotta love ‘em….are hot flashes accompanied with sweating that occur at, you guessed it…at night. Waking up to a soaked bed is not uncommon for women who experience night sweats.

Some woman experience hot flashes for years, sometimes for life, and others experience them for a short time. And, they usually become less severe as time passes. I have noticed that my flashes are not as severe as they were five years ago (but they are still with me!)

So, is it possible to stop hot flashes all together?

Well, probably not completely. But, there are some actions you can take to minimize the effects of hot flashes and flushes.

It is believed that there are some triggers to these flashes and that by avoiding or minimizing them, flashes may be reduced in severity and frequency:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Tight clothing
  • Cigarette smoke

Here are some other helpful tips if you want to prevent the hot flashes:

  • Deep breathing techniques can shorten hot flashes and make them milder. Teach yourself to start slow, deep breaths as soon as you feel a flash coming on. Take as deep a breath as you can, and hold it a moment before letting it out slowly. Expanding your rib cage can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and helps regulate temperature.
  • Drink lots of water, about 48 ounces a day. During menopause your body needs enough water to help keep your internal system cool, especially after a flash occurs.
  • If possible, try to stay in cooler temperatures and avoid hot environments such as outdoor temps, hot tubs, sunbathing, etc. It’s not always possible to do this, and for me would be tough because of my southwest Florida location (and my enjoyment of the outdoors!)
  • Exercise every day for 30 minutes. It has not only the obvious health benefits but also helps to reduce stress, and can help increase estrogen levels and thus reduce the severity of hot flashes. If your health allows, just do it!
  • Estrogen is still the most effective way to decrease or eliminate hot flashes. Check with your medical provider and see whether you are in a high risk category for hormone therapy. If not, a low dose for a short time might get you through the worst of your hot flash years. If hot flashes are disrupting your everyday life, make an appointment with your physician and have the discussion with them, then make your own decision. For me, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was extremely helpful, but it is not for everyone.
  • The Mayo Clinic conducted a small pilot study and found that women who took 40 grams of ground flaxseed a day noticed a significant decrease in hot flashes.
  • Flaxseed also helps reduce joint and muscle pain for some women, and is a great source of fiber. I sprinkle it on foods for the fiber benefits myself. This might be something to look into if you are looking for an alternative to HRT.

How about vitamin supplements to stop hot flashes?

  • Black Cohosh, vitamin E and yam phytoestrogens have been used for years to help hot flashes. Studies have not proven decisive, but black cohosh has the best reputation for helping flashes. I used this remedy at the onset of perimenopause and with the proper strength of cohosh it worked well for me.
  • Evening primrose oil capsules contain gamma linolenic acid, which can relieve flashes. It can also help relieve PMS. Suggested dosage is one 1,000 mg capsule three times a day with food.
  • Chaste tree berry tablets are a source of iridoids and flavonoids, which can naturally relieve hot flashes. Take one 240 mg tablet once a day as a suggested dosage.

There are natural supplements available that can be very effective with stopping the hot flash train, and reduce many of the symptoms of menopause. Like with everything, experiment and see which ones work best for you!

Suffering from Menopausal Night Sweats?

Menopause can cause night sweats which can be very disruptive to a good night’s sleep. What causes these night sweats and what are some of the preventative measures, treatments and remedies for them?

About 80% of women experiences some type of hot flash and night sweat episodes, the difference is the degree of discomfort.

How night sweats are caused

It all starts with the diminishing levels of estrogen in our bodies.

Sometimes our brain, the hypothalamus region to be specific, gets a little confused by these changes, thinks your body temperature is rising, and attempts to cool you down. How does it do that?

By triggering a series of events including dilating blood vessels to release heat and triggering the sweat glands…you guessed it…a hot flash. While you’re sleeping you experience this as a night sweat and may wake up drenched, your heart racing and feeling anxious.

I am fortunate in that my night sweats have not been frequent or overly soggy, so I can usually deal with them by throwing off the covers for a few minutes. It’s a rare occasion when I have to change my night clothes. But I know that other women experience much more severe symptoms than I do.

So now that we have a better understanding of why we experience these night sweats, what can be done to minimize them?

How to prevent night sweats

  1. Keep the bedroom as cool as possible, knowing that there might be someone else’s comfort involved. A small fan to keep the air moving around you might be helpful.
  2. If you wear PJ’s, keep the fabric to natural cottons and other fabrics that breathe. Or, consider wearing “wicking” pajamas. Made from the same material used in hiking gear, this type of pajama can draw sweat away from your skin, easing any clamminess and helping you to sleep on peacefully.
  3. Layer the bedding to allow you to add or remove coverings based on your body temperature.

Other remedies for menopause night sweats

  • Some women benefit from taking a cool shower before bedtime, or after a particularly uncomfortable episode.
  • Keep cool/cold water handy to remain hydrated throughout the night. And, be sure to drink lots of water during waking hours as well.
  • Alcohol consumptionin the evening could play a role in your night sweats. If you typically enjoy a drink in the evening, try eliminating that for a few days and see if your night sweat episodes improve.
  • Regular exercise has so many benefits, and the possibility of fewer issues with night sweats is one of them. Studies have indicated that women who are overweight struggle more with hot flashes and night sweats then woman within a normal weight range. Yes, you can lose weight during menopause!
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may be an option for you. Discuss this with your physician and determine if this is a viable remedy for your symptoms of menopause.

Menopause night sweats can be miserable symptoms of going through this period of our lives. Yet with patience, a positive attitude, willingness to make some basic lifestyle and sleep adjustments, and exploring the remedies available, you can minimize the disruption of them.

Menopause & Depression

Not all women experience depression during menopause — but it does happen. Here’s what to do about it!

We all have our moments…you know, feeling ‘old’, less attractive than when we were younger, teary-eyed for no apparent reason, frustrated over the changes in our body that we can’t control, seeing that doggone scale go up a couple of pounds when we’ve worked so hard to lose…it’s all part of the menopause phase of our lives.

Feeling some depression fatigue?

While most women experience some of these things, some women experience stronger and more lasting feelings of:

  • anxiety
  • listlessness
  • tearfulness
  • mood swings
  • poor concentration
  • memory loss
  • need for more/less sleep
  • need for more/less food
  • irritability
  • panic
  • anxiety
  • trembling
  • low self esteem
  • hopelessness

Why would a woman going through menopause experience the symptoms of depression?

As we go through menopause our estrogen levels decrease, and that can cause a drop in our serotonin levels.

Serotonin is central to our well being, and regulates things like our energy level, libido, mood and sleep.

Also, some women have lower serotonin levels for genetic reasons and consequently may be more likely to experience menopause and depression.

The most important action you can take is to…

Be aware of your emotions and feelings.

Does the list you just read sound more familiar than you’d like? I may experience three or more of those symptoms for a short while…maybe a few hours…then pick myself up and carry on, putting them out of my mind and my psyche.

The good news is that you don’t have to live this way.

If you find that your days are filled with the symptoms of depression while going through menopause, please see your family physician right away. You want to make sure that there is nothing else going on that needs immediate attention, and your doctor is the place to start.

If you are experiencing signs of depression during menopause, there are actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate them, from increased physical exercise to taking antidepressants.

Conclusion

As many as 34 different menopause symptoms have been discovered and considered “normal”. Each of us will of course experience different things and what’s normal for us depends on our past medical history and what we already know about our body.

One of the most popular treatment that most women use is Black Cohosh, the specific dosage for you should be prescribed by your doctor.

Always consult your doctor before taking any medication or even for natural treatments. And always eat a healthy diet and keep active!

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On CleansePlan.com you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on gloria@cleanseplan.com

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