Menopause is something that affects all women at some stage or another. How much it affects the woman depends on a number of factors. However, the goal of menopause treatment is to reduce the symptoms that a woman suffers as well as reduce the risk of serious long term health conditions. There are conventional treatments available but if you prefer not to use these, there are plenty of natural therapies that are of help.
Herbal Medicines for Menopause
There are many herbs that can be used by women in order to alleviate their menopausal symptoms (also see herbal medicine). Some herbs that are useful include:
- Black Cohosh – relieves symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, mood swings, and depression. It can be used as an alternative when hormone use is unsuitable.
- Dong Quai – is used in combination with other herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine to relieve the symptoms of menopause. It is safe to use when hormones cannot be used.
- Red Clover – contains plant-based estrogens known as isoflavones that can improve symptoms, reduce the risk of bone loss, and lower the risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure and increasing the levels of good cholesterol.
- Asian Ginseng – this herb reduces stress, improves a person’s general wellbeing, reduces depression, and improves memory.
- Wild Yam – when used as a cream, wild yam can improve symptoms, especially vaginal dryness.
- Evening Primrose – this can help to diminish the number and intensity of hot flashes.
Other herbs that may also be used in herbal remedies to improve menopause symptoms include licorice, stinging nettle, saw palmetto, uva ursi, valerian root, and angelica root.
Homoeopathy for Menopause
In homoeopathy, the practitioner will look at the whole individual before prescribing a remedy. Some homoeopathic remedies that are useful for menopause include:
- Lachesis – for hot flashes and irritability.
- Sepia – for low energy, mood swings, irritability, and vaginal dryness.
- Pulsatilla – for mood swings and insomnia.
- Sulfur – for hot flashes and irritability.
- Lycopodium – for bloating, flatulence, and pain that occurs during intercourse.
- Argentum Nitricum – for anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and insomnia.
- Calcarea Phosphorica – for improving bone density.
- Belladonna – for hot flashes, especially those that come on quickly.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Menopause
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM practitioners generally do not refer to a woman as being menopausal. Rather, they will say that she exhibits a deficiency, such as a kidney yin deficiency. This is because TCM is partly based on the yin and yang, which are opposing energies. Therefore, the aim is to restore the balance between the yin and the yang so that the kidney yin deficiency no longer exists. This is done using methods such as acupuncture and herbal medicines, and the specific treatment will be based on the individual woman.
Nutrition and Supplements
A healthy diet can help to alleviate the symptoms that occur as part of menopause, as well as reduce the risk for longer term illnesses. For example, a low fat and low cholesterol diet will minimise the risk of heart disease. Soy foods contain plant based estrogens called isoflavones. These compounds can reduce hot flushes, improve the levels of cholesterol in the body, and can also help to reduce the bone loss. See nutrition for more information.
Flaxseed is a food that contains omega 3 fatty acids and plant based estrogens known as lignans. These substances can help to reduce the symptoms of menopause as well as protect against breast cancer and heart disease.
Calcium is essential for women going through menopause as it can help to improve bone mass, thus reducing the risk of getting osteoporosis. Foods that are particularly high in calcium include low fat dairy products, leafy green vegetables, almonds, and dried beans. However, if you are not getting enough calcium through your diet, a supplement may be required. Vitamin D is also essential for the bones as calcium can only be absorbed when there is vitamin D in the body. Sources of vitamin D include sunlight (don’t wear sunscreen, but by the same token don’t stay in the sun too long – ten minutes a day should be sufficient), oily fish, dairy foods that have been fortified with the vitamin, and supplements.
Magnesium also helps the body to absorb calcium. If you are taking calcium supplements, try to find one that has magnesium in it as well. It has also been found that as estrogen levels drop during menopause, so do levels of magnesium. Because of this, additional amounts of magnesium may help to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes. Magnesium can be found in tofu, nuts, pumpkin seeds, legumes, green leafy vegetables, and wheat germ.
Boron assists the body in processing magnesium. By doing this, it can increase the levels of calcium in the blood. Boron can generally be obtained through the diet in vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Vitamin K can help to prevent bone loss and it can be found in green tea, turnip greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and dark lettuce.
Antioxidants are useful as they can help women to avoid the serious medical conditions that can often occur after menopause. Long term use of vitamin C can decrease the risk of heart disease and increase bone mass, while long term use of vitamin E can lower the risk of heart disease and other age-related problems. Food sources of vitamin E can also lower the risk of a stroke after menopause.
Exercise and Menopause
Exercise can be very beneficial for women going through menopause for a number of reasons. It helps to slow the rate of bone loss, especially if you are doing weight bearing exercises. It can boost the mood, and improve your memory and concentration levels. Exercise can help to reduce the hot flushes that are common in menopause, and it improves the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Kegel exercises are also great for improving the general muscle tone of the pelvic floor.
Other Therapies for Menopause
Acupuncture can be useful for menopause as it can release endorphins into the body which can help to improve the mood of menopausal women. It can also help to balance hormones and alleviate hot flashes. Massage is also useful as it helps to reduce the amount of stress that menopausal women suffer and it also helps to promote circulation.
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