The Menopause Toolkit: Natural Alternatives for the Most Common Symptoms
Menopause marks a major transition in a woman's life, yet it remains shrouded in mystery, misconceptions, and taboo. Nearly half the population will experience this perfectly natural process, but many feel unprepared when the time comes. With the right information and support, women can understand and even embrace the changes ahead. Consider this article your toolkit, filled with practical tips and holistic wisdom, to make menopause a journey of self-discovery rather than struggle. It’s time to shatter the misconceptions, empower yourself, and embrace change.
Stages of Menopause
Menopause isn't a singular event but a journey with distinct stages: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Recognizing the stages allows for a better understanding of what to expect. The longest phase of this journey with the most intense symptoms is actually perimenopause, the transitional period when estrogen levels begin to drop. Perimenopause usually hits women sometime between their late 30s or 40s and lasts 4-10 years before reaching menopause. In the clinical sense, menopause is diagnosed once a woman has not had their menstrual cycle for a full calendar year. This means the reproductive years are over, and women are no longer releasing eggs. At this point, a woman transitions into postmenopause. A woman may still experience menopausal symptoms for the first 4-5 years of postmenopause, but they are typically less erratic and stabilize over time. Post-menopausal women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis and disease.
Common Perimenopause Symptoms
- Irregular periods
- PMS intensification
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
Common Menopause/Perimenopause Symptoms
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- High cholesterol
- Bone Loss
- Brain Fog
Anger, Hot Flashes, and Western Lifestyles
Menopause isn't just about hormonal changes; it's an emotional journey too. There is a common stereotype that women become “crazy” during menopause due to raging hormones. While hormones are part of the equation, there is more at play. A woman’s brain also undergoes physical changes that affect the temporal lobe and the limbic system, where memories are encoded and stored. This is why unmet needs and unresolved emotions often surface during perimenopause. In other words, repressed anger can become a visceral and conscious state of being during this period.
Hot flashes are one of the most talked about symptoms of menopause, affecting over 70-85% of American women. Hot flashes are described as intense heat and sweating, specifically in the head and neck. Nighttime hot flashes, known as night sweats, may cause women to wake up dripping in sweat. Fatigue, chills, or dizziness may accompany them. Interestingly, hot flashes are most common in Western cultures. In other non-western parts of the world, it is reported that only 10% of women experience hot flashes during menopause.
Ongoing research shows that stress and emotional baggage common in Western culture exacerbates menopausal symptoms. Women with a history of anxiety, depression, or panic attacks tend to be more troubled with mood swings and hot flashes than those without these experiences. While hormones play a role, it is believed that listening to your body’s physical and emotional needs is key to easing through the waves of menopause. So, if you are pre-menopausal, take note: Dealing with uncomfortable emotions head-on today may make for a smoother transition. And being willing to embrace and deal with anger throughout menopause may mitigate other symptoms.
The Menopause Toolkit: Being Prepared
Being unprepared for menopause is like attempting to climb a mountain without proper gear – daunting, exhausting, and full of unexpected challenges. Just as a seasoned mountaineer equips themselves with the right tools, preparing for menopause ensures a smoother ascent through the peaks and valleys of this transformative journey.
- Establish a regular exercise routine: physical activity can positively impact hormone levels, aid with sleep issues, and support mental health and emotional well-being.
- Adopt a balanced diet: Focus on a healthy menopause diet with plenty of dairy, healthy fats, produce, protein, and whole grains. Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Incorporate soy-based foods, which are known to reduce hot flashes and other symptoms.
- Avoid triggers: Learn what triggers your symptoms. Some women notice hot flashes increase after eating spicy food, drinking a warm beverage, or during bouts of stress. Identify these triggers, avoid what you can, and deal with any underlying issue that will resolve the others.
- Quit smoking: Smoking leads to a greater risk of early menopause because it lowers estrogen levels. Giving up smoking before menopause has been linked to more energy, fewer mood swings, and the ability to cope with stress and anxiety better.
- Acknowledge and express emotions: Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t judge them, mask them, or push them away. Emotions are your body’s way of communicating a need. Listen, feel it, and practice healthy ways to express and deal with big feelings.
- Embrace the opportunity for personal growth: Understanding the connection between emotions and hormonal changes is critical to managing menopause gracefully. Accepting the process and deciding to learn from it will help you develop into a stronger and happier version of yourself.
- Implement relaxation techniques and mindful practices: Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness are a few ways to decrease stress and tension. Better yet, relaxation techniques can help manage menopause symptoms from anxiety to hot flashes.
- Establish a support network: Whether friends, trusted family, a therapist, or your doctor, seeking guidance and sharing experiences will help you through the ups and downs of menopause.
Natural Herbs and Supplements
- Black cohosh: An adaptogenic herb that is believed to mimic the role of estrogen in the body. It has been shown to promote the relief of several menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
- Dong Quai: A fragrant perineal plant used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to support the treatment of symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and depression.
- Maca root: A Peruvian plant that is taken as a supplement to promote energy and libido. Some women opt for maca over HRT (hormone replacement therapy) during menopause. Maca root may promote estrogen production, reduced hot flashes, endocrine system health, boosted mood and mental energy, and sexual energy.
Why Use Herbs During Perimenopause and Menopause
Natural herbs can be used safely and effectively to support the relief of uncomfortable symptoms without dangerous side effects. You may opt to try herbs if you are looking for a more natural approach, don’t like the idea of hormone therapy, or are nervous about potential side effects. Traditional women's herbs act as phytohormones, promoting adaptogenic and tonifying effects. Adaptogenic herbs work with your body to modulate hormone levels based on your personal needs. Some women start with natural remedies, transition to stronger treatment if needed, and then resort back to herbs as perimenopause evens out. Herbs such as black cohosh, dong quai, and maca have been used for centuries with minimal side effects.
Herbal Supplements: Natural Alternatives for Menopausal Relief
Are you thinking of giving natural menopause supplements a try? Here are the top six herbs and supplements to stock up on:
- Estro-Health™: Supports the relief of menopause symptoms with a comprehensive blend of herbs, including black cohosh, dong quai, wild yam, ginkgo extract, red raspberry leaves, and eleuthero. This powerful combination may support the relief of hot flashes, trouble sleeping, fatigue, depression, and hormonal imbalance. Estro-Health™ is available in capsules or liquid form.
- Female Forte™: Promotes balanced hormones, increased sex drive, and the relief of menopause symptoms thanks to eighteen herbal and glandular extracts. Black cohosh, Dong Quai, Korean ginseng, wild yam, muira puama, false unicorn root, and pituitary extract are just a few of the ingredients that support the female reproductive system and endocrine system.
- Organic Black Cohosh: Naturally promotes relief from menopausal symptoms and supports women’s endocrine systems. Black cohosh is sometimes used to assist with hormone replacement therapy as a natural alternative.
- Dong Quai: Often referred to as “female ginseng,” this herb has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote vitality and support relief of common menopausal symptoms. Dong Quai is believed to promote a reduction in fatigue, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes while also enriching blood. Check out Dong Quai veggie capsules or Dong Quai Liquid.
- Maca Andina™: A combination of Peruvian maca root and bee pollen to promote energy, sexual energy, endocrine system health, hormonal balance, and relief throughout perimenopause and menopause.
- Evening Primrose Oil: This supplement naturally contains omega-6 fatty acids and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which support balanced hormones and may promote relief of uncomfortable symptoms related to menopause.
Navigating menopause is a personal journey, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Embrace your inner wisdom, listen to your body, and explore natural alternatives. By incorporating the menopause toolkit into your lifestyle, you can gracefully transition through this transformative phase, finding relief and empowerment along the way. Remember, menopause is not an ending; it's a new beginning.
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