For women, there comes a time in your life when you'll start to go through menopause. After perimenopause begins active menopause before you transition to post-menopause. What is menopause, and how long does it last? How can you treat your symptoms without experiencing the common side effects traditional treatment methods bring about? We're going to outline 9 natural remedies you can try to help alleviate your menopause symptoms. Additionally, we'll talk about why you may want to avoid more traditional synthetic hormones below.
Understanding MenopauseMenopause is a normal condition that every woman goes through as they start to age. It's a blanket term that describes any changes a woman may go through just before or just after she stops having her menstrual cycle. Once you go through menopause, you stop being able to have children. It typically happens in a woman's early 40s, but it can start in your late 30s as well. Menopause officially starts when you've gone 12 consecutive months without having your period. Your ovaries stop releasing eggs at this point. It's also the time when your estrogen and progesterone levels drop way off. Your doctor can usually diagnose menopause by looking at your history and asking you about your symptoms, and testing your blood to track changes. Menopause usually comes with fatigue, mood swings, hot flashes, libido changes, bladder control issues, vaginal dryness, irritability and joint aches. (1)
Conventional Menopause TreatmentsMedicine has come a long way in recent years, and there are several conventional menopause treatments in place. The most common treatment utilises synthetic hormones to replace the estrogen and progesterone you lose during menopause to help alleviate your symptoms. They can be effective, but many come with side effects that can be severe. Conventional menopause treatments include but are not limited to:
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment where you take synthetic female hormones like estrogen. These synthetic hormones work to replace the hormones that your body doesn't make anymore. It can also help reduce the severity of the menopause symptoms you experience. (2) There are side effects and risks associated with using HRT. The dosage and type of hormones you take will determine your side effects and their severity. However, hormone replacement therapy does come with heightened risk for stroke, cancer and cardiovascular problems no matter your dose or hormone type. (3)(4)(5)
Low-Dose AntidepressantsLow-dose antidepressants can't cure your depression. However, they can help to reduce your depression's severity and the severity of the symptoms you experience. Since depression is very common with the hormone fluctuations that happen during menopause, it's a popular treatment method. (6) Antidepressant medications can cause side effects, no matter if they're regular strength or a low-dose. Common side effects include insomnia, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, vomiting, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, headaches, diarrhoea or increased suicidal thoughts. (7)
Clonidine or Other High Blood Pressure MedicationsClonidine (Catapres and Kapvay) are common prescription medications that work to treat high blood pressure, and they also work to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People use these medications to help stop hot flashes, because hot flashes are usually one of the most prevalent symptoms associated with menopause. (8) Unfortunately, this medication comes with a host of side effects. They range from fatigue and lethargy to dizziness and headache. It also comes with more severe side effects including chest pain, painful rash, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, restlessness and trouble breathing. (9)
Vaginal EstrogenTo increase their estrogen levels, many women use vaginal estrogen. It comes in cream form, tablet form or as a vaginal ring. This type of conventional menopause treatment helps with vaginal dryness, itchiness, burning or pain. The synthetic estrogen goes directly into your system since you insert them. (10) Vaginal estrogen also comes with a few potential side effects, and these side effects can get worse the longer you use them. These side effects include things like vomiting, lumps in your breasts, vomiting, dark areas on your skin and weight changes. If you have more serious symptoms, you can have heart attacks, strokes or pulmonary embolisms. (11)(12)
Gabapentin (Neurontin)Gabapentin is a drug available by prescription that comes as an oral tablet with immediate release function, or you can choose extended-release. Gabapentin is very popular for menopausal women who have hot flashes and more severe symptoms. If you take the extended release, it can help improve your sleep patterns and stop the hot flashes (13) You may experience both severe and non-severe side effects when you take this medication, and every person's experience is different. Common side effects include fever, nausea, and weakness. They typically fade in a few weeks. Other symptoms include jerky movements, slurred speech, strokes or blood clots. (14)
9 Natural Remedies for MenopauseMany women want relief from their menopause symptoms, but they don't want to have the side effects that come with many conventional treatments. One safe thing to do is to choose to take the natural treatment route. We've picked out nine natural remedies for menopause. We'll go over why they work so well below.
1. Maca RootMaca root (Peruvian Ginseng) has had a long history of medicinal use by the Indigenous people of the Andes. For centuries, these people used maca root to help treat hot flashes, infertility, night sweats, sleep problems and sexual dysfunction. (15) A study took 20 women who reported having problems with their menopause symptoms and split them into two groups of 10. They performed blood tests to measure the hormone levels before and after the study. Group A took a placebo twice a day, and Group B took 500mg of maca root twice a day. Group B ended the study with more regulated hormone levels and fewer symptoms than Group A. (16)
2. ProbioticsProbiotics are live bacteria and yeasts you can incorporate into your diet through supplements. They work to colonise the bacteria in your gut and balance the good and bad bacteria levels. Certain strains of probiotics can also help you deal with your menopause symptoms. (17) A study involving menopausal and post-menopausal women introduced broad spectrum lactobacillus to help them deal with bacterial infections. They found that the women who used probiotics had a more balanced bacteria biome, and this reduced the number of infections they developed due to fluctuating hormone levels. (18)
3. RhodiolaRhodiola is a plant you can find in Asia and Europe in the colder regions. It helps your body handle stress, and there are over 140 active ingredients. Its history includes treating depression, fatigue and anxiety. It also has a positive effect on hormonal biomarkers and oxidative stress. (19) A study from Russia involving 40 women tested rhidiola's effectiveness for regulating their hormones throughout menopause. Every woman got a rhodiola supplement in injection form or by mouth every day for 14 days. By the 14-day mark, 25 women reported having normal menstrual cycles. (20)
4. InositolInositol is a natural carbohydrate that your body produces. It comes in a few different forms, but every form has a structure that is very close to glucose. It helps with anxiety, and it also has links to helping with hormone levels and fertility problems. (21) A six-month study involving 40 menopausal women split them into two equal groups. One group got two grams of inositol every day, two times per day. The other group got two grams of inositol and three grams of melatonin every day, two times per day. At the end of six months, blood tests showed that both groups had improved hormone levels. (22)
5. ChasteberryChasteberry comes from Asia's Chaste tree. It has a direct impact on helping to regulate hormone levels, and people in this region use it to treat hot flashes, nausea, abdominal discomfort or pain, and trouble sleeping. (23) A randomised trial took 175 menopausal women who demonstrated common symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats and split them into two groups. One group got chasteberry extract and one group got vitamin B6 over the course of three months. By the end of the trial, 36.1% of the women who got the chasteberry were free of their symptoms while only 21.3% of the women who got the vitamin B6 were. (24)
6. AshwagandhaAshwagandha is a herb with a medicinal use history that goes back over 3,000 years. The name translates roughly into "smell of the horse" in Sanskrit. This name refers to the way the herb increases strength and the unique smell. Indian Ginseng and Winter Cherry are two common names for it. (25) A randomised study took 64 participants with chronic stress and split them into two groups. One group got 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for 60 days, and one group got a placebo. The group that got the 300mg of ashwagandha had significantly lower stress and cortisol levels. Since estrogen has direct links to stress, reducing these levels helped to regulate hormone fluctuations. (26)(27)
7. Black CohoshBlack cohosh is native to North America and it's a perennial plant that has decades of use by the Native Americans. It's also one of the most widely researched and used herbs for a host of "female complaints" due to menopause. It's a member of the buttercup family, and supplements are the most common way people use it. (28) One animal study showed that black cohosh is a very powerful binding agent for your serotonin receptors, and this can reduce your hot flashes and night sweats as you go through menopause. Rats split into three groups and got 4mg, 40mg or 400mg of black cohosh over the course of two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, researchers measured the hormone levels in the rat's blood. They found that the rats that got the highest amount of black cohosh had less serotonin in their systems. (29)
8. Plant-Based DietA plant-based diet involves switching out your normal diet for one that involves eating just grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes with no or very few animal products. Veganism and vegetarianism are two examples of plant-based diets. (30) One systematic review of 62 studies involving 6,653 menopausal women showed that a plant-based diet could reduce or eliminate menopause symptoms. They showed that the plant's levels of Isoflavones could mimic estrogen. In turn, participants experience less hot flashes and other menopause symptoms over traditional diets. (31)
9. ExerciseRoughly two out of three adults identify as obese around the world, and every one in four children are also obese. During menopause, weight gain or weight fluctuations are very common. It can also increase your symptoms, especially hot flashes. (32) One randomised study had 106 menopausal women perform aerobic exercise every day, and 142 women go about their usual activity levels for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, researchers found that the 106 women who did the aerobic exercises reported fewer sleep disturbances, less depression and reduced insomnia levels over the control group. (33)
Side Effects and SafetyAlthough these are all-natural remedies, you do want to talk to your doctor before you implement any of them into your life and diet. Most of the side effects are very mild, and they tend to fade after a few weeks. They include things like upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, rash, headache and spotting. You may also feel slightly fatigued as you figure out which one of these methods work best and how to incorporate them into your daily routine. However, it should get easier as you get used to it, and you should start to see positive results in the form of more manageable symptoms. If you get concerned about your side effects, you can always get in touch with your primary care provider for more information. As soon as you get the go-ahead, you can start trying the nine natural remedies for menopause and find out which one works best for your lifestyle. Sooner or later, you'll find one that works, and you'll wonder how you ever managed without it!
Fact checked by Carla Cargano on 12/11/2019